Lords of Salem (2012)

One from the rewatch pile…

The Lords of Salem (2012)

Film: He’s one of us, that Rob Zombie guy. He’s a music lovin’, horror and comic nerd who is doing what most of us wish we could be doing: making money doing what he loves most. Thankfully, one of those things is making horror flicks that pay tribute to horror and exploitation film history with cameos and homages galore. I loved House of 1,000 Corpses, The Devil’s Rejects and his remake of Halloween, and I’ll even forgive him the hiccup that is Halloween 2, especially if he continues to produce quality horror like this, The Lords of Salem.

Recovering addict Heidi LaRoq (Sheri Moon Zombie) is a DJ who works with ‘Whitey’ Salvador (Jeffrey Daniel Phillips) and Herman Jackson (Ken Foree) as part of popular radio show The H Squad on Radio WIQZ in Salem, Massachusetts. One day, the station is sent a record, packed in a wooden box, by a group called ‘The Lords’ whose song, when played, puts the women of Salem in a trance, and being addressed to Heidi, it seems to be specifically focused on her. Over the course of a week we watch Heidi slowly succumb to the record, and as a live performance by The Lords looms closer, things get more and more surreal…

As is typical with Zombie’s films, and his borrowing from cult/horror/exploitation greats, you get a familiar vibe: I myself got a mild Suspiria/Inferno feel off this one. There are a few occasional clunky moments in the script, but they are never bad enough to detract from the overall feel of the film.

Zombie’s directorial style has become more matured over the years, and even though his frenetic video clip style does appear in various fantastic sequences, his ‘straight’ film sections are well filmed and are a pleasure to watch. Actually, this restraint probably makes the dream sequences seem far even wackier than they actually are.

Again, one of Zombie’s signatures is his ability to find legendary actors, although in this case legendary could perhaps mean ‘forgotten’. We have star turns from 10 Rillington Place’s Judy Geeson, The Howling’s Dee Wallace, They Live’s Meg Foster, Rocky Horror Picture Show’s Patricia Quinn and Dawn of the Dead’s Ken Foree, Willard’s Bruce Davison and cameos from genre legends Michael Berryman, Sid Haig, Billy Drago and Barbara Crampton. Special mention has to go to Torsten Voges from 8mm as the Norwegian (?) Death Metaller Count Gorgann, and Sheri Moon Zombie proves herself quite capable in a lead role I previously assumed she would have either been too annoying to carry off, or flat out incapable of.

So even over and above all this typical fan service there lies a very creepy story once you stop saying things like ‘is that the chick that played Frank N. Furter’s maid?’ This creepiness is made even more… um…. Creepy by an amazing score that sits on your chest and pushes its way into your head. I watched this for the first time by myself quite late at night, and admit to being made somewhat uneasy by it, and when I watched it the second time, in the middle of the day with others around, I still felt the same about it.

Sure, it features the usual Rob Zombie faire of 70s rock, fan-service cameos from genre ‘legends’ and the finely tuned bottom of Sheri Moon Zombie, but The Lords of Salem also shows a restraint and maturity not seen in his previous outings. I thoroughly enjoyed it and hope Zombie pursues more films of this ilk.

Score: *****

Format: There is certainly no faulting the image of the film on the disc which is presented in it’s original 2.35:1 aspect ratio with 16:9 enhancement, but it tends to look a little messy, but that could be Zombie attempting to get an authentic ‘old’ film look to it. The audio sounds amazing with some great ambient sound provided by guitarist John 5 and DJ Griffin Boice. Don’t let the ‘DJ’ part deter you though; this isn’t a Korn meets Skrillex- type affair but instead a subtle goosebumps-inducing soundscape. This movie was reviewed using the UK DVD release.

Score: ***

Extras: The disc opens with trailers for three films: The Facility, Dark Skies and The Bay. They all looked pretty good, actually, and I might have to check them all out, which is something I can do with the time I have spare seeing how this disc has no extras other than a trailer for The Lords of Salem. I find this a stunning choice as Zombie’s previous outings have has some great extras.

Score: *

WISIA: Oh yeah! I’m totally on board for another ride in the Dragula, that’s for sure!

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