out of Five
Running time: 101
Despite being based on the fascinating events of the 1692 Salem witch trials, The Lords of Salem sadly fails to offer anything exciting, thanks to a weak script, lack of scares and dreadful sound quality.
What’s it all about?
Written, directed and co-produced by rock icon Rob Zombie, The Lords of Salem is based on the historical episodes of the 1692 Salem witch trials and opens with a scene showing a coven of witches being condemned to death for practicing witchcraft and summoning the devil. Before their execution, the witches make a vow to later haunt their town as ghosts and spawn the devil through a descendent of John Nathanial Hawthorne, the judge who sentenced them to death (Interestingly, this character is based on John Hathorne, a judge in the Salem witch trials and ancestor of the Salem-born novelist Nathaniel Hawthorne, most famous for his 1850 novel, The Scarlet Letter).
Cutting to the present day, The Lords of Salem then introduces us to Heidi (played by Sheri Moon Zombie, the off-screen wife and muse of director Rob), a tattooed and dreadlocked radio station DJ, former drug addict and the unfortunate descendant of John Nathaniel Hawthorne. On her way home from work one day, Heidi receives a mysterious wooden box containing a record titled ‘A gift from the Lords’ but after listening to it, it becomes clear that the gift is from the Lords of Salem, who are returning to the town for revenge.
Drawing on the intriguing legend of the Salem witch trials, Rob Zombie presents himself as an ambitious auteur filmmaker with this passionately directed but rather flawed film. The performances as a whole are decent enough for this kind of thing and Zombie’s favourite leading lady and spouse, Sheri Moon Zombie, manages to hold her own as the star. Despite its many defects, The Lords of Salem is also somehow strangely watchable and on reflection, it’s oddly memorable.
Whether or not this amateur horror is memorable for the right reasons is another thing. Zombie’s script, although adventurous and far from limiting, is rather weak on the whole and fails to bring a unique spin or fresh twist to the core story, which most people will be already familiar with. Horror fans hoping for some serious scares will also be disappointed as The Lords of Salem has all the right tried and tested ideas (witches hidden in corners, for example) but fails to present them effectively both visually and audibly. On that note, the sound quality is shockingly poor, so much so that it can often be painful on the ears.
With its sub-standard script and poor scare tactics, The Lords of Salem is not really worth the effort. If you’re after a dose of horror this weekend, you’re much better off with Evil Dead.