Rob Zombie’s Lords of Salem Review

Ryan Maher

In twenty years from now, people will fondly remember The Lords of Salem as Rob Zombie’s true breakthrough movie. On a little independent release, Rob has overcome a challenging budget of two and a half million, and used his sheer creativity to make a lasting impression on the viewer. If nothing else, you gotta give respect to the man for both his fan boy love affair with horror movies and his own twisted imagination. The Lords of Salem shows that Rob’s through this a few times now. This is actually his fifth live action horror feature. 1000 Corpses was his experiment; his love letter to the genre he adores so clearly. Sure, it cost around a cool $7 million, and investors probably didn’t earn as much as they hoped off it’s hide, but it did find an audience.

The more critically acclaimed sequel was a road movie that even the haters seem to get behind. The Devil’s Rejects was a step in a different direction for sure. A fly on the wall show and tell of how the crazy half live, on the fun from the law and thirsty for blood. Why get into the Halloween thing? You either respect his effort or you take it personally. Whatever. The beauty about Zombie’s films to this point, is that their timeline narrates his fate, so to speak. Which leads me to ‘The Lords‘…

This time, Rob’s more attractive half, Mrs. Sheri Moon Zombie, plays a local radio rock chick called Heidi. She receives a strange vinyl record from a group known as “The Lords”. She plays it on her show, and all the town’s females tuning in fall into a hypnotic trance, and Heidi in particular starts getting harassed by satanic forces, trippie halucinations, and ofcourse, the neighbourly witch and her coven of twisted sisters.

Shit gets real. Real creepy. Real fast. The first act is flawlessly plotted. A solid introduction to a vulnerable woman, drifting through her thirties. Sheri does a great job of toning down that old cliché of playing a recovering drug addict. The first half of the second act is just bloody horrific. Rob Zombie really sells it. Public burnings and satanic births have never been so visual. The hallucinations begin subtle, teasing you to question the authenticity of what you’re seeing. An exchange between our lead and a man of the cloth is a prime example of superb execution and payoff. For the most part, the story is built on a solid foundation and driven ambition.

Unfortunately, The Lords of Salem isn’t without it’s bum nuggets. Whereas Meg Foster proves capable of nailing the more tongue in cheek dialogue as the demented Salem Witch: Margaret Morgan, the other cast members get things feeling a bit hammy during the film’s latter scenes. There are some scenes that should have been toned down a little, asking us to use our imagination to fill in the blanks, but no, there’s some unnecessary art house imagery spliced in here and there, but to be honest, I never turned out. The flow of the story never felt disrupted. I think the only threat posed for ’The Lords of Salem’, is that films like ’Saw’, ’Hostel’ and ’Paranormal Activity’ have set trends that have ultimately desensitised the market. They’re great movies, but almost everything that has followed has been the same old, same old. That’s pop culture for you.

‘The Lords of Salem’ basks within it’s originality, but it’s short term success will be restricted by it’s budget and inevitably quiet initial distribution. Mark my words though, twenty years from now people. This has cult classic written all over it, and I have no doubt that given the trust of a big league producer, a known cast and backing from a major distributor like Lions Gate, Rob Zombie could very well take us back to our childhoods, to the very first time we watched ‘The Wicker Man’, or ‘The Exorcist’, or ‘Child’s Play’. Those were the days. If he learns from his mistakes and continues to work hard as he did on ‘The Lords’, Rob Zombie could go on to do great things. If he were to quit tomorrow, at least he could say that he’s had a go, and money was never his goal.

4 / 5 stars     


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      1. Tiago Almeida April 26, 2013 at 4:53 pm

        Very nice review. I’ve been reading some very negative reviews, I mean, some people seem to really hate this movie, and I really don’t get why.
        It is nice to see that the most educated people seem to like the film. I am sure it will become more and more cult, just like his previous movies…
        It is very, very brave of him to show Witchcraft the way he did, like the Devil is real. It is the opposite of every Salem movie we’ve seen. Very good.
        Anyone else noticed that the devil’s child look a lot like Cthulhu from H.P. Lovecrafts’s Mythology?

      2. Michelle April 26, 2013 at 8:35 pm

        I cannot wait to see this film. I love Rob Zombie’s movies because of his love of horror….he is a hardcore horror fan making movies, what more could you ask for?! I heard someone say today that is was a horrible movie, but he sounded like a tool so it just made me want to watch it even more. :) Is it available in VOD format on Amazon? Otherwise I will have to do wait for Blu-Ray as the only theatre playing it near me is super ghetto!

      3. Devon Olson April 26, 2013 at 11:06 pm

        Thanks for the review! I have it and will be watching tonight for sure.

      4. Ashley April 27, 2013 at 2:40 am

        Well I just watched the movie, I’m a huge Rob Zombie fan, but this movie was not one of my favorites. It was very slow and not scary at all. I did like the creativity, but I feel like this movie had alot more potential. I still love Rob Zombie and I am looking foward to more of his movies.

      5. Ryan Maher April 27, 2013 at 3:50 pm

        @Ashley: I agree with you in regards to the movie having more potential. A bigger budget and a better cast would of worked wonders. Also, the radio station scenes would of worked better without the sound effects/jingle overkill, but all things considered, it’s easily one of the best horror movies I’ve seen in recent years for three reasons… Meg Foster absolutely nailed it as the Brad Douriff-alike Witch of Salem. The slow build really helped devlop a sympathetic protagonist, which isn’t very common in today’s market of horror, and as you said: the creativity.

        Saying that, I thought Halloween 2 was a good movie (as a stand alone feature, not as part of a franchise) so it just goes to show, it really is horses for courses.

        I’d be interested to hear from somebody who dug ‘Kill List’ but didn’t enjoy ‘The Lords’ and hear their thoughts. Any takers?

      6. Ed Brotherton April 28, 2013 at 1:20 am

        I would say spoiler alert but if you go to this movie it won’t matter because nothing makes sense anyway. I just saw this film and I have to say, it’s one of the most atrocious peices of shit I’d ever seen. Rob left no cliche unturned. The plot made absolutely no sense and nothing was resolved and I mean nothing. The main character Heidi is a recovering drug addict and when she recieves a record in an old wood box (oooooooo). It’s played on the air and all the women who hear it are induced into a trance like state, but who gives a shit since it’s the last time we see anything about that. Evidently only the Heidi is effected by it more than anyone else when she begins to lose her mind and goes back to drugs. She sits on her bed smokes some crack and from this point on gives up on life and everything including her quasi boyfriend (I say that because like I said NOTHING in this film is resolved) This is when her landlord and her two friends go to her apartment and take her to apartment 5 (why 5? We don’t know) The door opens and she is walks into a room where she is greeted by what looks like Mini Me that’s been dropped into a vat of cooking oil. Evidently this is an important scene because she ends up grabbing what appears to be two umbilical cords where she begins shaking violently. It’s a good thhing to, because without that scene I would have been completely lost. She then walks out of the apartment and begins dragging the film and rest of us along with her on her journey where she appears to go through some strange ceremony involving her giving birth to a … well we still don’t know what the hell it is. And after giving birth she is worshipped by three witches while standing on top of a pile of fat naked women. Who apparently committed suicide because the news told us so at the end.

        • Tiago Almeida April 28, 2013 at 4:51 pm

          Ed, it is a ritual. She is giving birth to Satan’s child. The witches killed themselves in sacrifice.
          What happened in room 5 is a symbolic fertilization. I believe Sheri’s character descends into emptiness till she’s become nothing but a vessel, that’s why her life is so empty. Satan’s child is also a symbol of the unholy, unhuman, beast of this world. When she gives birth to satan’s child she becomes the Red Queen of earth.

        • Jasmine Nicole June 3, 2013 at 5:39 am

          I would love to say I completely agree with Ed. Everyone in My household was left in A “what the fuck”state at The end of The movie. Everything He Said I agreed With 100%

      7. Over It May 8, 2013 at 8:34 pm

        The film isn’t terrible, but I see it more as a vehicle for Rob Zombie to give his wife work. Compared to the other top notch actors, she’s often cold on her delivery and about as believable, as, well, the wife of a quasi-fan-boy making an homage to suspira. It’s better than I expected, but that’s not saying a lot. Compared to his other films, where he’s basically sniffing his own farts, this is much better, but still panders to a small demographic who’ll just lap up anything he does because of White Zombie. Seriously. If this film had just been done by some no name first time director, these reviews would be a lot more critical.

      8. RondoZombo May 10, 2013 at 8:51 pm

        I liked it a lot more than I thought I would and I’m a Rob Zombie fan. I didn’t have high expectations, but other than the hammy ending, it was a good movie. It accomplished what it set out to do, which was to confuse the hell out of the viewer between what was reality and what wasn’t. I honestly found myself struggling to figure out what was real and what was just going on in her mind.

        I think people just like to slate anything that isn’t Saw, Hostel, etc. Rob’s always been creative. I also think Sherri fits the role well. Some people complain about her acting, but I’m not sure what’s wrong with it. I also liked that she wasn’t a typical drug addict you see in movies–whining and crying about their addiction, sniffling about how their life sucks and “they just can’t.” She put a more realistic spin on it.

        I wish the ending had more to it, but I understand there was a budget. I just hope Rob makes a follow up. What exactly happens in Salem after all these women kill themselves? What will Heidi do as the Red Queen?

      9. Kandake Hooblal May 14, 2013 at 3:24 pm

        Sad to say on his facebook page he said he wouldn’t be making any horror movies for awhile after this film. I loved the film and tiago hit the nail right on the head. The film maybe to deep for some to concieve.

      10. taralundrigan May 17, 2013 at 5:36 pm

        Wicked movie! I loved it, just like I have always loved Rob Zombies films. The hate surrounding him, and his movies, and something silly as the fact his wife is in all of them, is really starting to bother me. I am obsessed with this genre…horror really is the only genre I am interested in, it’s crazy how many films I have seen from this genre. I can’t understand how someone could watch his films and think they are crap. They are not. Halloween 2 was his sloppiest movie, and it still has a good story line and is well filmed. People just looove to hate.

      11. Jon September 9, 2013 at 12:08 am

        Rob zombie is a tool

      12. evilgenius September 13, 2013 at 8:08 pm

        I finally got to see this on bluray ($14.99 @ Target). While I’m a fan of Zombie’s I’m not a fan of the trippy “art house” shit that plays when Heidi starts losing touch with reality. I also understand people being upset that the end leaves you hanging. I don’t mind that so much myself. I would have hoped he had a bigger budget. Even so most of the visuals are pretty powerful.

        Oh yeah, it wasn’t “all the women in town” that fell under the record’s spell, but all the children of the original settlers of Salem which was part of a curse from the original coven. They would come back, finish their task (a satanic child) and destroy the townspeople that persecuted them.

      13. Bossi September 14, 2013 at 11:37 pm

        I would agree with this review for the first hour of the film.

        I am a huge Zombie fan, and always look forward to his films. For the record, 1000 corpses was amazing, Rejects incredible and so and so forth. I was thoroughly enjoying every aspect of Lords until the second hour. That nearly exact point, the movie loses me. I get he had a limited budget, but come on, the dwarf with the two tentacles … that was lower than low budget. BUT, I was ready to forgive it, and move on. The cheapo 70’s imagery, and adolescent scenes of masturbation, and the clip-art style of that same sequence were basically filler and a sell out to his own talents. Then the devil … if that was what that rubber prop was meant to be.

        I get the budgetary restraints, but common. That was just to horrible. I am a supporter of the genre but not a ‘hipster’ willing to accept the B movie quality when there were plenty of ways to go about it with far better results.

        I give this a 5/10. As I have said, the first hour was incredible. Eerie and calm, creepy and bleak … really killing it! Then …

        I still look forward to whatever he will do next, and as bad as the second half of the flick was (and it was horrible and will not be remembered as the reviewer thinks), it is still a better watch than the general run of the mill hacks like Tarentino.

        Sorry Mr Z, I won’t turn a blind eye to crap even when it is from my favs!

      14. Blog Bastard September 16, 2013 at 1:39 pm

        I enjoyed the film up to the point when Heidi first entered Apartment #5, which (correct me if I’m wrong) was *maybe* 30-45 mins at most. What happened once she entered and everything after that point, was just a poorly executed, non-sensical mess.

        Before you say anything, I’m a huge horror fan and I get the references he was making and going for, but as I said, they were poorly executed. That first 30 min mark (until she actually enters the apartment), filled me with a sense of underlying dread like old supernatural films of old and I was grinning with the cinematography which definitely had a very Kubrick ‘Shining’ vibe, especially the long shot in the hallway with the door at the end.

        Self-indulgent and reference heavy is what I would use to describe everything after that transpires. And maybe even throw in a dose of ridiculousness. Even in the most wacked-out Ken Russell flick or David Lynch opus, I still have a sense of story and (for the most part) I actually give a shit what it is happening to the main character(s). Not so here.

        Sherri Moon Zombie – while looking good dolled up for album covers, stage performances, and music videos – can’t act herself out of a paper bag and Rob Zombie really needs to stop elating her to almost mystical deity proportions. I agree with the sentiment of an above poster that stated those last 10 mins were just glorifying how much he really loves her and thinks she’s hot. We get it Rob, you *really* dig your wife…ALOT! You’ve been showing us that for most of your career. Can you please move on already and find a capable actress with the performance skill required to carry a film like this?

        As for the visual effects: again, I get what he was going for, I really do. But trying to take cheesy, ham-fisted visuals like this seriously in a film that desperately tries to take itself (and the subject matter) WAAAY too seriously, just falls flat – and ultimately – comes off as being atrociously cheesy and purely laughable. Ken Russell & the others he was trying to emulate can be forgiven because of the times and their budget. And while I get the budget restraints that Mr. Zombie had to endure, the schlock imagery of the 70’s just don’t cut it anymore. CGI this DID NOT need to be, but I don’t think Wayne Toth is all that great at prosthetic/make-up effects. I always get the feeling I’m walking through a shitty, make-shift haunted house in my neighbour’s garage when watching his flicks. And while that sensibility *worked* for ‘House of 1000 Corpses’ (indeed, that’s what made that flick so enduring), it really does a major disservice to ‘Lords of Salem’, which is most unfortunate.

        It sucks writing this because I really *wanted* to like this film, but just like ‘Halloween 2′, Rob Zombie tried doing too many things in one movie and left a poorly made movie in its’ wake. I hate to say this, but I think he hit his stride with ‘Devil’s Rejects’ and has been progressively getting worse ever since. I know he’s been trying to be different and that’s wonderful, I just don’t think it’s working. I’m glad he’s stepping away from horror for a while. Maybe one day when he doesn’t think every idea he ever has is brilliant and that his wife is the scream queen of a lifetime, he’ll return to the genre a little more humble and whole lot better of a film maker.

        Thanks for trying. I really gave you a shot.

        • Tiago September 16, 2013 at 8:00 pm

          I agree with you in many points there. The plot is not that clear in the movie. Reading and seeing some interviews, and understanding what he was trying to do, makes me like that movie. And I do agree that, that minimalism sounds like an excuse for not doing the whole job, instead of a writers resource.
          It is a blood revenge. The witches are coming for revenge to the blood heritage of those who burned them in the past. And it was supposed to have much more flashbacks from the past and those would be related to the characters in the present. Lovecraft’s way.
          I do agree he gets a lot of condescendence just for being who he is. And especially, for making 2 of the best horror movies of the century.

      15. REAL December 25, 2013 at 5:25 am

        No matter how awesome director u maybe , Spielberg , Jackson , etc .. ? , they can’t always hit the nail on the head , never the less , Mr Z u have my utmost respect for not blowing budgets & taking risks where most directors fear to tread , as much as we all want to win the world over to our artistic vision , some people just won’t get it & more power to them I guess ? Mr Z has found his people and I’m sure he’s content with that , can’t wait for your next project no matter what genre !!!

      16. Craig Brown January 15, 2014 at 9:14 am

        I was disappointed with RZ’s latest effort. As usual, the style, costume, art direction, music and grunge factor were superb. And I can see one angle he was taking which got me optimistic, that’s to actually give a damn if one of the characters dies or not. But as for the theme, this was about as scary as an Alice Cooper show. The real tragedy that happened in Salem is all about superstition and political power. The real tale is horrifying. So I was hoping this imaginative tale would explore that a little instead of another tired old exorcist theme. If you want to watch a real horror film about witch hunts, I reckon you need to see ‘Mark of the Devil’ (1970).

        • Tiago January 15, 2014 at 10:23 pm

          There are a lot of stories about witch hunting they wont tell you in school. I recommend you watch the documentary Cropsey (2009).

      17. Craig Brown January 15, 2014 at 11:36 pm

        Yes, I have seen that already. It’s pretty good. If you liked Cropsey you might also like “Resurrect Dead: The Mystery of the Toynbee Tiles”

        • Tiago January 15, 2014 at 11:41 pm

          Thanks, i will check those.