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The Lords of Salem (2013) Review

Reviewed by Kevin Scott, MoreHorror.com

I really had not planned to write a review about Rob Zombie’s latest endeavor “The Lords of Salem”. The primary reason simply being that the internet just plain didn’t need another review of this film residing out there in cyberspace. Call it “saturating the market” if you will, me writing about something slightly obscure, new or old would have more than likely served the reader better. Here I am though, so let’s get to it.

I guess I should elaborate on the reason I ended up here. I’ve read only one review that was somewhat favorable about this film. The rest offered no hope of Mr. Zombie regaining his former greatness as the man that would save mainstream horror by giving it all the grime, violence, and homages to vintage films that just could not be found in any similar ilk anywhere else. Renting “The Lords of Salem” in an actual physical copy, proved way more challenging than I anticipated. I was reminded how nice video stores used to be when I was standing in line at the Redbox. It made me wonder if we were any better off now. Didn’t people do the same thing at phone booths before cell phones?

I had unintentionally formed an opinion before watching “The Lords of Salem” that it would be one big long, incoherent acid trip, and that I would just love Rob Zombie for all the good times we had with “House of 1000 Corpses”, “The Devil’s Rejects”, and “Halloween”. After “Halloween II” and “The Haunted World of El Superbeasto”, Rob had become the friend from the good old days, that now borrows money from me, doesn’t pay me back, and pisses off my wife. Like I said, I was gonna love him for what we had, not what we had become. Guess what? “The Lords of Salem” is a very good film. I’m going to throw in one disclaimer, keep an open mind and realize that like all of Rob Zombie’s other films, it’s an homage. This one being to 1970’s Satan films.
That one positive review I read quoted Rob Zombie as saying that “The Lords of Salem is like ‘The Shining’ if Ken Russell had directed it”. After giving it my complete attention, I wholeheartedly agree. The imagery in this film is stylized like Kubrick, but irreverent and on a higher plan of weird than we could see anywhere else, just like Russell. Zombie is the ultimate exploitation and horror film fan, and is the unequivocal best end result of what could happen when parents let their young kids watch absolutely anything. He brings all that baggage to an impressive fruition in what could be called “horror art house”. Yeah, you heard me.

We all may be tired of seeing Sheri Moon Zombie by now. I still say “Jeez, Sandra Locke again in every Clint Eastwood film!” I’m also tired of seeing Helena Bonham Carter in every Tim Burton film. I was at that point in the beginning, but she sold me as Heidi, the recovering drug addict DJ that plummets into a downward spiral after listening to a mysterious record left at the radio station where she works. The movie is broken down into the days of the week. At the beginning of the week, she’s got a successful show at the radio station, walking her dog, and learning French on tape. By the end of the week, she’s a recluse, smoking heroine, and giving birth to Satan’s spawn. Looks like the heroine would be bad for the baby, but I guess if it’s the Devil’s baby, it’s kind of like pre natal vitamins. I don’t know.

The rest of the cast is solid with Ken Foree as one of the cohosts of the radio show, Jeff Daniel Phillips as the other cohost that’s sweet on Heidi, as well as Horror royalty Judy Geeson, Dee Wallace, and Patricia Quinn as the Satanic version of the Ya Ya Sisterhood. I saved the best for last with Bruce Davison as Francis Matthias. An older guy with really good hair that wrote a book about the Salem witch trials, and after being a guest on Heidi’s show, figures out that the record is a conduit for the seventeenth century witches to be reborn. Then we have an almost unrecognizable, and terrifying turn from Meg Foster as the leader of the old witches that is proud of her naked four hundred year old body no matter how many miles it has on it. Remember when I compared it to Kubrick, between the old naked woman in “The Shining” and Meg Foster in this role, I would almost rather hug the bluehair from “The Shining”.

Remember those films from your youth with imagery that seemed so shocking beyond belief that made such an impact on you that you had to search them out again as an adult? “The Lords of Salem” is one of those movies for this generation. Looking at it as an adult, I see elements of “Rosemary’s Baby”, and in a strange turn “Jacob’s Ladder”. Faceless minions, naked witches hanging from the cabinets of Heidi’s apartment, and Sheri Moon Zombie doing a mechanical bull routine on a goat lend credence to Zombie for bringing all of this together. The film’s score and cinematography are beautiful, and I like to think that Zombie knew that if we were going to except all the ugliness, it had to be pleasing to the eyes and the ears to go down the way it should. I was happy to like this, and now maybe me and my old friend Rob Zombie can hang out again. I missed him.

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