The film stars Sheri Moon Zombie (Heidi Hawthorne), Bruce Davison (Francis Matthias), Jeff Daniel Phillips (Herman “Whitey” Salvador), Judy Gleeson (Lacy Doyle), Meg Foster (Margaret Morgan), Patricia Quinn (Megan), Ken Foree (Herman Jackson), Dee Wallace (Sunny), and Andrew Prine (Reverend Jonathon Hawthorne). In my opinion an all-star cast.
Rob is a talented film maker. With a recognizable visual style all his own, he has come a long way since House of 1000 Corpses. This is the first film he has directed that he actually had full creative control over, and it shows. Like a twist combination of a Kubrick/Argento film that has hints of Rosemary’s Baby and Suspiria in it, it’s the best way I can describe it. It is a film that has divided his fan base even further, after his ambitious Halloween films.
The Lords of Salem is completely drenched in atmosphere. Without the buckets of blood and gore Zombie has become known for, this film has very little of these things. Instead he chose to build up on the dread as we watch Heidi delve deeper into hallucinatory insanity, and he conveys this masterfully. This is a disturbing film with scenes of odd and nightmarish pieces, the hellish “mummified” priests stroking dildos comes to mind, but this effect is not just Rob Zombie’s genius behind the director’s chair. Sheri Moon Zombie, being the lead in the film, actually carries the story very well with her acting, her best performance yet. The score John 5 (Rob Zombie’s guitarist) presents, perfectly compliments the film. He stated that he wanted to make a soundtrack that wouldn’t distract the audience, but would also not easily be forgotten, and he did exactly what he set out to do.
The acting that we get from Meg Foster, Patricia Quinn, Dee Wallace, and Judy Geeson, was nothing less than fantastic. Meg Foster playing the “lead” witch of the coven, delivers her dialogue with excellent potency. The choice to cast these older women who would normally be seen as playing nice “Grandmother” type characters was a great decision, given they do some abnormally fiendish things.
For me the novel, written by Rob Zombie and B.K. Evenson, was a must to complete my experience, even though it was a different experience altogether, they both complemented one another strongly. While the whole of the novel was mostly akin to the film, there were some violent scenes and other small changes in the novel that didn’t make it onto celluloid. Now I love violence and gore as much as the next horror fanatic, but I don’t think most of it would’ve worked well with the film, as it would have taken away from the ambience and atmosphere that Rob had worked so hard to build throughout. It fills in some gaps that aren’t really explained in the film, but aren’t completely necessary either. For a debut novel, it was very well written. It’s classic Zombie from start to finish.
I would grade the film a B+ and the novel an A-. However, I don’t think the novel could exist without the visuals of the film.