Welcome to The Last Horror Blog, a biweekly column on all things horror.
Revisit Jason with Crystal Lake Memories – Daniel Farrands is set for a return trip to Crystal Lake with his new documentary Crystal Lake Memories: The Complete History of Friday the 13th – and now we can share an official release date for this massive cinematic undertaking.
Farrands, who brought us His Name Was Jason, will unleash his nearly seven-hour (holy crap!) documentary on August 27. The new doc will cover everything related to the series, including an examination of the hit TV show Friday the 13th: The Series, which was great even though it had nothing to do with Jason or Crystal Lake. We can’t wait to check this one out.
Nazi zombies take center stage in Iron Wolf teaser – Nazi zombies are everywhere these days, from movies, to video games, to comics, but we don’t see a whole lot of Nazi werewolves. That’s about to change.
David Bruckner’s Iron Wolf looks to marry lycanthropy and the Third Reich in this new teaser trailer. Hard to get a real feel for this low-budget offering from the clip, but we’re interested. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m looking to strike it rich with my new script about a Nazi mummy.
John Cusack set to answer his Cell this September – After years of stops and starts, it appears as though the big-screen adaptation of Stephen King’s novel Cell is finally going to happen. Sources report that the John Cusack vehicle is slated to start production this September, with Tod “Kip” Williams in the director’s seat. Some of you will no doubt remember that this was once an Eli Roth vehicle…
The film details a man’s journey to get home to his son after a strange pulse of energy turns everyone who was using their cell phones into murderous, zombie-esque monsters.
Find out if zombies like curry with their brains in The Dead 2: India clip – The Ford Brothers, the masterminds behind the African-set zombie film The Dead, are back – and this time they’re bringing the zombie apocalypse to India. Check out the first teaser trailer for The Dead 2: India, a zombie epic that finds an American engineer in India racing across the country to save his pregnant girlfriend as the zombie apocalypse breaks out. The clip looks great – and it appears as though the Fords have stepped up their game from their previous feature.
Rob Zombie is arguably the most divisive filmmaker working in horror cinema today. The musician turned director has an aesthetic style (perhaps best dubbed as “American white trash”) that works perfectly in his material, but manages to turn off a lot of viewers at the same time. Zombie’s films have been uncompromising – tales filled with brutal violence and unredeemable characters – and yet, for the most part, they’re all successful on at least some levels. Critics have complained that Zombie is a one-trick pony, relying on crass language, over-the-top gore, and exploitation film elements to sell his features, but his latest, The Lords of Salem, proves that there’s more to Zombie’s work than some of us originally thought. Of course, it’s also bound to be his most controversial film to date.
The Lords of Salem is a marked departure from earlier Zombie fare, and a welcome change of pace in the wake of the director’s two Halloween movies. Zombie’s cinema has always been at its strongest when it pays homage to classic ‘60s and ’70s horror and exploitation films, and that’s the driving force behind this tale of witches and their dark master. It stands alone when compared to everything Zombie’s done prior – but like the rest of his films, it doesn’t always work.
Sheri Moon Zombie stars as Heidi, a successful young DJ at a Salem radio station. Her life takes a turn for the worse when she receives a new promo album from a group simply known as the Lords. Playing the album (on the air) affects Heidi and some of the women of Salem in a very strange way… because it turns out it’s the music crafted by a coven of witches executed in Salem back in the 1600s.
Zombie’s film has an interesting concept, and for the first hour or so, it exudes atmosphere at every turn. Viewers expecting another story featuring white-trash characters will be surprised. While Heidi and the gang aren’t what mainstream America would call "normal," these aren’t the characters found in earlier Zombie films, either.
For that first hour, Lords of Salem evokes memories of a lot of classic horror films, including Rosemary’s Baby. Zombie’s direction is surprisingly restrained and quite artistic at certain points. It’s proof that the filmmaker’s detractors are incorrect when they assume he can make only one kind of film. For two acts, The Lords of Salem is haunting and mesmerizing. Then the final act starts.
The last act of Lords of Salem is hard to describe – and it doesn’t really work. Zombie runs wild with his artistic pretensions, once again letting them derail something that was working quite effectively. The filmmaker had similar issues with his debut, House of 1,000 Corpses, and Halloween II. In the first film, Zombie’s movie falls apart when he leaves the story of the Firefly clan and gives into the kooky Dr. Satan mythology he’d created (fortunately, he didn’t make the same mistake in The Devil’s Rejects). In Halloween II, it’s the weird white-horse/ghost-mother crap that mars what is an otherwise effective and brutal take on the Michael Myers mythos.
Lords of Salem pushes things even further afield – leading to a last act that certainly feels nightmarish, but often for the wrong reasons. Zombie has talent – some of the visuals in this film are striking and vaguely Argento-esque in their execution. The problem is that he still lacks restraint. Zombie seems so hell-bent on showing that he’s capable of making films that are more than just extreme violence backed by great soundtrack choices (seriously – will anyone who’s seen Devil’s Rejects ever hear Freebird in the same way again?) that he goes overboard. The last act of Lords of Salem feels like a fever dream straight out of the golden era of Italian horror – except Zombie isn’t quite Mario Bava or Dario Argento.
Because of this, the film ends with a thud instead of a bang. Sure, the last moments of Lords are filled with some of the most interesting imagery Zombie has ever captured, but it’s mostly an exercise in style over substance before wrapping on a scene that feels so anticlimactic that it’s guaranteed to leave some folks angry.
What won’t annoy people are the film’s performances. Sheri Moon Zombie gets a lot of flack for being in all of her husband’s films – and that’s sure to happen here. Ms. Zombie does a decent enough job carrying the film. The performance won’t silence her detractors (and she all but disappears in scenes with legends like Dee Wallace, Patricia Quinn and Judy Geeson), but her presence never hurts the film either.
What’s perhaps most interesting are the supporting performances. Meg Foster is excellent as the ancient coven leader, even if some the dialogue Zombie wrote for the character comes across as a bit hokey. Bruce Davison is the film’s shining star, playing a witchcraft expert trying to get to the bottom of what’s going on. It’s unfortunate that Davison doesn’t get more screentime – he’s brilliant in the part, reminding me of a sort of cross between Rutger Hauer and Dennis Hopper.
Davison’s role is indicative of how all the men are treated in Lords of Salem – they’re largely an afterthought. I don’t know that anyone will classify Zombie’s latest as a "feminist film," but it is certainly more interested in its female characters than it is the men. This makes that last act that much more disappointing.
Ultimately, Lords of Salem will probably not change anyone’s mind when it comes to the work of Rob Zombie. The haters are gonna hate, and the fanboys will defend him regardless. Like all of Zombie’s previous efforts, this is an uneven experience – but one where we see flashes of genuine talent. It’s these flashes that have kept me interested in Zombie’s work for the previous four outings – and Lords does just enough right that I’m sure to be back for the filmmaker’s next venture. If Lords of Salem turns out to be Zombie’s horror swan song (his next film is a movie based on the 1975 Philadelphia Flyers hockey team), it’s an interesting epitaph. Lords of Salem doesn’t always work, but it does just enough to keep you intrigued.
Horror on the Horizon
Pickings are slim for those of you looking for some big-screen horror in the next few weeks, because the early summer blockbuster season is notorious for skimping on scary offerings.
As such, there’s only one horror flick hitting theaters this coming Friday – Katie Aselton’s Black Rock – and that’s only opening in limited release and on VOD. Sounds sort of like Jack Ketchum’s Off Season, with three female friends heading to an isolated part of Maine and suddenly discovering they’re not alone… Of course, they’re not surrounded by inbred hillbilly cannibals, either.
Horror on Home Video
Luckily for horror fans, there’s lots of good stuff coming out on DVD and Blu-ray over the next two weeks.
May 21 is loaded with good titles – including the Blu-ray debuts of slasher classic The Burning and The Town That Dreaded Sundown courtesy of Scream Factory. If that’s not cool enough, Full Moon’s cult vampire series Subspecies launches on Blu with a collector’s disc featuring all three films.
Cult is the order of the week, which also sees the release of Castle Freak and Nazi sexploitation flick SS Hell Camp.
May 28 offers less in the way of great discs, but if you missed out on Dark Skies it will now be available on DVD and Blu-ray.