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Neil Sweetman is nonplussed by Rob Zombie’s latest 70s-inspired horror.

A local radio DJ in Salem, Massachusetts receives a strange record by a band called The Lords, the mysterious song seems to have an unusual effect on the women of Salem and when it’s played on the airwaves it casts a satanic spell over the town in Rob Zombie’s 6th outing as writer/director of a feature length film.

Back in the day, 1698, Reverend Jonathan Hawthorne burned up a coven of witches in the back woods of Salem at the peak of the witch trials. 300 years later Heidi, radio DJ and ancestor of Hawthorne, is plagued by terrifying dreams and brutal visions of what happened in the past. After The Lords’ song is played on her radio show, Heidi is soon set upon by a trio of modern day witches and spirals into a descent of self-destruction and madness as she is prepped to become the mother of the anti-Christ.

It’s clear to see Rob Zombie has been a fan of horror films throughout the years judging by his superb cast of horror-worn stars such as Dee Wallace, Patrica Quinn, Bruce Davidson, Judy Geeson, and the legendary Ken Foree, who is making his fourth appearance in a Rob Zombie film, including previous parts in Halloween and The Devil’s Rejects. The lead role of the film goes to Zombie’s spouse, Sheri Moon Zombie, in her first lead role, although she does have talent as an actor, she doesn’t really do much in The Lords Of Salem, never actually seeming scared at what is transpiring around her, she just seems to mostly walk around in a daze most of the time, but most of the time she is scantily clad, so it’s so bad.

While not so much blood splattering gore and cheap scares appear to be prominent in The Lords Of Salem, Zombie uses more symbolism to represent deeper twisted issues going on beneath the surface and in the end he has produced more of a psychological horror, the plot is similar to that of Rosemary’s Baby. Whatever blood and special effects that were created for the film were truly disturbing, in particular the strange little demon that (I think) was the devil, the old naked witches from the past and the alien-like baby anti-Christ himself, it was a little hard to find Sheri Moon Zombie sexy after seeing that come out of her.

Some amazing (almost still) shots throughout the film and some of the best set designs in a zombie movie to date make this much less of a Grindhouse type of film, as previous Zombie films like House Of A Thousand Corpses or The Devil’s Rejects, and more like an art-house flick, reminiscent of the style of David Lynch. Rob Zombie seems to be trying finding his feet as a director and The Lords Of Salem is a good example of his maturing as a film-maker. Zombie has stayed true to the roots of classic witch flicks like The Wicker Man or Suspiria, in the way that these films have very little blood or graphic violence but still evoke feelings of fear through the ideas they are expressing, and they can sometimes get quite confusing, as can The Lords Of Salem.

While some fans of Rob Zombie’s films may be inclined to write this one off as ‘s*** that doesn’t make sense’ because it is a lot less balls-out horror circling around his usual array of psychotic, white-trash lunatics, The Lords Of Salem may find more of an audience among fans of wider film genres, or fans of seventies horror.