7 Questions With Rob Zombie On ‘The Lords Of Salem’!

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The Lords of Salem opens in limited theaters (New York, Los Angeles, Boston, San Francisco, Chicago, Philadelphia, DC, Miami, Dallas, Houston, Detroit) tomorrow, April 19 from Anchor Bay Films. While not all of the story worked for me, I definitely appreciated the mood, tone and striking visuals in the film. I sat down with writer/director Rob Zombie a few weeks back and we discussed his approach to crafting such a cinematic experience, as well as what corners he needed to cut in order to get his tale to the screen.

From the singular mind of horror maestro Rob Zombie comes a chilling plunge into a nightmare world where evil runs in the blood. The Lords of Salem tells the tale of Heidi (Sheri Moon Zombie), a radio station DJ living in Salem, Massachusetts, who receives a strange wooden box containing a record, a “gift from the Lords.” Heidi listens, and the bizarre sounds within the grooves immediately trigger flashbacks of the town’s violent past. Is Heidi going mad, or are the “Lords of Salem” returning for revenge on modern-day Salem?” The film stars Sheri Moon Zombie, Bruce Davison, Jeff Daniel Phillips, Ken Foree, Patricia Quinn, Dee Wallace, Maria Conchita Alonso, Judy Geeson, Meg Foster and Griffin Boice.

Here’s Brad’s review out of TIFF, as well as Mike’s more positive take.

Head inside to check it out!
Lords of Salem
I was struck by the imagery of the film. I feel like it’s something I should revisit in a theater as opposed to a screener.

I can’t imagine it coming across at all in the online screener. Really what inspired the look of it was, well people say The Shining, and that’s true in the sense that I saw that in the theater when I was young. And I was so blown away by it and so sucked into it. And for all the years that followed I watched it on a TV or computer or something smaller until just recently I saw it again on the big screen and I was just shocked by the impact. How big it was. And that’s when I decided to start shooting everything real wide, it works best in a theater. It feels like a movie. It’s more of a visual movie than a talky one.

Starting at the beginning, this is an original story. What was the inception point for it?

Well, I’m from Massachusetts and knew about it but never really thought about it. And about seven years ago I got this cheap little book on the Salem Witch Trials. I was staying at a hotel and I saw it in the lobby – it was called Hunting Witches or something like that. So I started reading it and then working on Lords, but then I just forgot all about it. I’d written about a third of the script and threw it in the drawer.

Then a few years ago I was approached by Blumhouse, who wanted to do a low budget movie where I had total control. The only stipulation was that they wanted something that was supernatural or psychological – not as violent. So I dragged it out and it all came to be.

For something with so many hallucinatory sequences, what’s it like executing that on the page?

It’s a little weird. It’s tricky for me because I can picture what I want to do. It’s sort of a backwards process because, in my mind, it’s done. So my process is sort of describing to someone else a finished movie, for visuals and stuff. So when we were making it people would gather around the monitor and say, “oh that’s what you were talking about!”

So when you get to your final cut, how close is it in reality to what you imagined?

It varies. Sometimes I’ll look at it and say, “okay, this is exactly how I pictured it.” From the actors to the shot to the lines, it’s exactly the same. And then some other things are so different. Like the image on the poster, which is something I thought of the night before and just did it the next day. That wasn’t in the script. The makeup, the look, the whole scene – none of it was in the script. We ran out of time to shoot the scene that was in the script.

“We ran out of time” was sort of the catchphrase of the whole movie. We’d be running out of time and I’d have to think of something else and we’d do it. The cast and crew were very confused.

People mention The Shining, but to me that’s mainly in shot composition. The pacing here is much more fast. Was there a different, slower version of the movie? There are a lot of actors that were in it at one point that are no longer in it.

There was and there wasn’t. I conceived the whole thing as being a little more epic, but the budget and the shooting schedule couldn’t handle what I had conceived. We had enough of a budget to make a movie about a girl stuck in a spooky house, and that literally would have been the whole movie. We would have stayed in the apartment building and we would have had like three other characters.

A lot of Blumhouse films take place in a confined space.

And that’s the kind of budget we had. But I wanted to have this and that, and have all these other characters. I didn’t want it to look like a small budget horror movie. So then I got more ideas and ran amok and had to peel back. Because the stuff that takes place in 1697 was initially a bigger story. The characters that Sid Haig, Michael Berryman and Richard Lynch played were much more fleshed out characters. They had scenes that would really explain things and their connection to the more modern day characters. But then you just realize that you have to cut your losses because you just don’t have enough time.

That became a domino effect. If the character that Sid Haig is playing is connected to Barbara Crampton’s character and his story doesn’t get fleshed out, then her story won’t make any sense. There was a point where I kept some of it in, and when we were editing we tried making it work. And then we realized that the more we tried to explain it, the more confusing it was actually getting. So that’s when we dialed it back.

Perhaps that helps the film benefit from a consistency of mood?

It works best the way it is now. I could have worked the way it was, but we didn’t have time to make that movie so there’s no sense in forcing it. Movies take on a life of their own, and now I can’t picture the movie any other way.

  • doomas10

    Great questions ! Thanks for posting this! Just saw EVIL DEAD and I am super hyper for the second film of the year for me! The lords are waiting :D

  • divisionbell

    This looks like a film best watched on home video so I don’t regret spending so much money in it. Maybe one day he’ll realize his wife can’t act…at all…

  • djblack1313

    good questions, Evan! i admit (and maybe i’m mis-reading Rob’s answers) Rob’s answers concern me a bit. his cutting character development moments (if i’m reading his answer correctly) doesn’t sound like a good thing (EVIL DEAD could have used more of those moments. i think Natalie had like 2 lines tops). he sounds like he’s not so happy with his movie (due to time restraints/budget) but just cobbled together what he was able to film and to hell with it.

    i’m not bashing Rob, it’s just that his answers leave me kinda iffy of this movie. i’m seeing it tomorrow and i hope i like it! :)

    • EvanDickson

      @djblack1313 thanks!

      I think he’s happy with the film, but was just answering my questions honestly. At the end he says he can’t picture it any other way.

    • ktn

      I have to agree with you. It remembered a bit of George Romero on Day of the Dead(though Day is my fave zombie flick of all time), but i dont now how i will turn out with Rob(i never watched any of his movies, but i heard of his films a lot, and this new one is the only that cacthed my attention).

  • DarrelDreadful

    I cant wait to see this film, but after reading this, I kind of (selfishly) wish he was given a bigger budget and more time so that he could have made the more fleshed out version he hinted on. I like Rob as a director because he actually knows how to tap into his creativity and do something different regardless if people like it or not, I admire that. He has growing to do, especially as a writer, but my support for Rob Zombie is still here to stay.

    • bambi_lives8980

      Agreed, I really don’t get all the hate that surrounds Zombie and his movies. Honestly I think his wife is a good actress, though the frequency that she appears in his films may should maybe be cut back, but I like her, and shes smokin hot… But that’s beside the point! lol. House of 1000 Corpses was good for what it was and what he went through to make the film, and Devils Rejects was great, I love the direction that the sequel took and I think he got the movie spot fuckin on. Halloween was good, if a bit slow in the second half, and the sequel was beating a dead horse, maybe didn’t need to happen, but oh well. There are many horror movies including sequels to remakes that fall into that category. I think he’s a talented filmmaker, and his existence in this day and age of shitty, tone deaf, DOA, no-script no-soul horror movies that even the creators have no faith in, is kinda essential to horror to keep certain aspects of the genre alive. Phew, run on sentence? Maybe, but I’m looking forward to LOS, especially considering that there’s nothing else even remotely interesting besides Maniac and Pacific Rim to come out for a while. I’m sure it will be better to see the movie without expecting it to be anything other than a movie for you to digest. If you go in with unrealistic expectations of course you will hate it, that’s why I’ve tried to not watch any clips or read anything too revealing. Will be seeing it tomorrow, and I can’t friggin wait!

  • DethHand

    Another bad Rob Zombie film, oh boy. I know everyones taste in horror is different so I mean no disrespect to fans that love his movies, but I think his movies SUCK! The Halloween series and Devils Rejects alone should have put an end to his horror movie career.

  • zog71

    I’ve always thought that Zombie showed some decent directing talent in all of his movies. “House of a 1000 Corpses” I didn’t like because it felt too much like “Texas Chainsaw Massacre”, but his one shot when the deputy was killed and he panned the camera back and up and just held it there until the killing shot, was fantastic! “Devil’s Rejects” just made an improvement from the first film and was a well done. “Halloween” was good in my opinion because he remade the original but put it through the eyes of Michael. “Halloween 2″ I thought to be decent also. Thought it more brutal, because Michael seemed to come back more for revenge, than just trying to kill his sister. The ghost mom thing may wore thin on most, but I thought it fit with Zombie’s vision of what he was portraying in the “Halloween” movies. So with this film I am interested in what he has improved on with an original story. Don’t really care if it ends weird or leaves you hanging, just want to see how he does with a slow burn film, and if he can intrigue me. Maybe with all the cuts he talked about, they will be put on the DVD release.

  • KnightClaw

    Saw Lords of Salem a few days ago. I wanted so bad to like it, but it was such a waste of my time. Nothing F***king Happens except a whole lot of flashbacks & “bad dreams” by Sheri moon. Unreal. Stupid as hell Ending , too. Dissapointment is an understatement.
    I enjoyed some of his other films, except for the crappy H2, which turned the great horror icon, Myers, into a bearded fkin HOBO, with another “bad dream” sequence by Sheri moon… AGAIN.
    WTF

    • OldSchoolHorror

      agree 100%. cinematography was legit…thats it

  • OldSchoolHorror

    I have one question…..what were you thinking making this Rob? I love all of his other movies except H2….but jesus, even harder fans that sat with me kept laughing at how bad this was. Went opening night and people were walking out and scenes that were supposed to be serious ended up being funny like the devil midget. There’s a reason this is limited release…..

    • OldSchoolHorror

      and please, please, please…..no more Sheri