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[Review] ‘The Lords of Salem’ A Slow Burn Letdown With Striking Imagery

The most impressive thing about Rob Zombie is that he’s always been able to operate outside of the studio mentality on a low budget. No matter what the film, he makes what he wants to make (sans the Halloween remake). After using Halloween 2 as a way out of his Dimension deal, he’s stripped it down to the bare minimum with his 1970’s inspired The Lords of Salem (his incredibly low budget indie horror that premiered to a sold out crowd at TIFF’s Midnight Madness). Budget appeared to be little bother but, once again, Zombie pens his own screenplay. And that’s littered with problems. The Lords of Salem is definitely cool to watch, and actually pretty entertaining (at times), but let’s be honest here (Rob Zombie fans sat there with a look of shock and disappointment on their faces, displaying the most fake smile you’ve ever seen), it’s not good.

I know Zombie loves his wife and enjoys putting her on screen, but Sheri Moon Zombie cannot carry a film. Again, this shows that Zombie just does whatever he wants, which is totally cool and all, but it does hurt his product. The Lords of Salem could have just been called the Sheri Moon Zombie show. Nearly every shot is of her walking, her in bed, her playing with her dog, and her kind of-sort of naked. The problem is that it doesn’t really propel the story anywhere and makes the film progress at a snail’s pace. But the biggest issue is that, with all of the striking imagery, Rob doesn’t have Sheri react to any of it; nearly everything that happens is either a vision or off in the corner. Yes, a lot of it is extremely cool, but then some of it is shockingly bizarre (like the tiny Devil-God who looked like a cross between Station from Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey and God in “South Park”).

Some of the best stuff is the flashbacks of the Salem 6 performing rituals and getting burned at the stake. The constant expectation was that these witches would be resurrected and create chaos among the women of Salem, and that would have been dope. Instead, the audience gets slapped in the back of the head (with what feels like a log) with an overly artistic, bizarre and unfulfilling performance by the “Lords of Salem.” This must have been due to one of the following: budgetary constraints, Zombie has surround himself with “yes” men, or he just didn’t give a fuck. I suspect it’s the latter, and for Lords, he didn’t even care about his viewers (I think by now he understands that his fans will like anything he does…they are the supreme “yes” men.)

It would be easy to give Lords a pass. It has genuinely creepy imagery, cool scares, super crazy sound design, and even more mind blowing set designs. But there will be no pass, mainly because of the awkwardly unfulfilling ending and the fact that much of the “cool” doesn’t interact with the characters or plot. Rob Zombie sympathizers are going to eat this up, and will spend their night analyzing the finale as if it were some revelation of brilliance. It’s not. It’s just bad. The Lords of Salem could only be recommended as background visuals while you’re jamming to old school White Zombie.



  • allminearetaken

    I was also there last night, it was awful. The first 30 minutes or so had a great ‘shining’ feel to it, but if the best thing about a new movie is that it reminds you of another better movie, it’s probably not a good thing.
    Of course no-one asked the hard question during the Q&A which was ‘what the fuck was that’!
    I at least had to ask when we are finally going to get some full frontal Sherri Moon, if he’s going to keep using her in his films. Unfortunately the answer was never.

    • Miikesmama

      And YOU didn’t ask this hard question because…?

      • weresmurf

        Give the dude a break, he was hard when he asked it 🙂

    • Doornail12

      So you’re the guy. The guy that can’t distinguish between art and porn. For the record the answer to your question was we will never see “more” of Sheri Moon because of guys like you.

  • Cooper

    People could never accuse Zombie of not being able to divide options.
    It seems this movie is doing just that, Some of the reviews seem to be criticising but yet inadvertently praising it at the same time, Mainly commenting positively on visuals, sound and a creepy feel, surely that can’t be a bad thing?

    Its all makes me want to see it even more just to see what its all about.

  • Doornail12

    Small Spoilers Ahead!!!

    Well kids I saw the film last night at TIFF and let me say this, it’s not going to be for everyone. If you like slow-burn movies that rely on visuals over dialogue you’ll be OK. This is NOT a paint by numbers horror film. This is a beautifully shot revenge film that takes it’s time getting to just about everything – except naked witches. Using slow dolly shots and architecture like it’s a character unto itself, films like The Shining spring to mind. It has very few legit scares but is mesmerizing and engrossing. People worried about Sheri Moon Zombie needn’t, this is by far her best acting to date… and may I take this time to apologize on behalf of Toronto for that last Q and A question. That guy was a total d*ck.
    In a nutshell, the music and sound design is amazing. The sets and costume design are top notch. You’ll be suprised that half the cast you’re expecting to be in the film, aren’t. Zombie explained that during editing, many scenes needed to be cut for pacing.
    My only complaints are with the overall structure, characters that seem important early on, fall off to near nothing when it matters. The back story is only half shown, it would have been nice to see it played out more completely. Plus the fact one of our heroes, one who we think may change the outcome for the better is disposed of a little early so the end is without question.
    It’s not a fun ride but it’s a twisted, colorful and entertaining one. This will not play well in its current form to mainstream audiences, but don’t we have enough paint by number horror films.

    It’s Rosemary’s Baby, The Sentinel and The Devils felt up by Kubrick who just saw The Gate on late night cable.

    • LolaV19

      I completely agree with this. I was there last night as well.. Don’t forget the Suspiria influence in it as well.

    • djblack1313

      Doornail12, thanx for the review! i’m very much looking forward to seeing this! i’m one of the few (apparently) who likes Sheri and her acting, so it’s heartening to hear you say that about her in this!

  • djblack1313

    Brad is really fucking annoying. his, “Rob Zombie fans sat there with a look of shock and disappointment on their faces, displaying the most fake smile you’ve ever seen), it’s not good.” line is a fucking joke. i’m not even really a Zombie fan (i own none of his music and really only like his H1 & H2) but how the fuck do YOU, Brad, know what the entire audience was thinking? did you go around and survey each one?

    i’m not saying this movie will be good, chances are it may not but then again, i almost never agree w/ Brad’s reviews on movies. BD, (i know you say it’s coming Evan) you guys need to get more reviewers for your site. having it be just Brad, Brad, Brad is wearing really thin.

    • MovieGeek

      It’s rare when I agree with one of Brad’s reviews as well. I find his reviews more laughable than anything.

      I had the feeling people would be mixed about this one. Can’t wait to see it for myself.

    • SlayerNPG

      Yeah, I thought that line about the fake smiles was a little absurd as well. Its funny, from the review and the reviews in the comments section here, I’m actually looking forward to this and think it sounds pretty good. Shining and Suspiria influence? Sounds good to me.

      If theres anything I’ve learned, just watch and judge for yourself. I rarely ever read reviews, but was interested in this one since it was the first screening. Fuck, I watched Omen 3 on netflix the other day, half the reviews buried it and I thought it was pretty fucking awesome so there ya go!

    • UNIQimages

      I agree. That line was offensive. I truly believe no one on this website likes horror. They bash every single movie they review.

      I haven’t seen this yet, but I have been waiting for it to come out for a long time, probably almost 2 years now it’s been in the works. I’m sure it’s wonderful. I have really loved every single movie Rob Zombie has made. I like his POV and if this ris the most artistic one of them all, then I KNOW it will probably be my favorite.

      • DeadInHell

        “I’m sure it’s wonderful. I have really loved every single movie Rob Zombie has made.”

        And you have the gall to accuse the people on this site of not enjoying horror? Some of us horror fans have actually seen a decent horror film, and have some modicum of good taste that prevents us from fawning all over Rob Zombie’s inferior catalog of weak rehashes. I believe you’re the one who fails to understand horror.

    • divisionbell

      It’s a zombie film. He knows. Fans generally have the same reaction to all of his films.

  • DeathValzer

    This review ain’t really helping me out much with weather to watch it or not. But then again i’m not much of a Rob Zombie (filmmaker) fan so not too eager to check this one out.

  • MachetAY

    Thanks to doornail for the only legit review that I see.

    Brad comes across as a little bit of a vag. Its not even a review but more like he wants to brainwash you on why not to like this movie.

  • TwistedCritic

    Wait, so this movie is NOT about a bunch of witches coming back from the dead? Then wtf is it about?

  • mistyfoe

    I love Robs music and his previous films. House of 1,000 Corpses was great for a low budget film and Halloween is probably my most favourite remake of all time. Ive been pumped to seen this movie (been waiting ever since the plans were released) but after reading this i dont know if I should see it if its released on the screen here in Australia :/

  • viking1983

    its best to ignore brads reviews of anything he is a guy who though kill list is a good film when it is total shit, he reviews things without thinking of the whole perspective of what people may like and only focuses on what he liked which is a bad thing to do as reviewer as you have to remain open minded, can’t wait to see this though

    • divisionbell

      Kill list was good. Lords of Salem was awful. So yes, brad was right on the money.

  • Skullbone

    Funny what he says is wrong with this movie I can say is wrong with V/H/S which HE is involved with. I’m interested to see the critique of that film here.

  • Burton

    why go see a movie based on what movie reviewers write?

    • I.Eat.Brains

      THANK YOU!

  • Boonraiser

    I was there on Wednesday when it showed here for the fest. I liked it. It wasn’t great, but probably his most ambitious film yet. I’m a very visual person so the sets, camera setups and makeup etc. were great. John 5 did the music which I thought was awesome.
    This is the kind of movie that will be 50/50 for people. I definitely agree with some of the movie comparisons too, Rosemary’s Baby, The Shining, Suspiria etc. I think it deserves a second viewing though, so I can wrap my head around some of the things that happened.

  • AmericanWerewolfInAmerica

    If you’re enough of a horror fan to be on this site you should see all Rob Zombie films. I don’t always love the writing but they look and feel amazing. If it was ye olden days, you wouldn’t miss a new Hitchcock film just because of a bad review. Stick with the guys who truly love the genre.

  • HorrorHead

    Ive not yet seen The Lords Of Salem, and dare i say it, ive been somewhat of a Rob Zombie fan since 2005, however i just had to sign up to Bloody Disgusting to leave a comment since im pretty bloody annoyed at all the bad reviews Lords Of Salem has been recieving. Thats not me saying the bad reviews are unjust, its just me saying ive been following the production of this movie for about a year and was expecting something great, not a masterpiece, just something maybe on par with Devils Rejects. It seems to me like Zombie is more concerned with getting the look and feel of his movies right rather than writing a decent script, and although i love the look of the locations Rob shoots and the music he uses to set a certain mood…we’re talking movies here, not a Slipknot music video. It really is a shame, a shame because i watch Zombies movies and i can tell what hes trying to do, but it never entirely comes together, not even Devils Rejects was 100% there. I still think Robs writing method is this, he thinks of a cool movie name first, then attempts to write a story surrounding that name. I think he should write about what he knows, i watched an interview with him saying he grew up on a fun fair surrounded by carnies…thats quite a spooky concept, why dosnt he make a movie about a fair run by serial killer carnies or something, id watch it lol

    • divisionbell

      Rob zombie is like Tim Burton. Great visuals but awful stories. Pair Zombie with a real writer and we may get an amazing horror film from him yet!

  • zog71

    Well, I’m not going to add anything useful to “The Lords of Salem”, but do want to say that I am interested in seeing it. Watched a trailer a few months back and just kinda sat there wondering what was going on. Read a synopsis of it, but the trailer really didn’t give the viewer much to go on, except that it could be bizarre.

    I like Zombie, music and movie wise. Don’t believe his films are awesome or anything, but he does show some signs of creative flair. Not that it makes his movie good as a whole, but shows that he has some potential. “House” was a disappointment, but “Rejects” was pretty cool. Really liked his “Halloween” remake and even liked the sequel with the whole ghost mom thing. So I am looking forward for this movie, just not sure if it will show where I live.

  • :C
    Was looking foreward to this movie. I personally love Sheri Moon in Rob Zombies films, as I think she plays the crazy hot chick best. Lest we forget her awesome role in House of 1000 Corpses and The Devil’s Rejects.

  • WalkWithMeInDarkness

    Okay, so I posted elsewhere I wasn’t gonna see this movie until it come out on dvd, but I ate my words and saw the movie. It wasn’t as awful as I thought it would be, but it still wasn’t good, in my opinion. Like some others are saying, it’s visually beautiful, but the story… yeah. Zombie reminds me that he’s a good director, but not a very good writer. Those of you who haven’t seen it, you should absolutely watch it. Trust your own opinion over anyone else’s. I doubt i’ll ever watch it again, but I would definitely watch it again over either of Zombie’s Halloween films. No offense to anyone.

  • WalkWithMeInDarkness

    Sorry, CAME out on dvd is what i meant.

  • The Grither

    I just saw this today. Declaring my absolute adoration or hatred for it is impossible: I want to see it again. Seeing a director’s cut would be nice, or at least seeing the scenes that were cut. Admirers of the trailer might be pleased to know that Mozart’s “Requiem” is actually used in the film. Quite a bit, actually. Some of it didn’t exactly click with me, like the psychedelic meltdown near the end. But unlike other people, I enjoyed the ending. I like ambiguous endings sometimes. And I found Rob Zombie’s Velvet Underground fixation very cool. If seeing the movie inspires some people to seek out Velvet Underground albums, that’s a good thing. None of Zombie’s movies are really pleasant or fun, but in the context of a horror movie, they don’t have to be. Horror movies can be grim, disturbing, cathartic, funny, quiet, explosive, sad, adrenalizing, any number of things, and still be good. That’s part of why I like horror. Zombie’s movies have a good rhythm to them, and overall they are downright brutal. By the way, was the apartment house in Lords of Salem intentionally made to resemble H. P. Lovecraft’s house?

  • Jesus

    I saw this film last night. I have to admitt, this film is visualy disturbing… and totally agree with Lola V19, I felt the same as back in the seventies, front to ” Suspiria ” by Dario Argento. It is difficult to put some labels on ” The lords of Salem”, I suspect is going to be a fiasco at the box office, but surely it is going to become a ” cult movie “, as it happens with Tony Scott’s ” The Hunger” or Ridley Scott’s ” Blade Runner “.

  • born2kill

    Pretty Terrible. It reminds me of alot of J-Horror (also some spanish & american horror films) where a woman has a supernatural encounter. Nobody believes her and they keep telling her “go home and get some rest”. More supernatural encounters/visions occur. Nobody believes her and they think shes going crazy. More visions…rinse and repeat, with nothing really happening. until the last 20 minutes where we may or may not get a twist ending.

    This is that same movie. Except with zero suspense. zero. And witches as envisioned by a 4th grader.

    Other posters have said the film is “visually disturbing and amazing, reminiscent of the shinning”…. what?? no. total bullcrap. Those comments must be planted by associates of the filmmakers. Theres nothing disturbing or amazing here. It looks very average, on par with a straight to dvd hellraiser.

    Sidenote: The shots during the end credits had a total carpenter’s halloween quality to them. Just needed some nice synth organ music to complete the effect and it wouldve been perfect. Weird to think Rob Zombie could probably make carpenter-esque suspenseful horror film if he chose to. But he doesnt want to for whatever reason

    • Ryan Ozzy Moore

      I must agree with you completely. I was a big Zombie fan, and don’t get me wrong i still dig his music, but I was excited to see this with all the hype behind it. After mind-numbingly sitting through it’s hour and forty minute opus of attempted Polanski/Kubrick visu/ambiance-horror and TERRIBLE acting i was completely disappointed with the Rosemary’s Baby/Ninth Gate/Wicker Man finish to the whole thing. I’m all for an artsy-fartsy horror flick but this one had me scratching my head asking “what the hell did i just watch?” Maybe i’m just not as cultured as some folks out here, or possibly I can see through the “This is Rob Zombie” bullshit cloud.

  • Voorhees83

    There’s 2 movies that come to mind when I saw this film. “The Sentinel” and “Suspiria”. I enjoyed every one including this film. It has the 70’s slow burn style to it with visuals getting more crazy as the movie goes on.

    If your a newbie teen expecting another House of 1000 Corpses, Scream or Saw movie, then don’t watch.

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