The Lords Of Salem is a strange film. Not in a bad way, mind you, but quite different. If you have watched any of Rob Zombie’s films prior to this pretend that they don’t exist, because this is like nothing he has made before. Admittedly, I am not a huge fan of his other films. However, I actually enjoyed this movie for what it is; a strange trip.
The plot of this film is pretty basic. Heidi (Sheri Moon) is a DJ in Salem Massachusetts. One night she is given a mysterious record in a wooden box by a band called The Lords. After she plays it she, and other women, start experiencing strange dreams and such concerning a past coven of witches who were burned at the stake. There is of course more to the story than that, but everything else is secondary to the main plot. It is all mostly focused on Heidi and what happens to her as a result of the evil music she hears. All of the other characters in the film that she interacts with are concerned for her in one way or another; they either want to harm her or help her according to their own needs.
What impressed me the most about The Lords Of Salem is the fact that it’s directed quite well. Rob Zombie has moved away from his slice and dice approach of film making into a dark and moody style that is much more mature and enjoyable to watch. Contrasted to his earlier films this actually comes as a bit of a surprise. It’s like somebody sat him down and made him watch some old school horror films and told him that he should aim for those instead of trying to make a music video. Because of all of this it is more easy to concentrate on what is happening to the characters because you aren’t being thrown all over a room trying to figure out what the hell is going on. I see this as maybe a sign that he is maturing as a director and is perhaps beginning to choose substance over style.
Sheri Moon has annoyed the hell out of me in every single Rob Zombie film that I have watched before this. I would literally want to throw a shoe at the TV and tell her to shut up. Everything about her, from her voice to her manner irritated me. Imagine my surprise when I watched this film and I couldn’t even tell that is was the same actress. Whereas, all of her previous characters were hyper and annoying, Heidi is played as a totally different kind of woman. I really liked learning that Moon can actually act. Who knew? It even got to the point where I felt sorry for the character because of all the strange crap that she goes through. If somebody would have told me before watching this that I would find Sheri Moon to be a good actress and able to play a sympathetic character I would have thought they were on crack.
There are quite a few famous horror film, and otherwise, actors and actresses in Lords Of Salem. Ken Foree, Meg Foster, Bruce Davison, Judy Geeson, Dee Wallace, Patricia Quinn and Maria Conchita Alonso are all in this. I recognized just about all of them because I’m a film nerd like that. The only one that surprised me was Meg Foster, who plays an evil witch named Margaret Morgan. She has so much make-up on her that I quite honestly couldn’t tell who she was. Perhaps the scariest looking person out of that whole list was Alonso because it looks like she has gotten some major plastic surgery done. Seriously, I think the woman can now appear as a creature in horror films without any make-up. Just say no to plastic surgery folks! Everybody is really good and there isn’t a bad performance out of anybody, which is yet another new aspect of a Rob Zombie film.
The screenplay, also by Rob Zombie, is pretty interesting despite the fact that he got the whole witch thing wrong. We all know that the people who were convicted of witchcraft in Salem weren’t really witches who worshiped Satan, right folks? They were either practitioners of folk magic, or simply people who others didn’t like. Seriously, that’s all they were. Now, I know this and I’m sure others do as well, but I’m guessing that there are going to be some naive or ignorant fans of his that are going to actually think that the witches from Salem worshiped Satan. There is a large modern Wiccan community in Salem and I can’t imagine that they are too happy about any of this. Then again they have made a mint off of tourists going to Salem to see witches so maybe they are all excited and popping the cork off of some champagne. While he has gotten the history all wrong I will give him some leeway because it’s a horror film and not a documentary.
The last 30 minutes of The Lords Of Salem deserves its own paragraph. It goes from Heidi to having some bad dreams to out-and-out strangeness. It’s as if Zombie watched some films by Jean Rollin and the TV show Twin Peaks and decided to mash them together into this strange surreal acid trip. That’s not to say that it’s awful or anything like that, just very, very surreal and not like anything he has done before. Considering the plot of the film it kind of makes sense in a way. I mean, all of these strange occurrences are happening to Heidi, and the end of the film is aabout how all of her issues are resolved. I don’t think that Zombie could have made the ending in any other way, because that would have taken away from the rest of the film.
The Lords Of Salem gives me hope that Rob Zombie has it in him to make really great films. While it isn’t perfect by any means, it’s really interesting and that is in part what makes a film fun to watch.