Top underrated horror ‘gems’ – #5 The Lords of Salem

*Skip the premise to jump directly to the post if you’ve read my previous articles*

Premise – Horror movies have always been divisive towards the audience. From the 80s, the cult franchises have created a trend particularly appreciated by the viewers. The Nightmare movies, the Halloween franchise as well as the Hellraiser flicks have marked the path that walked us, the audience, to an overwhelming cinema market filled with non-original movies, remake, reboots, sequels and prequels.

The formula is basically this: a director makes a successful movie with a little budget and a big return at the box office. So that the Hollywood major labels exploit said success to make tons of sequels and prequels that hit the box office without telling anything new or original to the viewer (ehm ehm… Saw, Hostel… ehm ehm). Sometimes, even the first installment is disappointing by every means but the economical profit (ehm ehm… Paranormal Activity, Wrong Turn… ehm ehm).

All these franchises have something in common, i.e. poor writing, bland characters, jump scares, unoriginal villains, flawed cinematography. Why are they successful? Because the horror audience is now used to go to the movie expecting to have ‘a good time’ instead of being shocked and disturbed by an original, unsettling and brave script filled with good performances, relatable characters and true fear.

What are the consequences? Not just new masterpieces such as It Follows and The Babadook, among the others, are considered as boring movies. Not just the milestones of horror cinema are now considered worthless. But also quite good movies that came out in the last 20-25 years have been underestimated by both audience and reviewers. Here a list for you, hoping you guys can have some fun and meditation on something a bit more original and ‘out there’. Enjoy.

NOTE: some movie franchises are actually worth watching, please do not dismiss the first Saw movie as well as the well-directed Insidious movies. Both from the talent of James Wan. The guy brings it right home.

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The Lords of Salem (2012) is an independent horror movie written, produced and directed by the controversial Rob Zombie.

It’s fair to say that Rob Zombie is one of the most divisive directors working today, not only in the horror industry. To be honest, he’s one of my favourites, even though he’s not immune to criticism, since his previous movies weren’t perfect at all. Still, to me they are way better than a lot of people seem to think.

Unfortunately, the negative opinion surrounding the guy and his works is shared by the Hollywood majors, which decided not to release both The Lords of Salem and 31 (2016), the latest Zombie’s Flick.

Enough with the general contest. The Lords of Salem, starring Sheri Moon Zombie – Rob’s wife, who appears in every single movie of her hubby – tells the story of an alternative radio host who comes across a coursed disc, which has the power to give people visions and blow their mind apart – metaphorically. Of course, Heidi – Sheri Moon – decides to play it during her program and weird things start to happen in and around Salem, Massachusetts.

The premise sounds kind of corny, I know. But it is original enough and the tone set from the very beginning makes quite easy for the audience to empathise with the situation and Heidi, who is probably the most successful character portrayed by Sheri Moon in her career. Hey, I ain’t complaining watching her on screen, but she had to prove herself as a decent actress beyond a smoking hot chick. And she eventually did in this movie.

The majority of Zombie’s critics have argued that he doesn’t realize movies, but feature length musical videos. To me, that’s not even a criticism per se. Zombie pays detailed attention to the visual aspect of his movies and that is what elevates his stories to an higher level. The Lords of Salem is no exception. On the contrary, it’s probably his best visual work. And I’m not exaggerating by saying The Lords of Salem has the same cinematographic and photographic intensity of Nicolas Winding Refn’s movies.

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I know what you guys are wondering right now. Is it a scary movie? In my humble opinion, the answer is yes. It’s scary, filled with a dreadful atmosphere and a couple of inevitable – but also well-executed – jump-scares. As per usual, the problem with this movie lies on the score. Do you like heavy metal? You’ll probably love the movie’s soundtrack. Do you hate that genre? You’ll probably hate the score. Simple as that.

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All in all, The Lords of Salem is probably the best Zombie’s film (alongside with the remake of Halloween… guess what’s the next movie on the list?) but at the same time it’s vastly underrated because it wasn’t promoted by Hollywood. And, once again, Mr. Zombie is a fifty-fifty director, whose movies aren’t easy to sell.

I recommend you guys to see The Lords of Salem. It’s a tough experience that requires loads of attention and patience – yes, the pace is not Fury Road-like – but I assure you it’s worth your time. Cheers.

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