Usually each year there’s one horror movie that gets hyped up by the media as being the scariest movie of the year or words to that effect. This is one such movie, although I usually take such hype with a pinch of salt. After all I’ve been stung in the past (cough … The Blair Witch Project … cough).
Set in New England sometime in the 17th century, a deeply religious family are banished from their plantation after the father’s belief’s don’t concur with that of the town elders, and so they set up home on a small farm complete with a horse, a couple of lambs and a black goat called Phillip. However one day their baby boy vanishes mysteriously following eldest daughter Thomasin playing with him, and superstition and paranoia creep in.
This slow burning, decidedly creepy movie boasts several excellent performances especially from Anya Taylor-Joy as pubescent daughter Thomasin and Ralph Ineson as struggling father William. As crops fail and fears of what lurks in the woods build, I was thoroughly drawn in. It’s a simple tale told with gradual intensity and authenticity. Even the dialogue is accurate, old-English which some viewers (myself included) may take a bit of getting used to (think a less poetic Shakespeare). However as the plot develops it’s clear this is exploring some very dark stuff … freaky religious imagery that seriously disturbs and evil that may or may not be all in the family’s heads. The ending especially is one of the most unnerving conclusions to a movie I’ve seen in a long time and left me shaken.
Writer & Director Robert Eggers has crafted a unique experience of a movie, not really like anything else around right now and fills it with gorgeous photography and foreboding atmosphere. It won’t be for everyone however; it’s dialogue is tough, it’s slow and it’s not really about gore or jump-scares (although there’s a stunning one towards the end). Yet for me, somewhat burnt out on the usual horror subjects like masked killers and haunted houses … this was refreshing and incredibly effective.
I have been a casual admirer of the horror movie output of rocker turned director Rob Zombie over the years, especially liking his masterful ‘The Devil’s Rejects’ and even bizarre freakishness like ‘House of 1000 Corpses’. His style, skill and taste for disturbing violence and hallucinogenic imagery struck a cord with this horror junkie. Even his ill-advised but interesting remake of Halloween didn’t put me off (less said about the awful follow up, the better). But now we come to his latest and strangest effort, showcasing the obvious screen presence of Goth muse (and wife) Sherry Moon Zombie.
Sherry plays Heidi, a radio DJ living in Salem who rents a room at a hotel run by three slightly odd elderly women. When a mysterious record is delivered to her personally at the radio station, on playing it she begins to experience disturbing visions, apparently relating to a witches coven back in the sixteen hundreds. Is Heidi going crazy, or are The Lords Of Salem back?
A slightly different style for Zombie this, less violent slasher, more freaky supernatural fantasy with echoes of The Shining, Rosemary’s Baby, and even his own House of 1000 Corpses. Sherry is both likable and quite sexy as the main star and carries the movie well, and although this isn’t about performances, all cast members help create a foreboding and eerie atmosphere. The devil-worship themes are very under your skin stuff and although fairly tame for Zombie standards, when the claret flies its quite nasty. Mostly though this is a movie about style, and weird shit going down, goats, mutant babies (!), demonic women and biblical & satanic imagery. It all gets a bit nuts towards the end and the conclusion is underwhelming … but overall I had a good time, and yes it’s far better than Halloween 2 (damn I thought I wasn’t going to say anything about that!).
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