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?
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Heidi, a blond rock chick, DJs at a local radio station, and together with the two Hermans (Whitey and Munster) forms part of the "Big H Radio Team." A mysterious wooden box containing a vinyl record arrives for Heidi, a gift of the Lords. She assumes it's a rock band on a mission to spread their word. As Heidi and Whitey play the Lords' record, it starts to play backwards, and Heidi experiences a flashback to a past trauma. Later, Whitey plays the Lords' record, dubbing them the Lords of Salem, and to his surprise, the record plays normally and is a massive hit with his listeners. The arrival of another wooden box from the Lords presents the Big H team with free tickets, posters and records to host a gig in Salem. Soon, Heidi and her cohorts are far from the rock spectacle they're expecting. The original Lords of Salem are returning and they're out for blood.Written by
A mass execution of witches in Salem is shown as happening in 1696. Salem stopped executing witches in 1692. See more »
Reverend Jonathan Hawthorne:
As I write these very words, the witch, Margaret Morgan, gathers with her coven of six deep within the woods surrounding our beloved Salem. The blasphemous music echoes in my mind, driving me to the point of insanity. I, Jonathan Hawthorne, swear before the eyes of God, on this this day in the year of our Lord 1696, to destroy all persons who choose to pledge allegiance to the demon Satan and his spectral army!
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The closing credits appear over gloomy images of Salem. See more »
The Lords of Salem is a picture that replicates Rob Zombie's style in such a way that it will live up to his indelible, trashy standard he has made his films so often center around. I'd be foolish for neglecting to mention it, but I'd be lying if I said the film was a solid entry in the horror genre. Too often does Zombie seem to be taking the story in alternate directions, that he has made witches, what the film seems to be wanting to focus on, products of the background. In the foreground are mildly amusing, but forgettable characters and loads of pretty satanic imagery.
The story revolves around Heidi (Zombie's wife Sheri Moon), a local-girl DJing at a radio station with two close friends, both named Herman (Jeff Daniel Phillips and Ken Foree). One day, a mysterious wooden package housing a strange vinyl stating "a gift from the Lords" shows up addressed to Heidi. Assuming it's a band's attempt to make it big, she plays the record, which responds by playing itself backwards, making her flashback to traumatic life events and incomprehensible, jumbled visuals. Soon, the track becomes a hit with the listeners when they play it the way it should be played, but it isn't long before we discover the Lords aren't a rock band, but a ghastly group of depraved witches looking to claim the land as their own.
If this picture is supposed to be about witches and the resurrection of demons, it does a pretty poor job at staying focused. As stated, Zombie can't help but find different ways to make his imagery grossly trashy (not a derogatory remark) and deliciously depraved. He keeps getting caught up in ways to make Heidi's trances seem more and more questionable and disturbing, rather than emphasizing the significance this story has. By the time we reach the hour mark, and have not had any of our witch cravings fulfilled, the remaining thirty-two minutes become drab and uninteresting.
Sheri Moon, once again, does a wonderful job at portraying a character that is a few tires short of a car. Her work in The Devil's Rejects showed she truly has an affection and a talent for playing the kind of dirty, deranged roles her husband has in mind, and to be costarring alongside the likes of Bill Moseley and Sid Haig - two greats and frequent Zombie collaborators - only showed that she could hold her own. Here, without the help of Haig and Moseley, she is left to carry almost the entire film with her empty character and this poses a grave problem for the way the story conducts itself. Heidi very rarely does anything remotely intriguing, and her actions are confusing and seemingly inert. Often we see her randomly walking, hallucinating, losing and regaining consciousness, and being victim to the likes of witches and we do not sense any form of sympathy or sadness. There's just a looming feeling of emptiness on the narrative's part. Who is this woman and why should we care? It should come as no surprise that the framing, aesthetics, music choices, cinematography, and placement of the picture are all top-notch. The set design, which really kicks in during the last twenty-minutes, is beautifully presented in all its twisted, oddball glory. The inclusion of heavy metal music and astute framing also adds to the film's overall deranged-beauty. I've recently become acquainted with Rob Zombie's music (especially his nineties work, which is the kind of heavy metal I crave) and once you get his taste in music down, his films become a bit more accessible. I kind of wish The Lords of Salem was a cool, ten-minute long rock song rather than a film. I think Zombie could've gotten his expression of witches, depravity, and the witchcraft subplot more originally and less monotonously through the likes of music and loud riffs rather than cinematic redundancy.
This is Zombie's sixth directorial effort in about ten years now, with his first picture, House of 1000 Corpses, dating all the way back to 2003. It was an interesting, stylistically potent piece of work, and was followed by the likes of the terrific Devil's Rejects, the tolerable Halloween remake, the loathsome sequel, the lukewarm Haunted World of El Superbeasto, and now the mixed bag that is The Lords of Salem. The last thing I want Zombie to do is quit the horror game when he has already made three truly well-done films that show off the insanity, dirtiness, and complete and total lunacy of the horror genre. The first thing I want him to do is find a story that compliments his style greatly and pursue it in a manner that doesn't distract him.
NOTE: Rob Zombie released two new albums recently, one of them the soundtrack to The Lords of Salem and, the other, his latest solo work Venomous Rat Regeneration Vendor. Both of them I strongly recommend picking up for their wonderful contributions to the genre of guttural, disturbing rock and roll. I suppose, in the case when a director's work suddenly slips, when one door becomes cracked another one optimistically opens.
Starring: Sheri Moon Zombie, Jeff Daniel Phillips, and Ken Foree. Directed by: Rob Zombie.
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