MRR Review: "The Lords of Salem"

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Residents of Salem, Massachusetts are visited by a 300-year-old coven of witches in this 2012 horror thriller from Rob Zombie. His wife, Sheri Moon Zombie, plays the lead role in the film.
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MRR Review: "The Lords of Salem"

-- Rating: R
Length: 101 minutes
Release Date: April 19, 2013
Directed by: Rob Zombie
Genre: Horror/Thriller

Heidi Laroc (Sheri Moon Zombie) is a recovering addict who is trying to live a quiet life in Salem, Massachusetts. The city is notorious for the Salem witch trials of the 1600s, but Heidi goes about her daily duties as a local disc jockey as if none of those things happen. Unfortunately for her, fate will put her on a collision course with Salem's seedy history as the plot to "The Lords of Salem" unfolds.

Heidi is the DJ for a late-night radio show along with Whitey (Jeffrey Daniel Phillips) and Herman (Ken Foree). They spin mostly hard rock music, so it comes as no surprise when Heidi finds a rock album on her doorstep one day that is by an unknown band called The Lords. She decides to listen to it and almost instantly begins to have a reaction to the sound. Embedded in the music is a series of triggers that sets her off and makes her head pound. It doesn't seem to have the same effect on Whitey or Herman, so everyone quietly thinks that maybe Heidi has started using again or has lost her mind.

When Heidi can't alleviate the pounding in her head and begins to have hallucinations, she confronts her landlady Lacy (Judy Geeson) about the apartment next to hers, which she thinks is a portal to hell. It is then that Lacy and her creepy sisters Megan (Patricia Quinn) and Sonny (Dee Wallace) admit that they belong to a coven of witches whose descendants include some of the biggest names in Salem's witchy past. They tell Heidi that she is also a descendant and that they put a spell inside the record in order to prepare her for her ultimate fate. As Heidi descends further into madness, local historian Francis Matthias (Bruce Davison) and his wife Alice (Maria Conchita Alonso) begin to investigate why so many women in Salem are undergoing the same psychological deterioration as Heidi. Can they figure out what is happening in time to help Heidi and the others, or will they die at the hands of Lacy and her coven?

Rob Zombie was known as the lead singer of band White Zombie and for his solo musical career. It wasn't until 2003 when he wrote and directed "House of 1000 Corpses" that people saw his movie ambitions come to fruition after a failed attempt to write and direct the sequel to "The Crow." It was quite a debut, with scenes so gory that Universal feared it would be given the dreaded NC-17 rating. The movie studio dropped the film, putting it in limbo for a time until it found distribution. It was heavily influenced by "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre," proving that Zombie is a real student of the horror genre. He shows his knowledge off in "The Lords of Salem," invoking some of the best cult horror films from the 1970s and 1980s, particularly "The Shining," while still serving up a fresh story.

Zombie has gotten better as a director in each of his four previous films, with "The Lords of Salem" being the best so far. With each film, he has tried several camera tricks that worked to create tense, scary atmospheres. In this film, all of his work and experimentation pay off with a visually stunning movie that combines imagery and violence to create something that is both shocking and fun to look at. Zombie served as both director and screenwriter of the film, which means he got to write each scene knowing exactly how he would frame each shot to achieve his visual mastery. The story comes together quickly, allowing him to begin the mayhem and action in earnest just a few minutes into the film. Zombie infused the script with lots of creepy plot points and jolts, which will likely delight casual and hardcore horror fans alike.

With a musician at the helm, it is no surprise that music plays a large part in the film. Zombie personally oversaw a lot of the music, choosing pieces and tracks that fit the mood he was trying to convey with each scene. The result is a rich audio backdrop that really enhances the film overall. Some of the chosen music is downright creepy, while other tracks have a soothing orchestral quality to them. The fact that he can pull off the use of both in the same film shows just how far Zombie has come as a director and how much potential he has should he continue down this career path.

Rating 3 out of 5