“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!” – Jonathan Hawthorne
Rob Zombie is an icon. There, I’ve said it.
How many people can you name who can juggle highly successful careers as both an international rock star, selling out stadiums, AND a writer, producer and director of some pretty cutting edge horror movies?
I am unashamedly a fan of both his films and his CDs and I have collected full sets of both, over the years. In the interests of full disclosure (and maybe some shameless name dropping, back when I wrote for GoreZone magazine, I was lucky enough to get an interview with Mr Zombie, who spoke at length about his career and the upcoming movies he was working on at the time. It was a high point of my writing career and totally disproved the old wisdom “never met your heroes”. Zombie is a class act, and one of the liveliest interviewees I’ve ever spoken to.)
His films can be a mixed bunch. I absolutely loved House of 1000 Corpses, Halloween I liked. Halloween 2 was a mixed bag, Devil’s Rejects was raw and absorbing – but suffered the lack of Karen Black. His animation El Superbeasto – I just didn’t understand and need to watch again. It’s bizarre and surreal to a degree that makes The Beatles Yellow Submarine look completely normal.
When Zombie announced his next project as Lords of Salem, I naturally assumed that he was referring to his song of the same name which appears on his Educated Horses album and would focus on the Salem witch trials as a period piece. I was, I guess thinking along the lines of Rob Zombie meets Ken Russell’s The Devils. When I saw the teaser poster artwork, it kind of reinforced that notion.
Although the Salem witch trials are a focal point, starting with the burning of Margaret Morgan and he coven of six ungodly old crones (who, disturbingly, are nude in their scenes. Old people and nudity – bad, baaaaaaad mix, even if it’s a body suit we don’t need to see that sagginess) the film is set in the modern day.
Heidi Hawthorne is a recovering drug addict who works at a hard rock radio station in Salem, Mass. As is his tradition, Zombie casts his wife, Sherri Moon Zombie in the lead role. Throw aside any thoughts of nepotism, Mrs Z brings the goods. She’s a talented actress whose career should rightfully soar beyond her husband’s films. This is a staring vehicle for her and she literally carries the whole film with a stunning performance.
A mysterious wooden box is left at the reception desk, containing a review LP (long player for those of you too young to remember vinyl.) When the music is played, it’s a sinister sound that really does send a shiver down your spine. It still has that effect on me now, when I play the CD in the car if I’m driving in the dark with nothing else around). Zombie band member John 5 composed the music and pulled off the feat of creating something unforgettable, yet not intrusive.
Anyhow, as the music is played in her apartment, Heidi has a graphic vision of the witches delivering a baby. As soon as the music stops, the disturbing vision similarly stops. When the music is played on the radio – all of Salem’s women who hear it enter a kind of trance, as if a spell has been cast over them.
Heidi slowly slips into a dark world which engulfs her, as the tension increases, the witches appear in visions (though the first time, Margaret appears in Heidi’s kitchen my first reaction was to laugh as Margaret can only be seen by the audience, standing on a worktop, nude but the realisation that Heidi is being watched without her knowing it is un-nerving)
Heidi’s landlady is played by Judy Geeson, though I believe that originally, Caroline Munro was up for the role. Patricia Quinn from The Rocky Horror Picture Show and Dee Wallace appear as her sisters. Having seen Dee Wallace in nothing but wholesome roles, it’s a little disconcerting to hear the mother from E.T. drop the “c” bomb.
As Heidi loses her grip and resorts to drug use, her visions become hard to describe but definitely have a “did I just see THAT?” factor to them. Especially the Archbishop scene.
As this is such a recent film, I won’t give away then ending, other than to say the film has a certain Rosemary’s Baby quality to it in its plot build-up.
Zombie’s haunting visuals and John 5’s soundtrack music ensured that this movie stayed with me for a long time after I’d seen it. Truthfully, this was the best horror movie I saw last year, with Curse of Chucky coming a close second. It annoyed the hell out of me that Lords and Curse were reduced to “direct to DVD” status while the lacklustre and derivative The Conjuring enjoyed a summer blockbuster release.
Do yourself a favour – check it out for yourselves. And if your nerves can stand it, here’s a link to the Original Soundtrack CD.
Agree or disagree? Have something to say? Hit the facebook page.
Next film up - Killer Klowns From Outer Space
Copyright © 2010 - 2014 Robin Pierce. All Rights reserved.