Horrorfest 2013 Presents: The Lords of Salem (2012, Rob Zombie)


After witnessing a bunch of old witches having a huge devil worshiping orgy in the middle of the woods many things will seem tame after wards. In this case though the film The Lords of Salem decides to up the level of insanity after a slow buildup that establishes the main characters. Rob Zombie effectively channels Dario Argento, Mario Bava, Roman Polanski, and even Stanley Kubrick while managing to make a slightly better and frightening woman targeted by satanists movie than Ti West did with The House of the Devil. I’m impressed, to say the least, although I’ve only viewed his two Halloween films. I much prefer his latest over each of them, and I do plan to go backwards and view his first two movies. Say what you will about his music but Zombie has a knack for camera placement, haunting visuals, and fairly good plots. The problem with the two movies I mentioned have been more of the acting and dialogue variety, coupled with H2 ending up being way too concerned with overly extreme and pointless violence instead of its far more interesting psychological center.

Lords of Salem however lacks most of the issues that plagued his previous works, and has some rather starkly wonderful and creepy moments. Such as the eerie hallway moments, or the inside of Heidi, the main protagonist’s, apartment-there is only dim light in there, and it has the feel and look of a tomb. With a great big amazing poster from the classic A Trip To The Moon inside, also. I read that the moon is involved with fertility, and that makes sense because poor Hedi’s seemingly nice landlord may not be who she actually is. Spooky. Of course we are also left with the possibility that all of Heidi’s troubles are the result of her struggling to stay clean from drugs, which only adds to the dark proceedings. Oh they are dark indeed, bleak and terrifying nightmares that plague Heidi and cause her to question reality. Its bad enough when you are facing normal problems, yet suffering from possible hallucinations is even worse.

The rest of the film continues to unfold in a suffocating atmospheric manner, growing more and more odd and entering further into the world of the bizarre. Mysteries are answered only resulting in new questions, and by the film’s last act the final connections to reality are completely severed. Rob Zombie has given us a freaky new horror film, an experience in terror that is bold, well crafted, and different. By the time the end credits rolled I was almost glad that the film had ended only so that I could witness something happy to cleanse my thoughts. However the images still lingered on long after the screen had faded to black.

Horrorfest 2013 Presents: The Innkeepers (2012, Ti West)


Even though I slightly prefer The House of The Devil, Ti West’s 2012 film The Innkeepers is a nice followup and was just as creepy. In fact this movie almost gave me a heart attack at times, especially with the freaky moments that kept lying just around the corner. The old inn that sarcastic Luke and naive Claire work at is an excellent place for a ghost story driven film, although granted most hotels, inns, motels and the like are usually perfect for horror movies. As The Shinning (1980) can attest to, and just like in that film the characters in this one are being affected by the place they are working at. The Yankee Pedlar Inn is an old place, and its finally being closed for business after over a century of being open. Luke and Claire are the two low wage employees tasked with overseeing the building while the master of the inn is away. Boredom sets in and they decide to investigate whether or not the inn is haunted by Madeline O’Malley, which leads to all kinds of trouble of course.

Really I love that Ti West specializes in quiet, atmospheric horror, which is why I’m not too surprised detractors of films like these call them “Boring.” Look there are actually jump scares in this one, yet I felt that West was mocking the use of such a device to frighten viewers. There is more humor in this movie than in The House of the Devil, and it works as a slight tension reliever while also lulling the viewers into a false sense of security. A couple scenes are downright spooky, particularly one where Claire and Luke are alone in a deep, black pitched basement, and another moment that I will only describe as being the material for nightmare fuel. Even so at times I found Claire’s character to be a tad annoying, where as Luke made a great foil for Claire and was the best element of the film.

Having Kelly McGillis play a psychic/alcoholic actress was a nice touch, and unlike some I didn’t mind the ending too much. While the last act does feature some questionable behavior I take it as the actions of someone who had become rather unstable, and its therefore a mixture of terrifying and tragic. Unfortunately Ti West’s The Roost is not available on Netflix, however his other works are and I look forward to seeing those as well. I would rather like it if he made a slasher movie for some reason, as West’s gift for making super creepy movies that get under you skin would serve him well there, I think.

Horrorfest 2013 Presents: The House of the Devil (2009, Ti West)


Despite putting this and The Innkeepers off for over a year even though both are on Netflix Instant Viewing, I decided to finally watch The House of the Devil and find out why so many people enjoy Ti West’s work. He is a fairly new filmmaker, having only made a handful of movies-the earliest according to Criticker being released in 2005-and he’s already gathered some acclaim from horror fans and even critics. The House of the Devil is a well made and atmospheric throwback to 1970s and 1980s horror movies, and the film’s low-budget resulted in it being even self-style just like the same low-budget 70s and 80s horror movies its inspired by. However it’s a fairly original work, and the film is very slow burning, with West giving the audience time to soak in the high level of creepy that underlies most of the film’s scenes.

I love the opening credits, with the young heroine Samantha walking along her college campus, rock music blaring in the background, headphones perched on her ears, long brunette hair hanging over her jacket as she strolls along, unaware that she is about to enter a strange new world. The job is fairly simple: babysitting. Problem is, Sam is not babysitting a couple of kids in the suburbs; no she has been hired by an elderly couple to watch over the wife’s mother. In a creepy old house in the middle of the countryside. Oh and the elderly couple hiring her is played by legends Tom Noonan and Mary Woronov. No big deal, right? Well as us horror fans know, anytime you babysit is just an excuse for bad things to happen to you.

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Still West hangs back, utilizing only one really freaky jump scare, letting the audience become further alarmed at what is transpiring, letting the viewer’s get more and more into the movie. I prefer this approach even though at times I felt a tad bored, as the payoff ends up being rather enormous, the climax utterly terrifying. There’s something about a movie that creeps you out the entire time while still holding one last card in the deck, guaranteed to leave you feeling really uneasy after you exit the theater. The Blair Witch Project comes to mind in that regard as well, another movie heavy on atmosphere with a fantastic payoff.

Jocelin Donahue as Sam is fantastic here, displaying a like able presence, being the film’s main anchor and giving it credibility as things begin to turn weird. Also its really cool that West had famous horror scream queen Dee Wallace make a cameo appearance as “The Landlady,” although I wish she had been in the film more. Oh and I love how sparse and yet engaging the film’s set design was, in addition to the use of color. Especially white, which could mean something but I would have to view the film again to decide said meaning. Some things leave you with more questions than answers.

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