19. The Lords of Salem
Director: Rob Zombie
Stars: Sheri Moon Zombie, Bruce Davison, Meg Foster, Ken Foree, Jeff Daniel Phillips, Judy Geeson, Dee Wallace, Patricia Quinn, Maria Conchita Alonso
Steeped in European horror sensibilities, writer-director Rob Zombie's The Lords of Salem is his most ambitious and befuddling work yet—befuddling in positive ways comparable to the least comprehensible, yet no less enthralling, films from, say, Alejandro Jodorowsky and Dario Argento. Except that The Lords of Salem is unmistakably a Rob Zombie vision, one that never suffered the same big-wig interference that befell his Halloween studio assignments. Given total creative freedom from mega-producer Jason Blum (Insidious, the Paranormal Activity series), Zombie holds nothing back.
The outcome is about as close to modern-day audiences may ever come to experiencing the midnight-movie weirdness of films like Santa Sangre and Alucarda. The Lords of Salem opens with naked and flabby witches performing a wild Satanic ritual, so there's never any doubt as to what kind of movie you're viewing, and Zombie completely uses that license to his advantage. The film's parade of grotesqueries will definitely repulse some, if not have them laughing for all the wrong reasons. Chances are, though, anyone who voluntarily seeks out "video nasties" and prefers the lurid over logical will happily kneel before Zombie's strange altar. —MB