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.