Rob Zombie has made his name as a filmmaker manking extremely gory films that seem designed to make the viewer want to constantly wince, such as The Devil’s Rejects and House Of 1000 Corpses. For The Lords Of Salem he sticks with horror but tones down the blood, guts and truly gruesome violence for a film that deliberately harks back to the movies of the 60s and 70s, although still with a modern feel.
Heidi (Sheri Moon Zombie) is a radio DJ who gets sent a mysterious box containing a vinyl record. When she and her colleagues decide to play it on air, its starts to make strange, backwards sounds. Even though they pull it off air, it seems to have a strange effect on Heidi, who begins to have bizarre, frightening visions of the past. It all seems to have something to do with The Lords Of Salem, and the fact that the legendary witch trials may have caught some real devil worshippers after all.
It’s a film that tries to build tension and a strange, unsettled atmosphere right from the beginning, but only partially succeeds. Part of the problem is that it never quite finds its own groove, veering from intense psychological horror to moments that almost play out as farce.
That said, it’s still very watchable, and horror fans will enjoy the copious nods to the likes of Dario Argento and Roman Polanski, as well as appearances from horror veterans such as Michael Berryman (The Hills Have Eyes), Dee Wallace (The Howling, Cujo), Patricia Quinn (Rocky Horror), Meg Foster (They Live), Ken Foree (Dawn Of The Dead), and Bruce Davison (Willard). However while Rob Zombie keeps giving his wife Sheri Moon huge roles in his movie, in my opinion it would be better if he accepted she’s not really all that good.
The ending is great though, just about justifying the uneven run up to it. It’s a denouement that really pulls from the classics, possessing the strange almost hallucinogenic feel of many of the best horrors of the 1970s. The whole thing feels like a massive homage to the movies that made Zombie love horror in the first place, and while it’s a valiant attempt to make the sort of horror few even attempt anymore, it doesn’t quite work.
Overall Verdict: Horrors fans will enjoy the references and a plot just that about entertains while harking back to horror movies past. It’s just a slight shame that while the film strives to be something truly unnerving that gets under your skin, its uneven tone means it only does that in fits and starts.
Reviewer: Tim Isaac