Instead of relying on blood and guts to unease the audience, Zombie sets up a creepy, often unnerving atmosphere. This is something that a lot of modern horror is missing. If you go back to House of 1,000 Corpses, atmosphere is something Zombie has made a priority in his films. If you are paying attention while watching Lords you can see inspiration from Kubrick and Polanski; but even Zombie’s signature touches of unique lighting and a disturbing soundtrack is present to keep the viewer off balance. From start to finish the film is cleverly shot and its specific editing give us scenes that are both shockingly inventive and at times frighteningly familiar. The Lords of Salem is Zombie’s first really cohesive story line. There is clearly a beginning middle and end to this play and we are able to follow it easily. While I do think there was an opportunity to flesh out the main character's story, Lords is still more linear than Zombie’s past films. But with this film, Zombie has given us a pretty clear story that genuinely creeps you out. The story jumps back and forth between the 1600’s and modern day showing the curse from a coven of witches led by Margaret Morgan (Meg Foster). As Margaret is burned at the stake she curses all of Salem’s female descendants to death. In modern day Salem a late night radio DJ ( Moon Zombie) receives a mysterious record from a band called The Lords, when she plays the album the curse is set in motion and for the rest of the film. We are treated to various demonstrations of evil ceremonies, hideous apparitions and some very creative visuals. Sure a lot of those visuals are lifted from some classic Italian and American cinema, but its Zombie’s subtle nod to these influences that actually make the film much edgier and darker than what we are accustomed to seeing on the big screen now.
The cast consist of a who’s who in the “where are they now" category of Hollywood. Dee Wallace (my first MILF crush as a kid), Judy Geeson, Patricia Quinn, Ken Foree and Bruce Davidson all round out a cast of lively characters. And these actors are seasoned and much more interesting to look at than the typical bland “up and coming” clones we see in many horror films. My only real complaint with the cast is Sherri Moon. She was wonderful as Baby, but Heidi could have been cast with a stronger lead. One thing is for sure, Rob Zombie is never concerned with what the critics have to say about his films, and he isn't afraid to get grisly and that is one of the reasons Lords is so fun to watch; as a horror fan. The full on nudity was a treat, not because it was nude women but because it was REAL women. I don’t know about all of you, but I am getting tired of all the skinny “pretty” nudity in film and I appreciated and applaud the choice to cast women of all shapes, sizes and ages as the witches. It allowed me believe that they truly are witches, more so than any recent movie about witches I've watched.
Rob Zombie is a polarizing director and I fully expect the comments section below to fill up with all sorts of “you're nuts” comments. And that’s fine; you’re entitled to your opinion. But my opinion is that The Lords of Salem is a good horror film, one of the best I’ve seen in recent years. And I wanted to get my two cents out there so that anyone that hasn’t seen Lords yet will hear something positive about the film. Sure it’s a bit silly, the concepts behind most horror films are. But it is such a freaky, disturbing, hellish ride that you just can’t take your eyes away from.