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Saturday, April 27, 2013

Rob Zombie Double-Feature!

ROB ZOMBIE: artist, writer, musician, filmmaker, icon! Since his humble beginnings as the frontman for the alternative heavy metal band White Zombie in the mid-1980's, he has grown respectively into a fully-fledged media mogul, expanding his vision into various mediums such as film, TV, video games and even animation. Since embarking on a successful solo career in 1998, Rob has released four studio albums and has directed four feature films along with being involved in a number of projects including animation voice-over work and also directing an episode of CSI: Miami. Although he remains certainly the busiest personality in entertainment, he still finds time to release new music and concert tours with fellow shock rockers Marilyn Manson and Alice Cooper. 2013 is another busy year for Rob Zombie, especially this month which saw the release of his new horror film: The Lords of Salem, along with the release of his fifth studio album entitled: Venomous Rat Regeneration Vendor. This special blog entry will be a "Rob Zombie Double-Feature!" which includes a review of Zombie's latest horror film and music album.
Since completing his first two cult films House of 1,000 Corpses (2003) and The Devil's Rejects (2005) which focused on the murderous Firefly family and the reboot of the Halloween franchise with Halloween (2007) and Halloween II (2009), Rob Zombie has ventured into the realm of supernatural suspense with The Lords of Salem. Heidi 'LaRoc' (Sheri Moon Zombie) is a popular, local radio DJ in Salem, Massachusetts. A recovering drug-addict, she lives alone with her beloved dog Troy in an old apartment building in Salem. When she receives a mysterious recording from a band known only as The Lords (of Salem), playing it on her show starts a dark chain reaction which affects the women of the city and gives rise to the return of witchcraft in Salem. Heidi is the tragic victim of circumstance and ancestry as she is plagued by violent and disturbing dreams and hallucinations, she slowly succumbs to the devilish influence of the real witches of Salem, acolytes of Margaret Morgan (Meg Foster) who in 1696, was sentenced to death by Rev. Jonathan Hawthorne (Andrew Pine).
This is Zombie's return to a more original style of filmmaking since his remakes of the Halloween franchise. Lords of Salem stars Rob's wife and long-time model/girlfriend Sheri Moon Zombie, who has appeared in every film of Rob's since House of 1,000 Corpses when she played the manic 'Baby' and in his Halloween movies as Michael Myer's mother, Deborah Myers. While Sheri has previously appeared as more of a support role in Zombie's movies, this is her first appearance in a leading role. While most fans loved her as the giggly 'Baby', her role as Deborah Myers featured a much more subdued character. As with Lords of Salem, her character is just as mellow, if not on the verge of catatonic in the third act of the film. Despite her outrageous appearance, bizarre wardrobe and weirdly decorated apartment, her personality comes across as almost bland. As for the rest of the cast, the movie features a balanced male/female cast with her co-DJs: 'Whitey' (Jeff Daniel Phillips) and Herman (Ken Foree), then there is the author Francis Matthias (Bruce Davison), a local witch trials researcher. As the story references the actual events of the Salem witch trials (1692), the film makes very little mention of the actual events or people involved, even changing the name of Judge John Hathorne to Reverend Hawthorne, while also a nod to the real-life ancestor of author Nathaniel Hawthorne. There are a few other film veterans in this film particularly the three sisters including Heidi's landlord Lacy (Judy Geeson) and her sisters Megan (Patricia Quinn) and Sonny (Dee Wallace).
The film features a number of highly disturbing and brutal scenes often featuring intense images of death, torture, sex, full-frontal nudity, Satanic imagery, and not to mention explicit gore and violence! The movie also has several scenes depicting a witches Sabbath which hearkens back to early films like Häxan. It's surprising that the movie got away with it's R-rating and not labeled NC-17, but it has been a recent trend for horror movies (like the remake of Evil Dead) to push the boundaries of the R-rating. Zombie utilizes his trademark brand of surrealistic, music-video style of directing with quick-cuts and flashing images, common with most of his films. His unique visual aesthetic is especially prevalent in the final disturbing climax. The music in Lords of Salem is very eclectic, while most of the score was written by Zombie's musical collaborator John 5, the film also features a wide variety of music by Rick James, Rush, The Velvet Underground and even includes Mozart's "Requiem". The soundtrack also features a song "Crushing the Ritual" from a "fake" black metal band called Leviathan The Fleeing Serpent which is  also featured in a clip on Heidi's radio show. The inspiration for the name of this film came from Rob Zombie's song "The Lords of Salem" from the 2006 album Educated Horses.
The Lords of Salem is mind-blowing, extreme, horror! The easiest way to describe the film is comparing it to Rosemary's Baby (1968) and the films of Mario Bava (i.e. Black Sunday (1960), combined with the vision of Rob Zombie. Zombie teamed up with the producers of Paranormal Activity (2007) and Insidious(2010) Jason Blum and Steven Schneider to bring this original and yet highly unsettling vision of horror. It is interesting to note that this film is one of the few horror movies that has actually released a novelization written by Rob Zombie and B.K. Stevenson. With an estimated budget of only $2,500,000, sadly, Lords of Salem has so far been a box-office bomb bring in less than $650,000. While highly original, this movie may be too much for the average horror-movie viewing public and only the very hardcore fans of extreme horror and Rob Zombie's work will appreciate it. It's true as a fan of horror and of Rob Zombie since his days in White Zombie, that this film seems like his masterpiece, but may also be seen as a failure. If you are up to the task, you be the judge.
Rob Zombie's latest album, Venomous Rat Regeneration Vendor is the first release on his new label, Zodiac Swan, through T-Boy Records/UMe since leaving Roadrunner. Featuring guitars by recent collaborator and guitar virtuoso John 5, since his joining the band in 2006 with the album Educated Horses, the style of Zombie's music has changed significantly.
Gone are the heavier more industrial sound of the Hellbilly Deluxe era in favor of a more alternative heavy metal/rock sound. This is a very interesting album featuring groove/Nosferatu Pussy" is supposed to be what Rob Zombie calls an "uplifting anthem...for the youth of America", but it remains a very slow, drudging song with a similar lyric referencing his White Zombie song "Electric Head" with repeating the lyrics in the refrain of "Turn it on". The first single and music video (directed by Rob Zombie) on this new album is "Dead City Radio and The New Gods of Supertown", which is an homage to classic rock radio. Other songs included are "Revelation Revolution", "Theme for the Rat Vendor", "Rock and Roll (In A Black Hole)", "Behold, The Pretty Filthy Creatures", "White Trash Freaks", "Lucifer Rising", "The Girl Who Loved The Monsters", and "Trade In Your Guns for a Coffin". One of the oddest songs on the album has to be "Ging Gang Gong De Do Gong De Laga Raga" which is complete nonsense! The album also features a curious cover of Grand Funk Railroad's "We're An American Band" with a little Rob Zombie twist to it. Although Zombie is not known for recording covers, he has recorded a version of Black Sabbath's "Children of the Grave" for the 1994 compilation album Nativity In Black and a cover of the Commodore's "Brick House" on the House of 1,000 Corpses (2003) movie soundtrack. This album features several experimental songs along with a few general songs just for fun. Rob Zombie's artistic vision and musical style continues to grow and evolve over the years and with every new album. With every new album Zombie consistently improvises his musical style utilizing various styles from his musical influences. This will unfortunately remain a somewhat mediocre album for Rob Zombie as he has yet to surpass the success of Hellbilly Deluxe even after releasing Hellbilly Deluxe 2 in 2010.
Watch this Best Buy Exclusive interview with Rob Zombie for a track by track breakdown of the new album!