Unless otherwise noted in the post title, these are not
reviews, per se. They are articles for people who have already seen the film or read the book in question--meaning that there will be spoilers. If you're already familiar with the material being covered, or don't mind the plot being spoiled, please read on and leave a comment.

Friday, February 27, 2015

[Satanophobia] Lords of Salem (2012)

Lords of Salem - Theatrical Poster
Theatrical Poster
In modern day Salem, recovering heroin addict and late night radio DJ Heidi LaRoc (one-third of WQIZ's The Big H team) receives an unusual package at the station—a wooden box containing a vinyl record album by a group calling themselves the Lords. When she and her co-host/would-be lover Whitey play the record at Heidi's apartment, the droning and repetitive tones are almost too much for her to bear. Whitey, though, has the bright idea of playing the album on the air the following night.

When they do, select female members of the listening audience seem to fall into a trance, a standing catatonic state that ends at the same time the record does.

Back at the studio, though, the current guest—Francis Mathias, author of Satan's Last Stand: The Truth About the Salem Witch Trials—is, in his words, "upset" by the music. Both it, and the name Lords of Salem, seem naggingly familiar to him, and quickly become something of an obsession.

A bit of research uncovers the musical notes from the song inscribed in the journal of Jonathan Hawthorne, a pious man who hundreds of years ago hunted local witch Margaret Morgan and her coven...a coven who, not so coincidentally, called themselves the Lords of Salem.

When Hawthorne and his band of merry men burned the coven at the stake, Margaret spat a curse upon the women of Salem ("the forever deaths of daughters' daughters") and Hawthorne's bloodline ("the vessel by which the devil's child will inherit the earth"). Heidi LaRoc's real name is Heidi Hawthorne, and now, all these years later, the chickens have come home to roost.

Every time Heidi hears the music, her mental state (already fragile) worsens and she slips deeper and deeper into psychosis. She suffers from visions that may be construed as hallucinations or nightmares, but as the viewers are privy to a few sights that Heidi doesn't see—the images of naked witches appearing in her apartment, for instance—that can mean only one thing: the Lords of Salem are coming.

Quite literally. The radio station announces that the band The Lords are going to be performing a free
Lords of Salem - The Record Box
The Record Box
concert for the citizens of Salem, and the Big H team will be there to report on the event. The first track on the set list, of course, is the one that has been droning across the airwaves for a few days now, and that doesn't prove good for anybody, as the centuries-old curses finally come to fruition.

The finale may prove a bit confusing for some viewers...but then again, the rest of the film might have confused them already. Like many of the movies that writer-director Rob Zombie is riffing on here, the plot is light, and the visuals are heavy—but they are also sumptuous. His influences are obvious, stemming not so much from individual titles but the subgenre's collective consciousness as a whole, and they are lovingly assembled together into something that can only be called a unique pastiche. Zombie is, in my opinion, the Quentin Tarantino of horror films, crafting his own voice by borrowing the syllables of others. If this had been made in the 1970s by some obscure European director, it would probably be heralded as a lost classic by horror fans today.

Like Tarantino, music always plays an important role in Zombie's films, and there is typically a scene therein that changes the way that I hear one particular centerpiece tune forever. THE DEVIL'S REJECTS (2005) had “Free Bird”, HALLOWEEN II (2009) had “Knights in White Satin”, and LORDS OF SALEM has “All Tomorrow's Parties”. Though expertly inserted into the narrative (and it's always a treat to hear Lou Reed and his cohorts), I didn't initially believe that the film had affected my listening of this song in the same manner, primarily because the Velvet Underground had already been a major component of my own personal soundtrack for the better part of my life. And yet, after having now seen the flick a couple of times, I started up the track and was surprised to find that I couldn't help but picture the witches resplendently gazing upon their ascending Virgin Mary of Hell.

Lords of Salem - Virgin Mary of Hell
Virgin Mary of Hell
So, score one for Rob Zombie.

Also like Tarantino, the careful casting of occasionally-overlooked genre actors is a staple of Zombie's films. Here, he makes use of Ken Foree (DAWN OF THE DEAD, 1978), Meg Foster (THEY LIVE, 1988), Bruce Davison (WILLARD, 1971), Patricia Quinn (THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW, 1975), Dee Wallace (CUJO, 1983), and many others.

Although this movie is not going to be to everyone's liking, I believe it is Zombie's most mature work to date, and shows his growth as a director (that being said, it isn't my favorite of his films—that goes to THE DEVIL'S REJECTS). His ever-present and always-beautiful wife Sheri Moon Zombie plays the lead role of Hedi, and this is by far her best role to date, hopefully landing her work outside of her husband's films sometime in the near future. And for the hormonally-driven male viewer, yes, Sheri does bare her bottom on a few occasions, and it is delightful as ever.

Heidi's apartment offers a few other glories to behold, as well, with a blown-up still from Georges Melies' 1902 film A TRIP TO THE MOON adorning the wall above her bed (meaning that, while she's sleeping nude, Moon is mooning the camera beneath a moon), and a decidedly Warhol-esque print of the titular character in KING OF THE ROCKET MEN (1949) hangs in the bathroom. One's home is the physical manifestation of their mind—it is filled with things that we like, and the photographs, books, movies, etc. that we keep can offer an amazing insight into who we are—so Heidi's apartment, which starts off as neat and organized, becomes more and more disheveled as she becomes unbalanced.

The hallucinatory sequences are truly something to behold, all the more impressive in light of the fact that they were all done practically with no digital effects. There are Halloween masks and neon crosses that offer a low-rent, Vegas glimpse of Heidi's descent, but there are also enormous, gorgeous cathedrals that bring things to a fantastic visual crescendo.

One of the final sequences offers up a manic montage of bizarre imagery, coming across more like a music
Lords of Salem - Neon Crosses
Neon Crosses
video with its quick cuts and MTV edits than anything else. While it's true that this goes against the more subdued pacing of the rest of the film, I believe it's fitting for Heidi's character. She's a rocker girl, and as these are her warped perceptions of a freshly-warped reality, why wouldn't they be attuned specifically to her? Hell, and the devil, are very personal matters.

Zombie's interpretation of Satan is not your typical cloven-hoofed beast. Here, the devil is seen as a short, pudgy, deformed little dwarf that impregnates Heidi not through the normal means, but, unbelievably, via intestine-like appendages that he releases from his distended belly. And when she gives birth, it is not to a humanoid of any sort, but rather some obscured crustacean-type creature that is, presumably, a Lovecraftian vision of the newborn anti-Christ. Bizarre does not even begin to describe it.

There have been complaints online about the sacrilegious themes that are prevalent in the film, and specifically some of the anti-Christian sentiments expressed by the witches. Suffice it to say, if you're offended by Satanic cinema, and yet you willingly watch a movie that is quite openly about a coven of evil Satan worshipping witches, then your delicate sensibilities deserve the vicious thrashing that they receive.

In March 2013, one month before the film began its limited release to theaters, a novelization by Zombie and co-author B.K. Evenson hit the shelves. As it was based on the original script, and much of the script was altered on the fly while shooting, there are a number of differences between the two. Among them, there is a minor subplot involving demonic possession and murder, and a pair of unholy nuns that lurk around the edges but don't really add anything to the story. Also, there is an interesting aspect in that the record by the Lords plays backwards (tying cleverly into the now-faded backmasking controversy), which would have been a fun gimmick to see on film.

Lords of Salem: The Novel - Cover Image
Lords of Salem: The Novel
Unfortunately, the writing here is serviceable at its best, and painfully generic at its worst. It comes across more like fan fiction than actual fiction as Zombie fills page after page with repetitive, over-the-top scenes of weird creatures and strange occurrences that serve mostly as filler. It's a blessing that time and money constraints required the production to be scaled down to what it would later become.

Overall, the movie is a far more interesting take on the same story, and the novelization was a disservice to the tale. Those who were confused by the film, but still interested, may want to read the book regardless, as together they will offer up a more complete version of Zombie's original vision.

Strange as it may sound, one of the things that I've learned over the course of working on Satanophobia is how to watch these sorts of films. You have to view them with a mind that is untethered to the strictures of reality, and simply accept the things that happen, no matter how unlikely they seem, without ever asking "Why?" or "How?" When Jason Voorhees returns to life for the eighth time, we don't question how it happened; we just accept that it has happened. We've seen it happen so many times before, it no longer seems strange to us. So why should Satanic films be any different? Why should we spend so much time and effort questioning why Andy doesn't remember wearing the uniform in SATAN'S BLOOD, or how it could be possible for Carol to dream the whole film before it happens in BLACK CANDLES? Especially when we have the greatest scapegoat ever to blame it on.

To quote Flip Wilson, "The devil made me do it."


Tuesday, February 24, 2015

[Satanophobia] Midnight (1982)

Teenager Nancy Johnson (Melanie Verlin) has been thwarting the unwanted advances of her drunken
Midnight - Theatrical Poster
Theatrical Poster
stepfather Bert for far too long. His groping and demands for "smooches" are disturbing enough (made even more so by the fact that she takes it playfully in stride, and continues to call him "daddy"), but when he eventually tries to rape her, she decides that enough is enough. She conks him over the head with her 1980s boom box, packs a bag full of 1980s clothes, and runs away like a 1980s teenager.

Life on the road is difficult, as Nancy learns in about five minutes. It seems that everybody who is willing to drive an underage runaway girl across state lines is actually looking for something more than the warm glow you get in the cockles of your heart after doing a good deed.  Who would’ve guessed? The old bumper sticker adage definitely rings true: Cash, Grass or Ass...Nobody Rides For Free.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

[Satanophobia] Satan's Children (1975)

Fed up with being bossed around by his stepfather and teased by his seductive stepsister, teenager Bobby
Satan's Children - Theatrical Poster
Theatrical Poster
bids his family a less-than-fond farewell ("Go to hell!"). Popping his biggest and best butterfly collar, with nothing in tow but a bag of grass, he hits the desolate streets like a born hustler, ready to take this world by storm.

Stopping off at an all-night diner for a bottomless cup of coffee, he is hit on by an older man, until a kindly biker intervenes. Thankful for the help, Bobby offers to share his marijuana with his new pal, and they head back to the biker's apartment to get high.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

[Satanophobia] Alucarda (1977)

Young Justine (Susana Kamini) arrives at the orphanage shortly after the deaths of her parents, and is given
Alucarda - Theatrical Poster
Theatrical Poster
lodgings with Alucarda (Tina Romero), another girl of the same age. The two hit it off and become fast friends, frolicking through the countryside together in search of innocent adolescent adventure. On one of these quests, they happen upon an old crypt that they decide to enter. They accidentally unleash an ancient evil force, and in short order, the girls find themselves under a dark and demonic influence.

The nuns who run the orphanage first believe the girls to be ill, but as their behavior becomes more and more outrageous—they interrupt worship services to publicly denounce God, for instance—they are forced to deal with the fact that these innocents have been invaded by Satan.

An exorcism is obviously the next step, but these girls are not going down without a fight.

There are a few monks on hand to assist with the heavy lifting, but they are mostly silent background figures and nothing more. The true forces of good here are the nuns—though they're not quite like the nuns that we are used to. They do not sport the traditional black-and-white habits, but are attired in unusual garb that makes them look almost like mummies, and they flagellate themselves with whips in religious ceremony. Perhaps their bandage-like attire is due to the wounds from their self-flagellation. And as for how "good" they actually are, that is all dependent upon your viewpoint, as their cure for the girls' spiritual ailment was dependent upon their deaths.

The sisters are assisted by the local doctor, Dr. Oszek (Claudio Brook) who is initially skeptical of and outraged at the exorcism treatment, but has to quickly reevaluate his belief system when a deceased Justine returns to life. It is remarked that "The devil moved her limbs! She was dead but the forces of evil have not abandoned her!" She has become merely hell's marionette.

Alucarda - The Devil's Daughter?
Alucarda: The Devil's Daughter?
While Justine appears to have been a victim of circumstance in these proceedings, Alucarda was destined for this from the very beginning. The opening scene shows her being birthed, and immediately ushered away from her mother before "He" can get to her. "He" is certainly Satan, and after the baby is removed from the premises, some unseen force attacks the mother, resulting in her death. Alucarda is unaware, but it is her own mother's tomb that she disturbs, unleashing the evil that was residing within. No mention is ever made of the girl's father, and it is conceivable that her daddy is the devil himself.

Having such a tainted bloodline would account for Alucarda's strange behavior from the start. When we first see her as a teenager, she emerges from the shadows behind Justine, almost as if by magic. She is at home there in the darkness, hiding from the light, and yet she is instantly drawn toward Justine, an innocent. Evil loves to corrupt.

When the girls arrive at the tomb—a strange building strung with red vestments—Justine wants to leave. Alucarda, though, finds it beautiful and insists that they go inside. Being surrounded by death and earthly remains puts most people in a somber mood, but it has the opposite effect on Alucarda. As she was goth long before The Cure came along and made it cool, Alucarda chooses this place to declare her love for Justine, and they make a solemn pact: "If we ever depart from this life, we shall do it together."

Further evidence that Alucarda was harboring at least a tinge of evil from the start actually comes at her end. When the possessed Justine was finally defeated, she melted away into grue and bones. However when Alucarda was defeated, she disappeared into nothingness, leaving behind no more than a few motes of dust.

The relationship between the girls only hints at lesbianism at first, but it is shown more blatantly later on. In order to seal their bond, Justine and Alucarda consume the blood from each other's breasts (sliced open with a ceremonial knife bestowed upon them by a malevolent gypsy fellow), and then follow this up with a kiss. If there were any hope for Justine, it is lost following this encounter as Alucarda's tainted blood has now intermingled with her own.

Poor Justine. With her soul promised to God, her heart promised to Alucarda, and her body taken over by Satan, there's not much left for herself.

For a movie whose primary characters are nuns and underage girls, there is an awful lot of nudity. This is
Alucarda - Bloody Justine
Bloody Justine
probably why some refer to it as a nunsploitation film...though I don't really feel that it falls into those parameters. Taboo as it may appear on the surface, it's worth noting that the two actresses playing our leads were both in their twenties during filming—though that does little to alter the feeling of exploitation that comes with that element of the story.

ALUCARDA, imported from Mexico, was reportedly based on the novella Carmilla by Sheridan Le Fanu, though the more overt acts of vampirism have been replaced with a different breed of evil. The screenplay was written by Alexis Arroyo and the film's director Juan López Moctezuma. It was Arroyo's one and only screenwriting credit.

Moctezuma was a friend and contemporary of filmmaker Alejandro Jodorowsky, and even produced two of the man's masterworks: FANDO AND LIS (1968), and EL TOPO (1970). The rest of Moctezuma's filmography is sadly brief, consisting of the Edgar Allan Poe adaptation THE MANSION OF MADNESS (1973); vampire artist film MARY, MARY, BLOODY MARY (1975); the thriller TO KILL A STRANGER (1987), with the impressive cast of Dean Stockwell, Donald Pleasance and Aldo Ray; and EL ALIMENTO DEL MIEDO (1994), which was left unfinished at the time of his death in 1995.

Fans of this film should definitely seek out the rest of the man’s work.  It’s just a shame that there is so little of it to go around.


Monday, February 16, 2015

[Satanophobia] Alfred Hitchcock Hour: The Sign of Satan (1964)

When talent agent Dave Connor returns from a trip overseas, he comes bearing a gift for director Max Rubini: a highlight reel, of sorts, featuring three scenes from a little-known film starring European actor Karl Jorla. The scenes depict some sort of satanic ritual, and Jorla's portrayal of the cult member is so captivating that Rubini knows he has found the star for his next horror movie.

Alfred Hitchcock Hour - The Sign of Satan
Title Screen
A few phone calls are made, and Jorla arrives at the studio after a long flight. The press is there, but Jorla is camera shy, adamant in his refusal of publicity. He doesn't want anyone to know where he is, he says, as a matter of personal safety.

Friday, February 13, 2015

[Satanophobia] Satan's Blood (1978)

Andy (José María Guillén) and his pregnant wife Annie (Mariana Karr) are spending a lazy weekend afternoon home alone. Boredom eventually begins to wear on them, and, unable to reach any of their friends, decide to pack up their beloved pooch Blackie and strike out on a drive through the city. While on the road, they are approached by another vehicle containing couple Bruno (Angel Aranda) and Mary (Sandra Alberti). Bruno insists that he and Andy attended school together, though Andy doesn't remember him at all.
Satan's Blood - Theatrical Poster
Theatrical Poster

Bruno knows enough about Andy to make him think that maybe he's right, but enough of the facts are wrong to make him think that maybe he's mistaken. Boredom must override the Stranger Danger fear that is instilled in us at school, as Andy and Annie accept an invitation back to their home for wine, cheese, and conversation.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

[Satanophobia] Mister Ed: Satan's Favorite Horse?

In the 1980s, there was a significant amount of Satanic Panic in which rock and heavy metal musicians came under fire, not only because of their outrageous appearances but also because of the hidden Satanic messages that were rumored to be backmasked on their albums.  Acts like KISS and Ozzy Osbourne were easy targets, as their stock and trade were demonic imagery used for shock and artistic effect.  But in April 1986, a far more unlikely subject was targeted.

Jim Brown and Greg Hudson, preachers from a religious group in South Point, Ohio called Psalms 150, were hosting a "Music Awareness" seminar at the First Church of the Nazarene in the town of Ironton.  Their audience, consisting mostly of local teenagers, had brought along stacks of record albums for the big bonfire that would surely follow.  They had likely anticipated that modern day rockers were going to be put to task by Brown and Hudson, but it's unlikely that they were expecting this.

Monday, February 9, 2015

[Satanophobia] Satan's Slave (1976)

Catherine Yorke and her parents are traveling to the countryside to visit her uncle, a physician who has, up until now, been strangely absent from her life. Literally the moment that they pull into the property, though, they are involved in a freak car accident that claims the lives of both her parents.

Catherine suddenly finds herself in the hands of three total strangers: her uncle Alexander, her cousin
Satan's Slave - Theatrical Poster
Theatrical Poster
Stephen, and Alexander's secretary/Stephen's jilted lover Frances. Under their care and guidance, Catherine works through her grief remarkably fast. In fact, at times she hardly seems fazed by the whole thing. The only roadblocks on her road to recovery are all of the gory psychic visions that she has to endure. Alexander insists that they are just hallucinations brought on by the trauma, but there's actually a far more sinister reason behind them. 

Thursday, February 5, 2015

[Satanophobia] Black Candles (1982)

After the sudden death of her brother, Carol (Vanessa Hidalgo) and her boyfriend Robert (Mauro Rivera)
Black Candles - Original Theatrical Poster
Original Theatrical Poster
travel to a village outside London to settle his estate and visit with his widow, the eccentric but enigmatic Fiona (Helga Liné). When they arrive at the estate, it is in the midst of a great storm that has taken the power out. Never fear, Fiona has an ample supply of the titular black candles that she uses to illuminate the household in circumstances such as these.

Robert, a former man of the cloth turned scholar, is immediately taken with the interesting lithographs hanging on Fiona's walls. They represent various aspects of demonology, and these, coupled with the black candles are enough to give Carol pause about their hostess. Carol and Robert retire to their bedroom to gossip, strip naked, and have some hot, sweaty sex. And why not? We all grieve in different ways. 

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Aquaphobia is Now Available to Download...FREE!

The AQUAPHOBIA 'zine is now available to download for absolutely free, simply by clicking HERE!

Aquaphobia Zine - The Fear of Water - Cover Image
Aquaphobia: The Fear of Water and What Lies Beneath