The Lords of Salem
the lords of salem | rob zombie | sheri moon zombie | meg foster | bruce davison | witch | witchcraft | thriller | united states | united kingdom | canada | coven | ken foree | dee wallace | patricia quinn | michael berryman | sid haig | judy geeson | richard fancy
Film: The Lords of Salem
Director: Rob Zombie
Writer: Rob Zombie
Starring: Sheri Moon Zombie, Meg Foster and Bruce Davison
This was another of those that I took home as a pre-street while working at Family Video. There was a bit of hype for me as I liked writer/director Rob Zombie’s other films. After my initial viewing, I was a bit letdown if I’m honest. It has been one that since getting into listening to podcasts, many people are higher on so I decided to give it another go. The synopsis here is Heidi (Sheri Moon Zombie), 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?
This film begins in the 1696. We are watching the Reverend Jonathan Hawthorne (Andrew Prine) as he’s writing in his diary about a coven of witches in the area. We also see the coven he is referring to as they are performing a ceremony. They are led by Margaret Morgan (Meg Foster).
We jump to present day. This story is told in chapters, where each day leading to Saturday is its own day. We are in the apartment of Heidi as she wakes up. She goes about her morning routine with her dog. This takes her into the hallway to get her newspaper and sees someone in the previously vacate apartment 5. She tries to say hello to her, but they go inside and slam the door which throws her off. As she leaves for work, she tells this to her landlord, Lacey Doyle (Judy Geeson). They talk about it and Heidi learns that it still does not have tenant which confuses her.
She goes into work where she is part of a trio that is the best radio hosts in Salem. She works alongside Herman ‘Whitey’ Salvador (Jeff Daniel Phillips), who has a crush on her, and Herman Jackson (Ken Foree). They do a show where they listen to music, interview people and use funny sound effects to go along with what they say. Some good production value for sure.
At the end of the shift, Heidi finds a package has been delivered to her at the station. It is a wooden case with a record from a group going by ‘The Lords’. Whitey and Heidi go back to her place to have dinner and hang out. They decide near the end of the night to listen to the record and at first it will not catch when Whitey tries to put it on. When Heidi tries it works. The music has a weird effect on her.
Her life begins to fall apart after listening to it. There are apparitions that are following her around. We learn that she is a recovering addict, so her life is hanging on the edge in general. She has been able to stay clean for some time. The next day they interview Francis Matthias (Bruce Davison), who has just written a book about the witch trials of Salem. When he listens to the record of the Lords, something about it does not feel right.
Francis decides to look into the music and it leads him on a discovery that goes back to Rev. Hawthrone. He learns of a curse that Margaret placed on the women of Salem during her execution. All the while, Heidi continues to spiral. Whitey tries to help, but she shuts him out. Also, not everyone around her is who they seem and there is something strange going on in her apartment building.
That is where I want to leave my recap and what I will say, I’m glad I gave this movie a rewatch. My first viewing was during a time where I was watching a lot, but I wasn’t as seasoned as I am now. There is more here that I can appreciate for sure. Where I want to start is the location. It is interesting to set this in Salem, where of course we know about the Salem Witch Trials. I’ve actually watched an older movie recently that involved in and heard these trials brought up on a podcast, so it is fitting for this rewatch.
Going from this, I find it interesting that both Francis and the writer of the other book, AJ Kennedy (Richard Fancy), are convinced that there were no real witches in Salem. Rev. Hawthorne does, but he is also bias with his religious beliefs. I’m actually glad that they hold this belief, because personally I agree with them. Since no one in this movie knows they are in a movie, it makes it feel more real. Francis only starts to believe as he investigates into things. For me, what makes movies like this work is that and also the atmosphere of who you can and cannot trust.
The atmosphere is something I want to get back to, but first I want to delve into the character of Heidi. I like making her unreliable as a recovering drug addict. We see in the beginning she has gotten her life back on track. When listening to the record, it causes her to spiral. Both Hermans immediately think that she has relapsed. As someone who has been around someone using, it is believable. I feel bad for her though as she doesn’t know what is going on with her and she eventually uses, but that is when things have become so bad that she cannot help it. Being clean is extremely difficult, so it doesn’t help having something supernatural messing with you.
To circle back now to the atmosphere, my favorite part of this movie is the record from The Lords. There is something about it that is unnerving. I also like the editing when it is playing as we see Heidi having flashbacks to fill in the back-story for us. We also get to see what it does to other women listening to the radio as well. The rest of the soundtrack fits for what was needed as well.
Next I think I’ll go to the acting. One thing I will give credit to Rob Zombie is that he loves to get old actors who were popular in the 70’s and 80’s for his movies. Before getting to them, I thought his wife gave her best performance here. We get that baseline of her normal and we see her fall apart as supernatural events influence her. That worked for me. Davison is solid as Francis. I liked Phillips and also feel bad for him. He really has Heidi’s best wishes at heart, but he doesn’t understand what is going on. I also like Foree as the sterner one in regards to her. Aside from that, I liked Geeson, Foster, Patricia Quinn, Dee Wallace, Fancy, Michael Berryman and Sid Haig in their cameos. I thought the cast does well here.
Then really the last thing I want to go into is where this movie goes. The build-up is great for me. We see Heidi falling apart as supernatural events happen that culminate in The Lords playing a show. This movie goes music video with some surreal elements before and during this though. I don’t completely hate it, but it also doesn’t completely work for me either. It just feels weird for weird’s sake.
So then in conclusion here, this movie is better than I gave it credit for after that first viewing. I’ve come around to it and it actually might be one of my favorites with House of 1000 Corpses, The Devil’s Rejects and his Halloween films. We have an interesting setting and I think the back-story to incorporate the Salem Witch Trials. The acting is good, including the best performance in my opinion from Sheri Moon. The soundtrack helps to build the atmosphere along with some weird imaginary. Not all of that works for me though. For me, this is an above average film. It is just lacking a bit to go higher for me.
My Rating: 7.5 out of 10