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The Lords of Salem

2013 | 101 min | R | 2.39:1

The Lords of Salem


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User reviews

1 user review

Movie appeal

Psychological thriller9%


Theatrical release date

 19 April, 2013
 26 April, 2013

Country of origin

 United States

Box office




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The Lords of Salem


Screenshots from The Lords of Salem Blu-ray

The Lords of Salem Preview  

 / 10
Preview by Brian Orndorf, April 19, 2013

After flirting with the abstract and the surreal in the midst of slasher film shenanigans with “Halloween II,” writer/director Rob Zombie has decided to scratch the itch in full with “The Lords of Salem.” A bizarre mind-bomb of a movie, the feature represents a slight change in direction for the helmer, who once had a ball raising hillbilly hell and now appears to be consumed with atmospheric nightmares, with a heavy tilt toward psychological erosion. “The Lords of Salem” isn’t for every taste, with those hankering for a vicious joyride into the black heart of witchcraft sure to walk away disappointed. The effort is best suited for viewers willing to allow Zombie time to chase artistic impulses and genre obsessions, to let the doomsday weirdness gradually wash over them.

Heidi (Sheri Moon Zombie) is an ex-junkie making a living as a wacky rock radio D.J. with her two partners, Whitey (Jeffrey Daniel Phillips) and Herman (Ken Foree). Living inside a grungy apartment building in Salem, Massachusetts, Heidi enjoys a quiet existence with her dog, occasionally monitored by landlord Lacy (Judy Geeson) and her two sisters, Megan (Patricia Quinn) and Sonny (Dee Wallace). When Heidi encounters a strange recording left by the band The Lords at her station, she plays the album, unknowingly unleashing a spell that begins to screw with her mind, leaving her desperate to alleviate the pressure. When Lacy and the women reveal themselves to be witches with direct ties to historic Salem scourge Margaret (Meg Foster), Heidi is placed in a precarious position, prepared for satanic use. Investigating the case is author Francis (Bruce Davison), who begins to research Margaret’s saga and her threats of revenge after the music of The Lords pique his curiosity.

Pulling away from extreme violence, Zombie looks to channel the works of Kubrick and Polanski with “The Lords of Salem.” It’s a slow-burn feature set in tight confines, laboring to internalize the horror instead of spraying the screen with blood. It’s unexpected maturation for the helmer, who massages his tiny budget splendidly, generating an unnerving sensation of dread as Heidi goes about her daily business, slowly succumbing to the musical effects of The Lords (unraveling the city’s women with their droning strings and Morse code notes). There are little overt scares in the picture, which seeks to unleash a case of the creeps instead, burrowing under the skin with imagery that covers religious iconography, monstrous creatures, and faceless visitors, working to disorient Heidi in full to prepare the broken woman for her ultimate function. There’s a goat in the mix as well, as to be expected with an effort that’s consumed with satanic activity.

The script for “The Lords of Salem” is all over the place, yet never slips out of Zombie’s control. Beyond Heidi and her meltdown, there’s time spent in the 1600s, observing Margaret’s final stand against John Hathorne’s (Andrew Prine) fiery condemnation, vowing a plan of revenge for her treatment that will tear through his ancestors. Francis’s inquiry is also developed, watching the character gradually grow aware of the oncoming danger, fearing for Heidi’s safety. Zombie weaves around the subplots loosely, capturing behavioral quirks, commercial radio hackery (broadcast scenes retain their satiric edge), and a general tone of seduction. The mystery of the apartment complex is equally cared for, displaying Heidi’s home as a cineaste oasis (wall art includes tributes to Georges Melies and Commando Cody), while a neighboring unit contains a portal to Hell, or at least a subconscious, cathedral-like version of it, where Heidi’s newfound submission is manipulated by the witches.

As with previous Zombie features, “The Lords of Salem” is impressively shot and scored. Lead acting from Mrs. Zombie and Phillips is wooden, yet the supporting cast is terrific, finding Foster sinking her teeth into the alpha witch role (requiring rotting make-up and extensive nudity), while Wallace appears to be enjoying herself immensely as an animated member of the coven. The overall sinister tone of the movie remains intact as well, spilling over into a gonzo finale that unleashes a torrent of dreamlike images and interpretational events, though the effort is capped with a stunning summation of demonic ascension.

The picture isn’t an easy sit for the impatient, and if Zombie’s White Horse symbolism in “Halloween II” wasn’t your cup of tea, the new film might be even more of a migraine. Love him or hate him, Zombie certainly has an original take on screen torment, and while “The Lords of Salem” contains considerable flaws, its ambition is frequently hypnotizing, attempting to trigger a different kind of disquiet in a genre that could use the challenge.

Starring: Sheri Moon Zombie, Dee Wallace, Ken Foree, Maria Conchita Alonso, Meg Foster, Sid Haig
Director: Rob Zombie

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