The Lords of Salem (film)

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The Lords of Salem
Theatrical release poster
Directed byRob Zombie
Written byRob Zombie
Produced by
CinematographyBrandon Trost
Edited byGlenn Garland
Music by
Distributed by
Release dates
  • September 10, 2012 (2012-09-10) (TIFF)
  • April 19, 2013 (2013-04-19) (United States, limited)
Running time
101 minutes
Budget$1.5 million[5]
Box office$1.5 million[5]

The Lords of Salem is a 2012 supernatural horror film written, produced, and directed by Rob Zombie. It stars Sheri Moon Zombie, Bruce Davison, Jeff Daniel Phillips, Ken Foree, Patricia Quinn, Dee Wallace, María Conchita Alonso, Judy Geeson, and Meg Foster. The plot focuses on a troubled female disc jockey in Salem, Massachusetts, whose life becomes entangled with a coven of ancient Satan-worshipping women.

The film started shooting on October 17, 2011, and premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival on September 10, 2012. Rob Zombie's novelization of The Lords of Salem was released on March 12, 2013, and the film was given a limited release on April 19, 2013.[6][7] The film received mixed reviews from critics.


In Salem, Massachusetts, Heidi (Sheri Moon Zombie), a recovering drug addict, works as a DJ at a hard rock station with her co-workers Whitey (Jeff Daniel Phillips) and Munster (Ken Foree). She receives a strange wooden box containing an album by a band named The Lords. At her apartment, she and Whitey listen to the record, which is a series of string and woodwind instruments playing several notes, then repeating itself. Heidi has a vision of women who worship Satan, at an unspecified time in the past, ritually birthing a baby then damning the child. The vision stops once Whitey turns the record off.

The next day, Heidi interviews Francis Matthias (Bruce Davison), who has written a book about the Salem witch trials. The station then plays the Lords' record, which causes all of the women in Salem (other than Heidi) to enter a trance. After the show is over, Matthias tells his wife (María Conchita Alonso) that the band's name, The Lords, bothers him. That night, Heidi's landlord, Lacy (Judy Geeson), insists that Heidi split a bottle of wine with her and her sisters, Sonny (Dee Wallace) and Megan (Patricia Quinn). Megan, a palm reader, tells Heidi she's fated to succumb to her dark sexual desires: "the only reason you exist". Disturbed, Heidi leaves the party. Later, Heidi notices her dog is acting strangely. She enters the supposedly vacant apartment 5 and experiences visions of a demon and a nude witch which commands she "bleed us a king". Heidi wakes up in bed and assumes the events in apartment 5 were a vivid nightmare.

Troubled, Heidi visits a church and falls asleep, dreaming that she is sexually assaulted by the priest present. Heidi flees the church but is faced with a ghostly entity who tells her that he has been waiting for her. Meanwhile, Matthias researches the Lords, and discovers some music in a book. After asking his wife to play the notes on their piano, confirms that it is the same music heard on the record. Matthias tracks down the author, who tells him that in the seventeenth century a Rev. Hawthorne (Andrew Prine) accused a coven of Satan worshippers of creating the music to control the women of Salem. As a result, Hawthorne had the women executed, but not before their leader, Margaret Morgan (Meg Foster), put a curse on both the Salem women and Hawthorne's descendants, calling his bloodline "the vessel by which the devil's child would inherit the earth". Further research shows Heidi is a descendant of Rev. Hawthorne.

Heidi's radio station announces they will be giving away tickets to the upcoming Lords of Salem concert, and the record is played again, which causes Heidi to have more strange visions that disturb her. Distraught, she spends the night at Whitey's home, but experiences visions before waking up in her own apartment. Heidi begins using drugs again. While under the influence of drugs, Lacy, Sonny, and Megan take Heidi to apartment 5. Inside, there appears to be a huge opera house with a demon seated on a throne at the top of a staircase. She approaches him as he screams and embraces her with tentacle-like appendages, but later she finds her way back to her bedroom.

The next day, Matthias tries to tell Heidi the truth about the Lords and her lineage. Instead, Lacy and her sisters kill him. Heidi hears his murder taking place, but does nothing. Later at the concert, Heidi joins Lacy, Sonny, Megan, and the ghosts of Margaret and her coven in a satanic rite. The Lords' music causes the female audience members to strip off their clothing. In the midst of surreal visions, Heidi blissfully gives birth to a strange creature which looks akin to a crawfish, atop the corpses of the naked audience members. The next day, Heidi's station reports on a mass suicide at a rock concert, as well as the disappearance of Heidi.



The Lords of Salem is the third film from Haunted Movies, the first two being Insidious and The Bay. After directing the remake of Halloween and its sequel, Rob Zombie stated that he wanted to try something different and original. Also factoring into Zombie's decision was that he was offered complete creative freedom for the project, something that he did not have for either of his Halloween pictures.[8] Zombie had the idea for the movie before starting on the second Halloween movie; however, as he puts it, "it wasn't really like I was working on it. I was like, 'Oh, this would kind of be a cool idea. Like, Salem radio station, blah blah blah, music', and then [I] forgot I even wrote that down."[9] After Jason Blum came to Zombie asking for something "supernatural in nature", Zombie was reminded of the Salem idea.[9] Despite this, Zombie stated that much of the original concept changed significantly, noting that once the project got underway that he "basically started writing it from scratch".[10]

Filming was done quickly, at a rate faster than Zombie was used to for his movies and as a result much of the script was changed to adjust to the abbreviated schedule.[11] Between the film wrapping and editing Zombie embarked on a tour with his band, which he stated "was a great idea on paper, but in execution it's been insanity."[11] The trailer debuted at Zombie's concert on May 11, 2012, at the PNC Bank Arts Center.[12] In an interview, Zombie said that the film would be his cinematically biggest film and described it as "if Ken Russell directed The Shining".[13] Lords became the last film of veteran actor Richard Lynch, who died in 2012 – though, due to Lynch's worsening health and being close to blindness, Rob Zombie could not film his scenes properly and was forced to re-shoot the scenes with Andrew Prine.[14] Later, actor Michael Berryman provided further insight in the problems on set: the opening sequence involved 4 pages of scenes that called for Berryman, Lynch, Haig and Prine (in another role). However, Lynch did not remember his lines, and he was called to read a declaration of judgement out loud, but as Lynch had trouble seeing, that did not work either so the actors were sent home. Rob Zombie was not given another shooting day on location and the situation was further complicated with Lynch's death. Not given the funds to film the sequence, much of it was dropped.[15]


The film holds a 57% rating on Metacritic based on 21 professional critic reviews, indicating "mixed or average reviews".[16] It has a 46% rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on 65 reviews and an average rating of 5.2/10. The consensus is, "The Lords of Salem has lots of atmospheric portent, but it's unfortunately short on scares."[17]

The initial response at the 2012 Toronto International Film Festival was overall positive, with Fangoria and The Playlist giving the film positive reviews.[18][19] compared it favorably to Dario Argento films like Suspiria but felt it would not appeal to mainstream audiences.[20] Twitch Film expressed enthusiasm over the film and recommended it to horror fans.[21] Charlotte Stear of HorrorTalk was slightly cooler, giving it three stars and saying "Within Rob Zombie I do believe is a brilliant, original horror movie just waiting to come out but sadly, The Lords of Salem isn't it."[22] Fearnet also panned the film, criticizing the choice of Sheri Moon as the main character and focus.[23] Bloody Disgusting posted two reviews, one panning it and the other praising it.[24][25]

Nick Schager from Slant Magazine wrote: "Rob Zombie understands horror as an aural-visual experience that should gnaw at the nerves, seep into the subconscious, and beget unshakeable nightmares."[26] New York Post's V.A. Mussetto praised the film: "Movies by Rob Zombie, the goth rocker turned cult filmmaker, aren't for everybody. But he couldn't care less. He makes movies exactly the way he wants to, with no thought of pleasing mainstream audiences. They can like it or lump it. His latest effort, The Lords of Salem, is true to form."[27] Zombie's fifth feature film received approval from Mark Olsen (Los Angeles Times), who admits The Lords of Salem "is like some queasy-making machine, a chamber piece of possession and madness that exerts a strange, disturbing power."[28] Simon Abrams gave the film 3 out of 4 stars, feeling Rob Zombie "tested his considerable skills and tried something different" in his first film with full creative control and describing Sheri Moon Zombie's performance as her best yet.[29]

Awards and nominations[edit]

Year Award Category Recipient(s) Result Ref.
2013 South by Southwest Audience Award—Midnight Films Rob Zombie Nominated [30]
2013 Fright Meter Awards Best Score John 5 Won [31]
Best Cinematography Brandon Trost Nominated [31]
Horror Central Fan's Choice Awards Favorite Horror Film Rob Zombie Nominated [32]
Best Screenplay Nominated [32]
Screamworthy—Best of 2013 Nominated [33]
2014 Fangoria Chainsaw Awards Best Limited-Release/Direct-to-Video Film Write-in [34]
Best Actress Sheri Moon Zombie
Best Supporting Actress Meg Foster
Best Screenplay Rob Zombie
Best Score John 5, Griffin Boice
Best Makeup/Creature FX Wayne Toth


A novelization of the film, written by Zombie and contributor B. K. Evenson, was released on March 12, 2013.[7][35] Zombie and Evenson began working on the novelization after Zombie's manager had been approached by Grand Central Publishing about a potential book tie-in.[36] The idea interested Zombie, who expressed a fondness for movie tie-in novels as a child.[36]

Of the book, Zombie has also commented that it "offers a different experience from the film since it can obviously go into much more detail" and that the book is based on the original screenplay for Lords of Salem, which differs significantly from the final script used in the film.[36][37]

The book also marks Rob Zombie's first time appearing on the New York Times Bestseller List.[citation needed]

Critical reception for the novel has been mixed.[38] The Boston Globe praised Zombie's novelization, saying that the "writing throughout is graphic—definitely not for the squeamish—but the pace escalates compellingly".[39] In contrast, Publishers Weekly gave a negative review for the book, criticizing parts of the book as "predictable", "unengaging and not particularly scary".[40]


In October 2012 Zombie stated that he had hired guitarist John 5 to create the movie's score. John 5 remarked that he wanted to create "material that wouldn't distract audiences but also wouldn't be easily forgotten".[41] Zombie later released the soundtrack's central song, "All Tomorrow's Parties" by The Velvet Underground & Nico, commenting that "Every RZ movie has at least one song that gets stuck in your head and changes the way you will forever hear the song".[42] The Lords of Salem's soundtrack was released by UMe on April 16, 2013.[43] Although not on the soundtrack CD, the film makes prominent use of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's Requiem and Johann Sebastian Bach's Sei gegrüsset, Jesu gütig, BWV 768.[citation needed]

Track list[edit]

1."Open Wide the Gates" Meg Foster0:29
2."The Curse of Margaret Morgan"John 5 & Griffin Boice 1:59
3."Blinded by the Light"Bruce SpringsteenManfred Mann's Earth Band3:47
4."No Person in Number Five" Judy Geeson, Sheri Moon Zombie0:15
5."A Special Child"John 5 & Griffin Boice 2:25
6."Our Philosophy" Torsten Voges0:18
7."Crushing the Ritual"Rob Zombie & John 5Leviathan the Fleeing Serpent3:53
8."Give It to Me Baby"Rick James 4:08
9."Ladies Choice" Jeff Phillips, Ken Foree, Sheri Moon Zombie0:12
10."The Spirit of Radio"Neil Peart, Geddy Lee & Alex LifesonRush4:56
11."Smash or Trash" Sheri Moon Zombie, Ken Foree, Jeff Phillips0:20
12."The Lords Theme"John 5 & Griffin Boice 0:49
13."Salem Rocks" Sheri Moon Zombie, Ken Foree, Jeff Phillips0:25
14."Venus in Furs"Lou ReedThe Velvet Underground5:09
15."Three Sisters"John 5 & Griffin Boice 2:06
16."You Know What I Think?" Judy Geeson, Bruce Davison0:21
17."I'll Always Know"John 5 & Griffin Boice 2:38
18."Apartment Five"John 5 & Griffin Boice 1:30
19."Lord Hear Us" Judy Geeson, Patricia Quinn, Dee Wallace0:35
20."All Tomorrow's Parties"Lou ReedThe Velvet Underground, Nico5:57
21."WIQZ News" Donald Felix1:22


  1. ^ a b c d e "The Lords of Salem (2013)". AFI Catalog of Feature Films. Retrieved June 27, 2021.
  2. ^ "The Lords of Salem (2013) - Financial Information". The Numbers. Retrieved 7 July 2021.
  3. ^ a b Lodderhose, Diane (3 February 2011). "Rob Zombie to shoot 'Salem' in the spring". Variety.
  4. ^ "Film #43700: The Lords of Salem". Lumiere. Retrieved 26 May 2021.
  5. ^ a b "The Lords of Salem (2013)". Box Office Mojo. May 16, 2013. Retrieved February 28, 2022.
  6. ^ "Hot Exclusive Clip: Rob Zombie's 'The Lords Of Salem'". Deadline. 8 February 2013. Retrieved February 10, 2013.
  7. ^ a b "ZOMBIE'S "THE LORDS OF SALEM" NOVEL EXCERPT TO RUN IN FANGORIA". Fangoria. Archived from the original on May 18, 2013. Retrieved February 10, 2013.
  8. ^ Fleming, Mike (22 September 2010). "Rob Zombie Bewitched by 'Lords of Salem". Deadline.
  9. ^ a b Smith, Nigel M. (12 September 2012). "Rob Zombie on Going for Broke With 'Lords of Salem' and Why Making a Third 'Halloween' Would Be "Masochistic"". Indiewire. Retrieved February 28, 2022.
  10. ^ Barone, Matt. "Interview: Rob Zombie Talks "The Lords of Salem" and Why He Doesn't Care If You Like It". Complex. Retrieved 20 July 2015.
  11. ^ a b Williams, Owen. "Exclusive: Empire Meets Rob Zombie". Empire. Retrieved 20 July 2015.
  12. ^ Fleming, Mike Jr. (September 22, 2010). "Rob Zombie Bewitched by 'Lords of Salem'". Deadline. Retrieved February 28, 2022.
  14. ^ "Interview: Rob Zombie talks The Lords of Salem". Daily Dead. 13 September 2012. Retrieved February 10, 2013.
  15. ^ Video on YouTube
  16. ^ "The Lords of Salem". Metacritic.
  17. ^ "The Lords of Salem". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved October 29, 2019.
  18. ^ ""THE LORDS OF SALEM" (TIFF MOVIE REVIEW)". Fangoria. Archived from the original on April 30, 2013. Retrieved February 10, 2013.
  19. ^ "Review: Unnerving 'Lords of Salem' Is Rob Zombie's Best Film Yet". IndieWire. 17 April 2013. Retrieved February 28, 2022.
  20. ^ "The Lords of Salem Review". Retrieved February 10, 2013.
  21. ^ Aldrich, Ryland. "TIFF 2012 Review: THE LORDS OF SALEM Is a Slick Satanic Head Trip". Twitch. Archived from the original on 2013-05-17.
  22. ^ "The Lords of Salem Movie Review". Retrieved February 14, 2013.
  23. ^ "FEARnet Movie Review: 'The Lords of Salem'". FEARnet. Archived from the original on March 17, 2013. Retrieved March 23, 2013.
  24. ^ "[BD Review] 'The Lords of Salem', A Slow Burn Letdown With Striking Imagery". Bloody Disgusting. 11 September 2012. Retrieved March 23, 2013.
  25. ^ "[TIFF '12 Review] Style Is Substance In Rob Zombie's 'The Lords Of Salem'". Bloody Disgusting. 15 September 2012. Retrieved April 7, 2013.
  26. ^ "The Lords of Salem". Slant Magazine. 14 April 2013. Retrieved April 22, 2013.
  27. ^ "'The Lords Of Salem' review". New York Post. 19 April 2013. Retrieved February 28, 2022.
  28. ^ "Review: Unnerving 'The Lords of Salem' taps Rob Zombie's dark side". Los Angeles Times. 18 April 2013. Retrieved April 22, 2013.
  29. ^ Abrams, Simon. "The Lords of Salem Movie Review (2013)". Roger Ebert.
  30. ^ "SXSW Film Festival (Austin, Texas, USA) – 2013 Awards". IMDb. Archived from the original on September 9, 2020. Retrieved September 9, 2020.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link)
  31. ^ a b "2013 Fright Meter Award Winners". Fright Meter Awards. Retrieved September 9, 2020.
  32. ^ a b "What are YOUR favorite Horror Films of 2013?". Horror Central. Archived from the original on January 12, 2014. Retrieved September 9, 2020.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link)
  33. ^ "Screamworthy Award". Horror Central. Archived from the original on September 9, 2020. Retrieved September 9, 2020.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link)
  34. ^ Gingold, Michael (May 29, 2014). "The 2014 FANGORIA Chainsaw Awards Results!". Fangoria. Archived from the original on 2014-05-29. Retrieved September 9, 2020.
  35. ^ "Make a Date with The Lords of Salem and Dive into a Novelization". Dread Central. 7 December 2012. Retrieved February 28, 2022.
  36. ^ a b c "Q&A: ROB ZOMBIE TALKS "LORDS OF SALEM" NOVEL, NEW ALBUM AND MUCH MORE". Rob Zom. 11 March 2013. Retrieved March 11, 2013.
  37. ^ "Release date for The Lords of Salem and movie tie-in book announce (PRE-Order book)". Rob Zombie. 7 December 2012. Retrieved February 28, 2022.
  38. ^ ""The Lords of Salem" Book Review". Horror Talk. Retrieved March 23, 2013.
  39. ^ "BOOK REVIEW 'The Lords of Salem' by Rob Zombie". Boston Globe. Retrieved March 23, 2013.
  40. ^ "Fiction Review: The Lords of Salem". Publishers Weekly. Retrieved March 23, 2013.
  41. ^ "Rob Zombie guitarist John 5 explains 'The Lords of Salem' score". Daily Herald. 9 October 2012. Retrieved February 28, 2022.
  42. ^ "ROB ZOMBIE REVEALS THE LORDS OF SALEM'S SOUNDTRACK CENTERPIECE". JoBlo. 14 September 2012. Retrieved February 10, 2013.
  43. ^ "The Lords of Salem Soundtrack". Retrieved April 28, 2013.

External links[edit]