Before I walked into the theater for opening night of Rob Zombie’s The Lords of Salem I had pre-ordered the book and read it in a day. I couldn’t put it down. Knowing who was playing each character in the film, I acted out the book in my head as I read it, imagining the movie scene by scene. I walked into that theater completely sure that I knew what I was about to see. I was wrong.
I understood the book. I completely and 100% understood that book. The movie, however, was very David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive meets Roman Polanski’s Rosemary’s Baby meets Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining. Now, everyone likes to claim that they understand Lynch and Polanski and Kubrick but let’s be honest here, no one fully does. You can watch those movies one hundred times over, catch something different each time and still not fully understand another part of it.
That is The Lords of Salem in a nutshell.
Heidi Hawthorne (Sheri Moon Zombie), a local radio DJ, receives a record at the studio in a box with a note that just reads “From the Lords.” After playing the record, Heidi begins to have strange and terrifying dreams involving witchcraft and satanic images. Over the course of a week, Heidi’s life and mind begin to unravel, getting worse each time the song is played.
This is a film that people will hate because they don’t understand it, because it isn’t popular to claim to understand it. I, on the other hand, loved it. Because I did read the book, I feel that I got an insight into the story that was forcibly left out in order for the film to have an R rating. In fact, at one point in the movie, my wife Jenny, who also read the book and whom I force to see these movies with me, leaned over to me and said “I feel like I’m watching the watered down version of this film.” She was completely correct. The blood, the extreme acts of violence and even some of the deaths were left out. The story was almost PG in comparison. Now, I do have a DVD copy coming my way from the UK soon and I have my fingers crossed that, because their film rating system isn’t as lame as ours, the film will include bloody parts of the story left out. Even if it doesn’t, I will most definitely enjoy watching it over and over again.
If you are wondering how Sheri Moon Zombie did holding the lead role, you might be surprised. In the past, her role has always been the sex symbol. As Baby in the House of 1000 Corpses/The Devils Rejects, she was bait, drawing people into their murderous web with her looks. In Halloween, she played Deborah Myers, the stripper mother of serial slasher Michael Myers. Even as cartoon Suzi X in The Haunted World of El Superbeasto, Sheri was all boobs and sex. It is understandable that one might question her ability to carry a movie. The truth is, she was perfect for the role. We had the opportunity to see a more serious side of Sheri that we haven’t really seen much of in the past. With that said, they did show off her butt a few times but, let’s face facts; Rob Zombie would have been a fool not to.
Dee Wallace (E.T., The Howling), Judy Geeson (To Sir, With Love) and Patricia Quinn (The Rocky Horror Picture Show) were fantastic as “The Sisters.” They were so normal looking that their less than normal habits made them all the more creepy and I imagine they would be incredibly uncomfortable to be around.
Meg Foster (They Live) was absolutely disgusting and frightening as Margaret Morgan, a Satan worshiping, coven leading witch burnt for her crimes in Salem some 400 plus years ago. Hands down, she gave the best performance of the film. Foster has changed the way I will see witches from now on. Honorable mentions go to Bruce Davison and Jeff Daniel Phillips for their incredible performances as well.
I strongly suggest reading the book before seeing the film and see the film with the understanding that you are NOT seeing the book. If you go in with the expectation that the book will come to life, you will be disappointed and will hate the movie. If you go in knowing that you have background knowledge to the story that the people in the theater who complain about it being confusing DON’T have, you will appreciate the art Rob Zombie put into his work.
Plain and simple, this isn’t a film for everyone and many Rob Zombie fans will absolutely hate it. This Rob Zombie fan, however, enjoyed it.