US | 2012 | Directed by Rob Zombie
Logline: A Salem radio host is sent a mysterious record, the music of which triggers Satanic hallucinations, or are they the evil doings of a coven of witches from centuries past?
I’m not a fan of Rob Zombie’s movies, plain and simple. I find them pretentious. Ok, I appreciate House Of 1000 Corpses (2003), his feature debut, but even that is patchy. I thoroughly disliked The Devil’s Rejects (2005), and I absolutely loathed his remakes of Halloween (2007) and Halloween II (2009). So why did I want to watch his latest? I must be some kind of glutton for punishment.
I’d read that The Lords Of Salem was a departure from the serial killer indulgences of his earlier movies and was playing more in the realm of the supernatural, witchcraft even. Actually, Satanism, to be precise. It is a departure, certainly it is his most “likeable” movie since his debut, as it features characters you actually give a fuck about, although he squanders that soon enough.
Sheri Moon Zombie (Rob’s wife) plays Heidi Laroc, a radio host, part of a trio called the Big H Team on Salem’s radio station. Her colleagues are Whitey (Jeff Daniel Phillips) and Herman (Ken Foree), and they have a fun, carefree time on the airwaves, so when Heidi has to collect a strange new promo record (in a wooden box no less) addressed using her birth name she doesn’t think much of it. But the music - credited to The Lords - contained in the groove of the vinyl has a very specific agenda.
Francis Matthais (Bruce Davison), a local author is hawking his new book on the radio show, and becomes very curious about The Lords (of Salem, as the DJs are callig them), and about the connection with Heidi. His investigative nature leads him into dark territory. But not before Heidi herself has entered the ominous room #5 in her apartment building where spectres of evil have been loitering with intent.
The Lords Of Salem starts off promisingly, and Mrs. Zombie is far less irritating than she’s been in the previous movies directed by her husband. The location shooting adds genuine old school atmosphere (some of it reminiscent of Ti West’s superb, and oh, so much more effective devil shocker The House Of The Devil from 2010). The movie’s intrigue really starts to kick in when Heidi is invited to have tea with her landlord, Lacy (Judy Geeson) and cohorts, Megan (Patricia Quinn) and Sonny (Dee Wallace).
But Heidi’s descent into hell quickly becomes a tedious and altogether tacky slide, furnished with low-rent visual effects, and a protagonist who fails miserably at trying to save herself, and thus give the movie an edge of genuine suspense. The villain – apart from the Cloven One Himself – is head witch Margaret Morgan (Meg Foster), burned alive in 1696 by Heidi’s ancestor. She has returned to wreak havoc on her killer’s bloodline.
Despite a veteran cast rich with horror history; Ken Foree from Dawn of the Dead (1978), Judy Geeson from Inseminoid (1981), Patricia Quinn from The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975), Meg Foster (hideous as all hell!) from They Live (1988), and Michael Berryman and Sid Haig in non-speaking cameos, none of them manage to lift the movie’s game which sinks into a mire of risible pseudo-Jodorowsky-esque imagery (the dwarf demon?!) and disappears into the murk of Zombie’s indulgence.
I don’t think I will be playing this punishment game any longer.