FINAL GIRL explores the slasher flicks of the '70s and '80s...and all the other horror movies I feel like talking about, too. This is life on the EDGE, so beware yon spoilers!

Jul 14, 2022

One out of however many ain't bad

In, uh, honor? I guess? of the trailer for Rob Zombie's take on The Munsters dropping and serving up 10 pounds of Spirit Halloween in a 5 pound Halloweentown sack, I thought I'd revisit the one Rob Zombie movie I really like. Yes, Virginia, there is one! 

Look, I don't get all bent out of shape over not enjoying his films. Much like palazzo pants or being punched in the face, his films are simply not for me. I've tried, believe me. Before House of 1000 Corpses I was hoping it would rule my world and give horror the jump start it needed in the genre's lean years. Alas, I thought it was a huge pile. I decided to give The Devil's Rejects a shot. No dice! Terrible. Halloween...Halloween II...same deal. You would think I would have caught on sooner, but hey, it took me a while to say "four chances is enough, I am out!"

And out I was, for a very long time. I knew peace--or at least I thought I did. Every once in a Sheri Moon, my mind would circle back to images I'd seen from The Lords of Salem (2012). It looked cool! It was about witches! Before Robert Eggers's The Witch came along in 2015, I'd tell anyone who would listen (and anyone who wouldn't listen: I would simply yell after them as they ran away) that I wanted more witch movies. Here was a witch movie that looked cool! But I remembered my quartet of quattempts with Mr. Zombie's work and I held fast to my no. (Not my no-no, that's another story entirely.)

Until I didn't. I caved and watched it. And lo, it was...good? Like genuinely good? I...really like The Lords of Salem. Consider my frutti to be tuttied!

Honestly this movie had me in its grip from the jump, when Meg fucking Foster appeared, looking and sounding like an entire pile of dirt as Margaret Morgan and going off with some real "Satan rules, God drools" shit with all of her fellow dirt witches. Even if the remaining minutes had been pure misery, I would at least always have this scene. 

Heidi LaRoc (Sheri Moon Zombie) has it all: a sweet dog, a cool and interestingly-lit apartment, dreadlocks (always a great choice for white people), and a rad job as one of three shock jock-esque night DJs at a Salem radio station. One fine evening, a wooden box addressed to Heidi appears at the station, housing a record produced by some band called The Lords.

That is so stupid, and I am so in.

This misandrist record will not allow itself to be played by male hands! So Heidi gives it a spin, and the eerie track puts her in something of a trance and induces visions of 1696 and all the witchnanigans that Margaret and her dirt coven were getting up to. When Heidi plays the record over the radio waves, many women in Salem have the same reaction. What is up with that song? Somewhere, Tipper Gore shakes her head. "I tried to warn 'em about that kind of music," she says to no one in particular.

Heidi's life begins to unravel. She's flaking out at work, she's got a bad cough, she's plagued with weird Satanic visions, and she's started using drugs again. All because of The Lords's sick track! Somewhere, Tipper Gore righteously, furiously masturbates.

Thanks to all the 1696 flashbacks and witchologist Francis Mattias (Bruce Davison), we learn that during her execution, Margaret Morgan--who wrote The Lords's sick track to possess all the women of Salem by the way---placed a curse on the town, wishing death upon all the daughters' daughters of the witchhunters and that the bloodline of head witchhunter Jonathan Hawthorne (Andrew Prine) would eventually be "the vessel by which the Devil would inherit the Earth." Listen, on the rare occasion that movie Satanists manage to concoct a scheme with an actual end goal, it's always about some poor woman who is forced to squirt out a new Satan or Antichrist or whatever. In case you haven't figured it out by now, Heidi's real last name is Hawthorne and so she is the one who will be doing the...uh, you know. The Satan-squirting.

She's helped along in her task by her landlord Lacy (Judy Geeson) and her sisters Megan (Patricia Quinn) and Sonny (Dee Wallace), who constitute a trio of pure delight and get their own Minnie Castevet-through-the-peephole moment.

As luck would have it, The Lords are coming to town for a one-night show. That's right, it's time for Margaret Morgan's Jug Band Satanmas! All of Salem's daughters' daughters are there, and Heidi is the descendant of honor.

When le bébé arrives, it is...well. You know the iconic, chilling moment at the end of Rosemary's Baby when Rosemary is all "What have you done to its eyes?!" Let's just say that upon seeing what she squirted out, Heidi would be well within her rights to shriek "What have you done to its...whole thing?!"

Then again, I suppose that's what you get with dealing with dirt witches. I mean, early on in the proceedings we thought we ordered this Satan:

But apparently we ordered from wish dot com because the Satan that arrived was decidedly not that. It had me wondering why all these cool women would cavort in the dirt, stop brushing their teeth, and pledge themselves to a sentient lump of Silly Putty for eternity. But maybe I shouldn't have been surprised? I remember The King of Queens. I know of According to Jim. It seems that this trope will never die!

At the same time, I genuinely enjoy what a weird choice Rob Zombie made for Satan and The Sire (coincidentally the name of one of my fave 80s sitcoms). It's one of the touches that sets The Lords of Salem apart from all the other "witch curses town during ye olde times, comes back, wreaks havoc" movies of its ilk. 

One of Zombie's strengths as a filmmaker lies in his casting decisions, and this cast is perhaps the best of the bunch. Geeson, Quinn, and Wallace as that trio of sinister sisters! Andrew Prine as Hawthorne! A toupéed DJ Ken Foree! Maria Conchita Alonso! A Barbara Crampton cameo! This shit just keeps on giving. And while Sheri Moon Zombie's acting skills are often maligned, she really holds her own in the lead role, even if she reaches beyond the range of her abilities at times. 

This movie does descend into Looney Toons territory at times, but overall Zombie employs, dare I say,  a restrained hand throughout. The local shots of Salem are another bonus; fall in New England vibes are welcome in my world at any time, but especially now as we head into the toasty bowels of summer.

My brain still has enough power to understand that for me, The Lords of Salem is and will likely remain an anomaly in the filmography of Mr. Robert Zombie. I have no desire to check out any of his existing work that I've yet to see. But I will also hold onto the hope that he will once again surprise me with another lump of a movie that will worm its way into my dirt witch heart. Long live the cunting daughters!