THE LORDS OF SALEM – a film by Rob Zombie – SPOILERS
There’s more than a bit of ROSMEMARY’S BABY in this movie. THE LORDS OF SALEM is the film Polanski might have made had he indulged in hallucinogens during the production and spent his evenings watching Fellini films.
The film is beautiful and well acted. It’s star, Sheri Moon Zombie, gives an excellent and believable performance as a recovering addict. It would be interesting to see her in a more serious film role. Her character Heidi, a DJ at a Salem radio station, falls victim to a dirge recorded by a group called The Lords, and has several intriguing and totally mystifying dream sequences. In one, an apparently mummified doctor gives her boyfriend what appears to be the Vulcan neck pinch. Heidi may be a trekkie.
Before I get further into the review, some real history must be interjected. There is no evidence that any of the people executed in 17th century Salem believed in witchcraft or satanism. What evidence does show is that those executed had lifestyles that came into conflict with the religious fundamentalism that ruled Massachusetts at the time. The film does get some credit for naming the particular devil in the film Beelzebub, a name which derives from the Philistine god Ba’al Zebub, which translates roughly as Lord of the Flies. There are obvious parallels between the Salem witch hunt and the 1954 William Golding novel.
Apparently, in Rob Zombie‘s mythology, the witches burned in Salem not only practiced witchcraft, but also were Satanists, and were extremely unkempt. There are scenes in this film that would make Felix Unger (or Adrian Monk), run screaming from the theater. Had those witches not been burned, they would certainly have died soon from a nasty infection.
For entirely obscure reasons, the modern inheritors of the satanic tradition (who have, thankfully, higher standards of cleanliness) choose Adelheid Elizabeth Hawthorne (alias Heidi Laroc), a direct descendant of the Reverend Johnathan Hawthorne (who arranged for the possibly superfluous 17th century witch burnings) to bear Beelzebub’s offspring. Beelzebub (Roger W. Morrissey) is a tentacled, possibly extra-terrestrial being, small of stature, who might possesses Time Lord technology. (I infer this from the transformation of the interior of Apartment 5 from cramped quarters at the beginning of the film into cathedral-like spaciousness later on.)
It’s not a particularly bloody film. Only one person is killed (the witch did it in the Super’s apartment with a frying pan). Though bare breasts abound, there is little in the way of sexual content. People are nude for decorative or practical reasons, and sometimes merely out of laziness. THE LORDS OF SALEM contains several scenes, such as the one with Dustin Quick as an Engine House waitress, or the one with Judy Thompson standing nude in a bathroom, that are only vaguely connected to the main plot. This suggests that the film was reduced in length substantially before release. The fellow who gets killed (Francis Matthias played by Bruce Davison) seems only to be there to inform the audience about Heidi’s past. We find out that his wife hails from Venezuela, and that the couple has been married for 26 years, but none of that is in any way relevant.
Heidi’s very nice dog, whose name is Troy, may be the key to understanding this movie. He appears at both the beginning and the end of the film, and seems quite happy in both scenes. Whatever happened with Beelzebub and his tentacled offspring, it wasn’t bad enough to cause Troy any concern. In mid-film, the dog actually tried to get into Apartment 5 (where little devil guy was living) and seemed enthusiastic rather than angry about it. Was Troy in league with the devil from the start?
Among the cast of LORDS OF SALEM are Meg Foster, and Patricia Quinn. Quinn was Magenta in the ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW. Meg Foster was Hera in episode #102 of XENA: WARRIOR PRINCESS titled God Fearing Child.
Dustin Quick (waitress) will be Alex’s wife in AMERICAN BISTRO, due to be released later this year, in which an accountant named Medor (Marcel Diennet) finds out his wife is having an affair with his boss, and responds by pursuing a lifelong dream to open a restaurant.
Roger W. Morrissey (Beelzebub) was the Grinhilda monster in three episodes of XENA: WARRIOR PRINCESS.
Judy Thompson (naked woman in bathroom) turned up as a funeral guest (uncredited) in the first episode of the Showtime series RAY DONOVAN.
THE LORDS OF SALEM is available on DVD and on AMAZON INSTANT VIDEO.