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‘The Lords of Salem’ Movie Review: It’s More than Priest Rapes & Devil Dicks

Written & Directed by Rob Zombie

Starring: Sheri Moon Zombie, Bruce Davison, Jeff Daniel Phillips, and Meg Foster

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?


Fans of White Zombie have been aware of Rob Zombie’s distinctive visual style for years. Giant, creepy robots, hot go-go dancers, luchadores, demons, and psychedelic insanity have become trademarks for the metal legend turned film maker. While his last four films have been full of Zombie’s dark influence, that imagery took a backseat to the vulgar dialogue and gritty violence. The Lords of Salem captures that Satanic mentality and puts it to comprehensive use. While TLOS is violent, sexual, and perverse, those components serve the film instead of make it. In short: it’s the film both Zombie and the fans have been waiting for. If you’re even slightly familiar with this website, you’re aware of my burning impatience for TLOS. Now, let’s get to it.

“God does not spare Angels when they sin.”

Zombie knows how to create a tone for a horror film. Root the entire basis in the fact that God and his Archangels have always been at war with Lucifer and his fallen. For all the open Christianity in the world, complete with praises, prayer, and passionate revival, God isn’t the only supernatural being in the universe. Nearly as old as God, but never as powerful, was God’s favorite angelic being, the shining morning star we call Satan. Back in old school Salem, MA., covens of witches practice hidden ceremonies and invocations to the enemy of Christ. The film begins with a haggard coven of naked witches writhing around a bonfire, calling upon the name of the devil as a dark musical sequence throbs and pulses in the night. We all know what happened to witches in Salem, so assume the coven is burned to a collective crisp. You should also assume the man responsible for their deaths has a family tree that leads right to local DJ, Heidi Hawthorne (Moon Zombie).

Heidi is a heroin addict trying to stay clean one day at a time, acting as a DJ at the local Salem radio station. One night she receives an unusual record in a mysterious box, and with her interest piqued, she plays the droning music to unusual effects. When it’s played on the air, certain women of Salem seem to be called or summoned to it. Does this eerie melody have the power to push the witches’ revenge prophecy to reality? Heidi’s life gets progressively worse as the film unfolds.

That’s about all we need of the film’s plot, what I really want to talk about is Zombie’s powerful ‘Fuck you” to American horror film trends. Gone are the CG ghouls and ghosts that creep out of the shadows, bending and shambling in impossible postures. Gone are the standard horror film scenarios and expectations, and perhaps the best thing missing are those ridiculous jump out scares. Instead of heaping rehashed horror fodder on the pile, Zombie wants to unnerve and disturb you on a whole new level. He’s unapologetic for it and I love that. I sat through this film with a large amount of White Zombie fans. I saw enough shirts with WELCOME TO PLANET MOTHERFUCKER in the lobby to last a lifetime. As I was taking my seat, I wondered how many people expected a quickly edited tits and ass showcase that revolved around grubby characters and profane dialogue. The bouts of laughter and collective (and vocal) “What the fuck?” that erupted at the end of the film confirmed my curiosity. In the music world, explaining this film to a common fan would be like explaining poly-rhythms and augmented chord progressions to Nickelback. I’m not claiming to know every minute detail of Zombie’s script, but at least it made me think, it made me draw my own conclusions. Hey, sorry, lots of film fans are dumb asses that just like movies. TLOS presents itself much like episodes from the golden age of The Simpsons or Arrested Development; you don’t have time to stop and think about the joke, it just rolls along with or without you. I love not being catered to every time I watch a film or read a book.

The Lords of Salem boasts the creepy tagline: “We’ve been waiting. We’ve always been waiting.” That’s exactly how I felt about the base terror unleashed upon Heidi and the audience. Imagine a Lords of Acid concert after taking a ten strip of LSD emblazoned with 666 on the blotter. That’s the closest I can get to explaining the ominous psychological and material terror that descends upon Heidi. Zombie shows impressive growth as a movie maker and I think this is the one he needed to step into a newly defined direction. I’m happy to report The Lords of Salem is a chamber piece of demented and blasphemous insanity that isn’t for everyone. If you feel like dying at the end of the film, that’s a good sign you understood it. There is no redemption, there is no happy ending, there is only a supernatural level of compounding pain and original, ancient evil. Enjoy Velvet Underground’s Venus in Furs as the soundtrack to Heidi’s shadowy descent.

There was a lot going on, but one of the most unspeakably evil moments featured two mummified demon priests sitting on thrones, masturbating in unison with their electric colored dicks. That’s the kind of stuff that shows up in my nightmares and I’m unsettled that Zombie can go there.

About Fister Roboto (2239 Articles)
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24 Comments on ‘The Lords of Salem’ Movie Review: It’s More than Priest Rapes & Devil Dicks

  1. I was pretty ambivalent about seeing this until now. Also Venus in Furs is my favorite Velvet Underground song so double points for that!

    • It’s a total mind f*ck, but one I was really up for! Strange but wonderful film.

      • OK, honestly, I’m not trying to antagonize the fuck out of you, but what did you see that I didn’t see? It was a relatively straightforward witches’ curse comes to pass no matter what people try to do to prevent it, to the devil is born a starfish baby. OK, a littlw weird, but a mind fuck? How? Where?

      • Nice! Four comments on one review. I think you hold the record for entitled explanations. Let me quote you:

        “OK, honestly, I’m not trying to antagonize the fuck out of you, but..”

        Art is subjective, much like film reviews. I owe you about as much explanation as Zombie owes me.

  2. Scott M. Schutt // April 22, 2013 at 9:40 am // Reply

    Mr. Zombie, I do believe that you must have an idea of the truth about america’s god. Is there a way that you can go back further in time to when god played mind games with Lucifer and his family. Back when they were also archangels and the best ones at that. How god despised that so much to where he did the reverse psychology on the Valichi (Lucifer’s) family to his only creation? It state in the last book of the holy bible that no one is to add to it or anything to misfire people, but it doesn’t comment on anything about before that era, and how he wanted all races to be like the Valichi family so that he could win, or be american.

    • America’s god is and always has been the almighty dollar. God, archangels, Lucifer, blahblahblah. You might as well be asking about Muggles and that red haired kid in the Harry Potter books.

  3. Elizabeth Montgomery // April 24, 2013 at 3:52 pm // Reply

    Thank you for actually understanding the movie. Most reviews I have seen just said, “total shit”. They obviously had no idea what happened, otherwise, they would have been disturbingly in love with this film.

    • Thanks for commenting, Elizabeth. People were moaning and groaning, even laughing at parts of the film. People are morons and don’t want to think or interpret art; they want it spelled out and dropped in their laps. I’m glad you liked it so much! I’m headed out for a second viewing this weekend.

      • Chris Chase // April 25, 2013 at 8:58 pm //

        People are morons? Really?
        Guess that includes you too. No matter how much you think and/or interpret things to your understanding or liking, it doesn’t mean you got it right. I much rather have it spelled out for me then to pretend I know what all of the symbolism meant.

    • So, WHAT happened and why are you disturbingly in love with the film?

      • Elizabeth Montgomery // April 28, 2013 at 5:52 pm //

        First of all let me say this: Filmmakers make films usually with a certain intent as to what the viewer takes out of it, but they also want you to take out of it what you please.
        To me, ‘The Lords of Salem’ seemed to be about how in our country Christianity is the ‘head’ religion. But it did that in a spin-off way by showing Satanism as the ‘head’ religion. It showed how the minority of people are not Christians in our country and that they are looked down upon for that. But like I said, it showed this by twisting it and making it so Satanism was acceptable and Christianity was looked down upon. And how if Satanism was the majority, would we look at Christianity as ‘sinful’, ‘grotesque’, ‘wrong’?
        And I am in love with this film because it made me think, it disturbed me, and it rattled me deep down, as any good film should. When you first walk out of the theater, you should not have it figured out. You should have to think, and this film did that.

      • Very interesting interpretation, Elizabeth. Thanks for making me continue to think on it.

  4. “Want an undercurrent for a horror film? Root the entire basis in the fact that God and his Archangels have always been at war with Lucifer and his fallen.”

    Standard Christian theology. Nothing, and I mean nothing new or noteworthy here. Honestly.

    “The film begins with a haggard coven of naked witches writhing around a bonfire, calling upon the name of the devil as a dark musical sequence throbs and pulses in the night.”

    Excellent opening scene, I thought. A million miles away from the “I dress up in a costume from Spencer’s as a slutty witch for Halloween parties” ridiculousness that passes for antinomianism today.

    “Heidi’s life gets progressively worse as the film unfolds.”

    That’s where your plot summary ends? Everything up to that point is rational, linear, almost impossible to NOT understand. Where’s your dissection of all that follows? All the imagry and meaning involved in Heidi’s realization and acceptance of her impending doom?

    “That’s about all we need of the film’s plot, what I really want to talk about is Zombie’s powerful ‘Fuck you” to American horror film trends.”

    Ok, at BEST, this is you guessing. None if us know, yet or aty all, why he wrote this movie and what, if any particular message he’s promoting. At WORST, this is just more of that rehashed “WE get it, you don’t get it, haha, you’re so dumb and middle class and blah blah fucking blah.” I get it – you’re better, you’re smarter than the WZ fans. You have a deeper more meaningful understanding than sooooo many other people that went to see the movie. It would be SO hard to ‘splain any of it to one of the “common folk,” you’re not even going to try.

    You should try. Really. Because up to this point, you just sound like a large colon after a Mexican buffet. You’re using all sorts of mismatched impressive-sounding metaphors but NOT.REALLY.SAYING.MUCH.OF.ANYTHING.

    I enjoyed this movie. I didn’t understand all of it. I have no problem admitting that. I will watch this again, for elements to click for me that maybe didn’t before.

    Your posturing is a disappointing substitution for an actual review.

    • Do the irony police have a Federal branch?

      • Right, I get it – you’re not going to answer any of my questions, you’re just going to stand on your rock solid background of pretentious windbagging and replying to honest questions with irrelevant attempts at nudge nudge wink wink humor. Too bad. I actually did want to know what you thought of the imagry and symbolism of the movie’s 2nd half.

      • I should point out that I allow comments here for normal discussion. If you come in half-cocked, assuming you know every nuance of what I meant, and choose to deliver this in such an antagonizing manner – then I will certainly stand rock solid. I love discussing horror, every aspect of it, clearly – I dedicated a site to it.

        The morons at the theater were actual morons, see, I know this because I had to listen to their stupid ass comments and conversation before the film even began. Maybe approach your internets in a less caustic and respectful manner if you want an open conversation. If not, there’s a million other sites out there willing to engage your presumptuous attitude.

      • Zach1024 // April 17, 2014 at 3:02 am //

        Any chance you could explain the second half/symbolism?
        I hate to be thought of as ignorant, as I usually understand movies quite well, but I am at a loss with TLOS. I bought this, watched it twice with my wife, and we are both having a difficult time understanding some of the imagery (big ape/bigfoot type thing, tentacle-demon-midget, weird faced masturbating priests, etc.). Any light you could shed for me would be greatly appreciated, and perhaps, help me to better enjoy the movie as I am a huge fan of RZ. Thanks.

      • Hey, Zach, thanks for commenting, man. This is a crazy film for sure. I would be lying if I said I knew every angle and theme Zombie was exploring, but I viewed this as a very stylistic emotional sucker punch. I think the biggest thing was just the fact that with Heidi’s lineage and addiction – she was pretty much screwed. I thought it was a wildly successful art house film. The demons and other things lurking in (and out!) of the shadows were simply layers of evil brought on by the witches endgame. Those three witches were very Macbeth-ish imo. Very Polanski-themed as well.

        Bottom line? I don’t think he intended us to get every little bit, but the sheer evil just overwhelmed every part of Heidi’s life. I just saw it as super crazy literal evil as well as thematic evil in relation to the witches desire for Heidi and her heroin addiction. I don’t know if this helps, but I hope you’re able to re-watch TLOS and appreciate the complex weirdness!

  5. Yeah Nephilim, you’re better off going to a real movie critics website to get an intelligent review. No use in trying to get any substantial information from some rookie fanboy. Any idiot can make a website these days.

  6. Weird movie but in a good way. Not sure what I was expecting, but it was so bleak. Trippy. and evil to the core. There’s some thin skin in your reply section!

    • It was very bleak. I felt like all hope had been sucked out of the theater in a collective gasp. There’s still some qualities of the film that I can’t quite identify, but they really resonated for me. The Devil’s Rejects is still my favorite, but I liked Zombie’s bold move here. Who knows what his next flick will be like.

  7. You people are cray cray. The film was fucking shit.

  8. Minor quibble: the movie actually closes with “All Tomorrow’s Parties,” not “Venus in Furs.” “Venus is Furs” is the song Whitey plays on Heidi’s record player early in the film and dances to.

    Anyway, I absolutely love this movie to death and appreciate a review that at least attempts to address the symbolism. I’ve written a pretty in-depth analysis on it that is way too long to post here, but I’ll keep it short by saying that I interpret the film is an indictment of Christianity’s war on women.

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