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The Lords of Salem (2012)

lords of salem poster

The Lords of Salem (2012) – Heidi, a radio DJ, is sent a box containing a record — a “gift from the Lords.” The sounds within the grooves trigger flashbacks of her town’s violent past. Is Heidi going mad, or are the Lords back to take revenge on Salem, Massachusetts?

The Lords of Salem is written and directed by Rob Zombie. Whilst not having heard much of Zombie’s music, I am a fan of his films. The Devil’s Rejects, House of 1000 Corpses and Halloween I & II were all good films (yes I’m in the minority by liking Halloween II, but aside from undoing the great ending in his first story I liked what he did with part II) and so I have been eagerly awaiting The Lords of Salem. In a rare turn of events, whilst only just showing in US theatres, the film is actually out on dvd here in the UK, and I couldn’t wait to sit down and check it out.

the odd squad

The DJ’s aka The Odd Squad

My thoughts then……..well, it’s different!! If I didn’t know better, I would never have this down as a Rob Zombie film (aside from the casting of his wife!) It was a really pleasant surprise, and although I liked his previous more violent films, this one veers away from that approach and gives us something more old school 70’s horror. Clearly influenced by movies such as The Shining, Suspiria and Rosemary’s Baby for example, Zombie clearly is doing something he loves here.

heidi hawthorne

Sheri Moon Zombie as Heidi Hawthorne

Flashing back and forth between 1696 and the present day, The Lords of Salem attempts to connect ancient black magic with modern possession and a coven of modern witches. Heidi (played by Sheri Moon Zombie) is a rock chick radio DJ who receives a mysterious LP from a new band, The Lords which, when played, invades her mind with creepy hallucinatory memories of the town’s past. Soon Heidi is channelling negative energy which local writer Francis (Bruce Davison) recognises as linking to legendary witch Margaret Morgan (Meg Foster) and the curse she placed on her killers.

The movie mostly follows Zombie’s character as she slips deeper and deeper into delusion, blurring the lines between fantasy and reality by subtly suggesting that the in-recovery DJ may be in a self-induced paranoid drug haze.

sherri moon goat

Sheri Moon Zombie did a great job in the lead role here. I’ve seen some complaints about her not being able to carry a movie, but I liked her and thought she was more than capable of doing the role justice. She was in pretty much every scene, and aside from the obvious positives like seeing her in various shades of nudity, she made me believe in her journey and I really did have a lot of sympathy for her character and what she was going through. There was also some inspired casting in the forms of Judy Geeson, Patricia Quinn and Dee Wallace as the modern-day coven of three sisters. They add some humour and creepiness, and were a joy to watch.

lords of salem witches

Judy Geeson, Patricia Quinn and Dee Wallace – The “Three Sisters”

Unusually for a Rob Zombie film, there isn’t that much blood and violence on show here. There are some weird scenes with strange rituals and sacrifices, but nothing is ever gratuitous. Early on there are a couple of really good jump moments, which I wasn’t expecting at all. In just those two scenes there were more scares than in the entire The Innkeepers movie! It then ventures briefly into a sort of Twin Peaks style with crazy characters and imagery, before the full on madness and reasons are all revealed in their insane glory.

lords of salem

Visually, it was absolutely stunning. Gorgeous cinematography, coupled with some very creepy, weird imagery, and there were no digital effects used at all in the film. The atmosphere, again, was very well done. It has a real art-house artistic feel to it, which Zombie’s previous films did not have. The Lords of Salem was just unsettling the whole way through, really creepy, again, added to by the visuals. Throw in some eerily effective music and all done on a rumoured $2.5 million budget. Such a refreshing change and proof horror is not all remakes and sequels, and there are some original ideas still in existence.

It’s not perfect, and it loses a few marks in my final rating purely down to a few niggling points. The pacing felt a little slow, and whilst it started with some action and scary scenes, the second act just seemed to drag the movie down for me, until the final 20 minutes ramped up the crazy and finished the movie on a strong note. I also felt Bruce Davison’s character Francis was finally getting to the best bits and his revelations were going to be exciting, but it just didn’t play out like I had hoped.

The-Lords-of-Salem

Rob Zombie describes his film as “if Ken Russell directed The Shining”. Whilst not being anywhere near The Shining’s standard, there is a lot of fun to be had with The Lords of Salem. Definitely not a film for everyone though, and don’t go in expecting Zombie’s usual over the top violence. This is a much more restrained effort, and more a labour of love than anything I’ve seen from him so far. I doubt he will care about the criticism this film is getting from some parts. It seems to be quite divisive, as his fans either love it or hate the fact he has deviated so much from his usual style. Film-makers evolving and changing their style can be tricky for fans to get used to, but more importantly it’s just good to see a horror film that is unique and original. The Lords of Salem has blood, scares and is a throwback to the good old days of horror. Whilst I’m in no rush to see it again (due to the serious subject matter, not because it’s bad!), it was powerful enough to stay with me and keep me thinking about what the hell just went down! Don’t be fooled by a 6, it’s a very high 6 and if you’re interested in your horror a little different and less bloody then this could be a perfect match for you.

Ratings07

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80 Comments

  1. Patricia Quinn!!! RESULT!

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  2. I’m really curious about this one. Thanks for the heads up.

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    • I have been anticipating it for a while, and it definitely didn’t let me down. Slow burner and weird, but worthy of your time (if you like witchcraft and strange things!!)

      Cheers 🙂

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  3. Well, you know my thoughts on this film! I’m glad you enjoyed it. I’ll give him his cinematography dues and the fact it’s unsettling in places. Great review!

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    • Yeah, seems I liked it a little more!! I honestly thought those moments early on were creepy as hell, and very unexpected. I can see why people would hate it though, but I just liked it quite a bit and its craziness worked for me!

      Cheers 🙂

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  4. Nice review buddy. I’ve been looking forward to this and had no idea it was out on DVD, that’s a very odd move! I’ve not seen any of Rob Zombie’s other films but I do like the look of this.

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    • I was shocked, saw it in the ASDA charts for £8 brand new. Odd move indeed, but I snapped it up and here we are! Hope you like it, and maybe you will love it more since you have no preconceptions about his previous work. Stupid fanboys can get angry lol 🙂

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  5. Certainly seems interesting. Good review.

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  6. On DVD already?! Oh man, now I am on a hunt. I knew we would not get it in theatre here, and I have been dying to see it (crazy bid Rob Zombie fan, films and music!). Loved the review!

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    • Glad I can give you a nice surprise! As a big fan you may be one of those that hates the different direction, but I hope not! Can’t wait to hear your thoughts!

      Cheers Zoe 🙂

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      • I can’t wait to see what he has done this time. I really think he is just a great package. Great music, great stage persona, great director… I shall definitely keep you informed! Thanks!

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        • As good as this looks, the music and score maybe tops that. He has a good ear at least! Sounds like you will love this! 🙂

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      • Didn’t realise this was out on DVD either. I really loved Devil’s Rejects, so will definitely check this one out.

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        • Good to hear I’m making a few people aware its out at least! Very different in tone to his previous work,but hope you like it! Cheers 🙂

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  7. This actually sounds not bad, man. I could be persuaded to it go.

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    • You like freaky shit so this is right up your alley. Think the last 15 minutes of Kill List, and your on the right track! 🙂

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  8. Nice review. I gotta admit I thought this trailer looked horrible & I’m not a fan of Zombie’s films soooo I’ll probably pass on this one.

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    • Damn, I forgot to add a trailer. Normally add them lol, thanks for the indirect reminder.

      Shame dude, very different to his previous films, but if it doesn’t sound like your kinda thing then fair enough. Cheers for commenting anyway Keith 🙂

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  9. Great review man. Really looking forward to checking this one out. Seems like this one is a split decision, a lot of people loved it or hated it.

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    • Cheers Ryan. I figured this is more your kinda thing, and its about time I wrote about more horror. Getting a bit slack around these parts!!

      Very love or hate, whilst I wasnt quite on the fence, love is a strong word but I certainly liked it, and maybe even loved the look of it all 🙂

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  10. theipc

     /  April 26, 2013

    Nice write up – I’ll give this a go sometime – probably when it’s out for download for a couple of bucks. It doesn’t strike me as “I need to take a day off of work to go to the movie theater” material. You know I XO you but I thought Halloween 2 was a horrible piece of shit. SHITFEST material even : )

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  11. Ryan

     /  April 26, 2013

    Just saw it in the theater here in Salt Lake a couple nights ago, and aside from some idiots in the back row who couldn’t keep quiet, it was one of my fave movie experiences in quite awhile. “Ken Russel directs The Shining” comes pretty close, but with some David Lynch and Kenneth Anger thrown in too. And I will NEVER hear a certain Velvet Underground song the same way again. That scene was amazing on the big screen. Great review!

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    • Glad you liked it! Definitely a lot of influences he borrowed/paid homage to. Music was fantastic I agree. Thanks for stopping by! 🙂

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  12. Haha comparing his own work to the shinning, always a bad sign. Glad it was fun though 😀

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  13. Zombie is hit or miss for me but I’ll give it a shot. Nice review Tyson, the trailer looks pretty f’ed up!

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    • I didn’t even see a trailer before I watched it, but watching it now, yeah it shows off the more surreal moments!! Hope you like it dude, although I can’t see you giving it 100% 😉

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  14. Good review however i didn’t like it as much as you did. I like the atmosphere it creates and it has it moments but way too slow, nothing really happens. Glad you enjoyed it though!

    That tune is awesome isn’t it? Creeped me out!

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    • Yeah it felt slow as I mentioned, but it picked up I felt unlike The Innkeepers! Shame you didn’t quite like it as much, but at least you’ve seen it!

      At least you liked the music! Cheers for dropping by 🙂

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  15. GaryLee828

     /  April 26, 2013

    Tyson, just watched this a couple nights ago – or at least watched the first half and quit. Those witches at the beginning were just awful; not scary; they were just so corny!! lol. But I thought it’d get better and so I kept watching; and so the more I watched the more predictable it became. I do agree with you it had a nice creepy atmosphere and that Sherri Zombie was good in the role…but being unique and original? Not hardly. It recycled so many satanic cult events that I could tell everything that was about to happen. I fast forwarded to the end to make sure there wasn’t some twist I didn’t see coming; but no such luck. This was just a Rosemary’s Baby wanna-be.

    Next time I’ll tell you how I really feel! 🙂

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    • Honesty is good Gary. Shame you didn’t like it. You must’ve seen a lot more cult/witch films than me. Obviously it ended the way I would expect, but that’s not a bad thing here, and the jump scenes were effective I felt. But hey, always good to have differing opinions. See if you agree when I watch and review that other film you keep mentioning 😉

      Cheers dude

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  16. I can’t say that I’ve ever been compelled to watch a Rob Zombie movie, but I kinda want to watch this now. It looks like the type of horror film that I could really get into. By the way, I saw The Innkeepers and I completely agree that it wasn’t scary at all.

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    • Good to hear Garrett. If the trailer doesn’t put you off that’s a good start! Definitely better and scarier than Innkeepers. Even though the jumps only happen a couple of times I found them very effective.

      Look forward to your thoughts if you ever catch it dude 🙂

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  17. I’m def gonna check this out. I’ve also been a big fan of Zombie’s movies although I was disappointed with Halloween II. Thanks for the write-up!

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    • Thanks buddy. Very different in tone to his previous work, and whilst far from perfect it is nothing if not ambitious! Hope you like it. Cheers 🙂

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  18. It’s nice to see that someone else got the Rosemary’s Baby theme! Good review, mate.

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  19. Really looking forward to this one. Can’t believe you got to see it already. Sounds like Rob has redeemed himself from the past two Halloween movies after starting out so great with Corpses (favorite so far by him) and Rejects. Nice review.

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    • Yeah, nice for the UK to be ahead for a change! As I mentioned, I even liked his take on Halloween, and whilst this is very different to anything else he has done, its still pretty effective. Thanks mate, and hope you like it if you ever catch it.

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  20. I haven’t watched the trailer for this one, all I know is the plot and director, really… I kinda wanna go in with an open mind if I get the chance to see it, LOL. I’ll hold off to read your review until then, Tyson 😀

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    • Best way sometimes mate. Less you know the better!! Thanks for sharing this on Reddit, much appreciated! 🙂

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      • Haha very true 😀 No problem at all 🙂

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        • Ill be by to return the favor 🙂

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        • I’ll make sure to not Reddit one of my reviews and save it for you LOL 😀

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        • Do you do them all? Thought they frowned on self publication?! Any review in particular you’d like?

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        • I’ve done a lot of mine recently… According to the Rediquette, it’s okay for one to post links to their own personal site, as long as they’d interact with anyone who may comment, and they post links to other sites as well (part of the reason why I posted yours! Plus I enjoyed what I read of it, and your reviews are always quality :D). Hmm… Maybe Pain & Gain, I’ll probably be posting it on Friday. I’ll send you an email about it later in the week, perhaps 🙂

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        • Thanks for the compliment and info, always appreciated 😉

          Yeah definitely ill do that for you no worries!

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  21. Evidently, we’re on the same page, Tyson. You also mentioned Rosemary’s Baby & other similarities. How strange. I thought, I was reaching in my mention of Rosemary’s. This is why I seldom read other reviews & make it known periodically that I don’t want the side inspirations. It’s what paranoia is made of here. I will be editing my review.
    Devil’s Rejects was my favorite Mr. Zombie film.

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    • Until I’ve done my review I try and avoid as many as I can. As when I finish I kick myself I missed things others mention, damn them!! 😉

      Devils Rejects my favourite too, kind of wish he’d go back and do something like that again but he says he has given up horror. Shame. Cheers Marc 🙂

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      • He’s given up horror?! I thought he was better than others who decide to give up on the only thing they’re good at in favor of breaking out & doing something else that they usually fail miserably. Shame, indeed. Of course, we rely on you (the connoisseur of horror movies) for these tidbits. Keep it up!

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        • Yeah he said Lords of Salem was his last foray into the genre. Hopefully he will go back on his word one day soon. And thanks!! I will certainly try 🙂

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  22. Nice review man. Am checking this out soon, so thought I would seek out your thoughts. Sounds promising.

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