Rob Zombie has matured as a filmmaker, as witnessed by this well-structured horror shocker, which plays with both historical events and familiar movie imagery to keep us unnerved even if it's ultimately rather silly. Best of all is the way he remembers the value of schlock both to entertain and to gross us out. And it's his old-style touches that make the film much scarier than the usual shock-and-go horror movies.
The story draws on the 17th century Salem Witch Trials, at which women were brutally executed for suspicion of witchcraft. In present day Salem, free-spirited DJ Heidi (Moon Zombie) receives a mysterious record from an unknown band called The Lords, and when she plays it people start behaving strangely. Historical expert Francis (Davison) takes an interest in the record due to its odd tones, but he begins to worry that something nasty might be afoot. Indeed, Heidi starts having freaky dreams and visions. And it becomes apparent that she's the fulfilment of a dark prophesy involving the spawn of Satan himself.
Moon Zombie is terrific as the confused heroine who thinks what's happening is related to her recent decision to give up hard drugs. But of course, we know better. And we also know that she certainly should not trust the three cackling sisters (Geeson, Quinn and Wallace) who live downstairs. In addition, we see flashback scenes from 1696 in which a preacher takes on a coven of naked witches who dance around a bonfire led by their witchy leader (Foster). Yes, Zombie packs the movie with nutty ceremonies, grisly apparitions and naked, blood-soaked women.
In other words, he knows what his audience is looking for, as he stirs in continual bonkers nuttiness. Much of this is an homage to vintage American and Italian horror movies, which adds an enjoyable nostalgia. And combined with an undercurrent of evil wit, the film is much darker and edgier than most Hollywood horror movies, including scenes no studio boss would be able to stomach. So even if the plot goes off the rails as it progresses, at least Zombie knows how to take us on a seriously ghastly trip.
Run time: 101 mins
In Theaters: Thursday 18th April 2013
Box Office USA: $1.2M
Distributed by: Anchor Bay Films
Production compaines: Alliance Films, Automatik Entertainment, Blumhouse Productions
Contactmusic.com: 3.5 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 45%
Fresh: 26 Rotten: 32
IMDB: 5.1 / 10
Director: Rob Zombie
Screenwriter: Rob Zombie
Starring: Sheri Moon Zombie as Heidi Hawthrone, Bruce Davison as Francis Matthias, Jeff Daniel Phillips as Herman Whitey Salvador, Judy Geeson as Lacy Doyle, Meg Foster as Margaret Morgan, Patricia Quinn as Megan, Ken Foree as Herman Jackson, Dee Wallace as Sonny, María Conchita Alonso as Alice Matthias, Sid Haig as Dean Magnus, Michael Berryman as Virgil Magnus, Barbara Crampton as Virginia Cable, Andrew Prine as Reverend Jonathan Hawthrone, Michael Shamus Wiles as Jarrett Perkins, Torsten Voges as Count Gorgann, Suzanne Voss as Elizabeth Jacobs, Ernest Lee Thomas as Chip Freakshow McDonald, Lisa Marie as Priscilla Reed, Richard Fancy as AJ Kennedy