When Heidi arrives at the radio station for her show she receives a demo record from a band called The Lords. Thinking the album must be from a new and upcoming band, the DJs play it on the show. When the sound goes out over the radio, many local women go into a trance, very much like when the tape is played in Evil Dead! Heidi has severe headaches when the album is played and from that point on starts having hallucinations. There are many flashbacks to the 1600s, when a coven of witches were having their Sabbath or Black Mass, dancing around a fire nude, praying to Satan, and playing music. The local Salem Authorities catch all the witches and put them on trial. Found guilty of witchcraft, they are burned alive at the stake. While dying, the leader of the coven curses her accuser, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and all of his ancestors.
Heidi lives in a historic building with an older lady that lives in the apartment below her. She invites Heidi for tea with her friends, but right away you can tell the older ladies have something to hide. Heidi starts a slow decent into madness after hearing the Lords of Salem album again. And that's when we get the flashbacks to the ancient evil witches and their strange satanic rituals.
Sherri Moon Zombie does her best acting to date, but she is still no match for the older scream queens that play the witches Dee Wallace, Patricia Quinn, Judy Geeson, and Meg Foster steal all the scenes. Meg Foster and Dee Wallace especially shine in their roles. One of things I like about Rob Zombie is that he casts a lot of familiar faces from the horror genre and Lords of Salem was no exception.
Lords of Salem has a real art-house artistic feel to it, which Zombie's previous films did not have. There are several shots that remind me of classic Argento films like Suspiria. The use of colourful architecture and background scenery is almost like another character in the film. The movie was visually stunning and it owes a lot of its influences to classic Horror films like The Devils, The Sentinel, Eraserhead and The Shining. The only part of the film I was not all that keen on was the psychedelic ending. It just seemed out of context, but maybe I will like it better on a second viewing. It also had way too many gratuitous shots of Sherri Moon's backside which was a little distracting from the storyline in my opinion. Unfortunately, I don't think Lords of Salem will appeal to the general public and will probably not get a wide release the way his previous films did.
In the end, I think this movie will get very split reviews from horror fans. If you can appreciate an art-house independent horror film you will enjoy it. If you prefer a grindhouse style gory action movie, you will hate it. I am sure this movie will surprise and divide Rob Zombie fans. Up until now, Zombie has earned a very well-deserved reputation for films that push the limits of good taste. For the most part I have enjoyed most of his films (yes, even Halloween 2!) For me, Lords of Salem showed that he is not a one trick pony when it comes to his writing and I really appreciate that. I highly recommend you go and see it when it comes out and form your own opinion about it.