In modern Salem, Massachusetts, radio disc jockey Heidi Hawthorne (Sheri Moon Zombie, House of 1000 Corpses), a recovered addict, receives a mysterious wooden box at her job. Inside the box there is a vinyl record. Thinking a new rock group has sent her a demo, Heidi plays the record and she falls into a trance. Later, Hedi starts seeing strange things at her apartment, run by the always sweet and supportive Ms. Doyle (Judy Geeson, To Sir With Love). Things get weirder and weirder, and writer Francis Matthias (Bruce Davison, X-Men) suspects that all the strange occurrences are linked to a witch (Meg Foster, They Live) who was killed centuries ago. Matthias is right on the money.
Reaction & Thoughts:
With this occult thriller director Rob Zombie attempts to pay homage to the witchcraft films of the 1960s and 1970s. There is no doubt that Zombie loves his cheap cinema. I’m a fan of guerrilla filmmaking too. However, there is a huge difference between loving something, and being capable of emulating the object of our affection — I like music, but I’m tone-deaf.
Zombie’s latest homage to drive-in fodder — a sort of cross between Devonsville Terror and The Shining — has convinced me that the director is incapable of turning his passion for underground cinema into a profitable career. This Satanist opus is a disaster on so many levels. It’s a potpourri of silly ideas, poorly staged visual moments, and a central performance that fails to convince.
Sheri Moon, Zombie’s wife, is simply awful. It’s the saddest case of nepotism since Peter Bogdanovich directed his then-girlfriend Cybill Shepherd in At Long Last Love. Moon tries hard but it is obvious that she isn’t an actor. Mrs. Zombie’s limitations are crudely exposed when she’s in a scene with a seasoned professional.
Davison, Geeson, Foster, Dee Wallace (Cujo), and Patricia Quinn (The Rocky Horror Picture Show), provide solace in moments of dreadfulness. Andrew Prine (The Town That Dreaded Sundown) has a cameo during the flashback sequences. Zombie clearly knows his genre actors, but I wish he had given them something interesting to do.
Conclusions & Final Thoughts:
I was rooting for The Lords of Salem; I grew up on a diet of grindhouse cinema. Zombie has great love for all things tacky and low-grade. I like that about him. I just think he is not a very good filmmaker. This is definitely Zombie’s worst film to date. Color, 101 minutes, Rated R.