The Lords of Salem is a 2012 horror featurefilm written and directed by Rob Zombie (House of 1000 Corpses; The Devil’s Rejects; Halloween remake and its sequel).
The movie stars Sheri Moon Zombie, Meg Foster (unrecognisable as the witch), Judy Geeson, Dee Wallace (The Howling), Patricia Quinn, Ken Foree (Dawn of the Dead), Michael Berryman (The Hills Have Eyes) and Sid Haig.
Heidi DJs at the local radio station, and together with the two Hermans (Whitey and Munster) forms part of the ‘Big H Radio Team’. A mysterious wooden box containing a vinyl record arrives for Heidi, “a gift from the Lords”. She assumes it’s a rock band on a mission to spread their word. As Heidi and Whitey play the Lords’ record, it starts to play backwards, and Heidi experiences a flashback to a past trauma.
Later, Whitey plays the Lords’ record, dubbing them the Lords of Salem, and to his surprise, the record plays normally and is a massive hit with listeners. The arrival of another wooden box from the Lords presents the Big H team with free tickets, posters and records to host a gig in Salem. Soon Heidi and her cohorts find that the gig is far from the rock spectacle they’re expecting; the original Lords of Salem are returning, and they’re out for blood…
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There is much to be admired in The Lords of Salem, with its enchanting dark imagery and lighting, and some great quirky guest genre performances (Bruce Davison and Ken Foree especially), plus, in defiance of expectation, Sheri Moon Zombie herself.
Musically, use of The Velvet Underground SM-tinged oeuvre and a minimalist synth score work in the film’s favour. The script, however, seemingly attempts to repeatedly ‘shock’ with its trite dialogue that often doesn’t fit with the narrative (17th century witches regaling Jesus Christ himself? or rather ‘obvious’ false-sounding chants such as “we blaspheme the Holy Spirit”?), which makes the whole movie often seem like an over-extended rock video. That said, the typically expletive-ridden script does include the occasionally amusing line.
Elsewhere, self-referential filmic imagery is overdone – The Shining, Georges Méliès and even Tod Slaughter are part of the mash-up. After Rob Zombie’s dire attempt to reinvent the Halloween franchise with poor white trash elements, this is at least a welcome attempt to get back to his sinematic roots but he still needs a solid producer to reign in some rather obvious excesses and focus on his undoubted talents as a filmmaker. And the latter stages of The Lords of Salem are, unfortunately, merely silly. The spirit of Ken Russell lives on!
Adrian J Smith, MOVIES and MANIA
Rob Zombie’s latest film is something of a quantum leap in terms of quality and ambition. Not that his earlier works were bad movies – I’m one of the few people with anything good to say about his Halloween remake – but The Lords of Salem shows someone who has grown in confidence, able to balance his grindhouse sensibilities with an almost arthouse vision, creating an impressively dark occult horror that is unlike anything else out there right now.
David Flint, MOVIES and MANIA
“Zombie’s misfire just comes across as smug and insulting […] Petrifying and dull as the final cut of Lords of Salem is, the mind calcifies to consider the epic-length original version that contained a movie-within-a-movie called Frankenstein vs. the Witchfinder.” Mike “McBeardo” McFadden, Heavy Metal Movies
“Whether you view all this as an LSD trip or a redux-psychedelia tab pressed from oils of Rosemary’s Baby, Suspiria, and 1970s trash-art esthetic, or you just want to take Zombie as film auteur reaching out to the rows in back of the theater, his continuing metal-crashing against white-thrashing Christian dogma and precepts is the same bellicose vein throbbing excess seen through each of his films.” Zombos’ Closet