Written by: Matt Molgaard
Rob Zombie’s become recognized as one of today’s most prominent figures occupying the landscape of horror. To call the man’s career iconic is about the equivalent of calling Edgar Allen Poe a good writer. Rob actually transcends horror, and he manages such an accomplishment in large part due to a passion unbridled and an unwavering dedication to all things macabre. From the infectious chant of “demon-warp is coming alive in 1965, five, five – yeah” to the barrage of homage sequences in his debut feature film, House of 1000 Corpses, Rob breathes horror.
A dedicated legion of fans have ensured that Zombie keeps one foot (and an arm, a chunk of cranium, probably a few extra phalanges, etc. etc.) firmly planted in the genre, and his latest offering, The Lords of Salem looks to be another film aimed at those who cherish throwback mysticism and good old fashioned grainy terror. But Rob’s taken his latest brainchild to another level, opting to release a novelization of the film to coincide with the picture’s release.
Brilliant marketing move Rob, absolutely brilliant!
While I was one of the misfortunate that sadly missed early screenings of The Lords of Salem, I was gifted the chance to get an advance look at the novel, and I’ve got to say that between Rob Zombie and scribe B.K. Evenson, we’ve got a gem on our hands; the public is in store for a treat come March 12th. How the cinematic rendition compares to the literary remains a mystery to me, but I can say wholeheartedly that the novel kicks serious satanic ass.
Outlining the story without tarnishing the experience for those still unfamiliar with the project proves far less challenging than expected. The Lords of Salem, at the core, is a contemporary spin on the Salem Witch Trials of 1692. In fact, while this is indeed Rob’s own approach to such a loathsome occurrence in history, there really isn’t an overwhelming spin on the facts. Zombie and Evenson remain faithful to history, going so far as to even incorporate some of the actual individuals involved in the original trial. The Mather’s are present in the story, as are the Hathornes (spelled Hawthorne in this specific telling), and, I’m sure if I dig around enough in search of facts, rather than relying solely on memory, I’ll probably dig up a few other historical individuals that find their way into this fictional narrative.
Personally, I love the loyalty to the history at work. It lends a sense of validity to the entire reading (and hopefully viewing) experience, and I applaud Zombie for not only sticking to his roots, but burying his head in the history books. A load of research was clearly invested in The Lords of Salem, and it pays off on an amusement and an informative level.
The major twist of the story arrives on the shoulders of the vengeful spirits who have returned centuries post-execution. These wicked individuals, determined to summon an evil the world cannot possibly prepare for, have returned to turn the lives of the living descendants of the original Salem Witch Trials’ persecutors upside down and inside out. They’ve resurfaced in search of blood, and anyone who happens to bear any relation to those responsible for the infamous mass execution (roughly 20 people were exterminated during the “trials”) are targeted. The blood flows freely, the darkness is pronounced and the novel’s pacing is wonderful.
Heidi Hawthorne, Whitey and Herman make up the “Big H” radio deejay trio who fall into the scope of Zombie and Evenson. Heidi’s the true point of focus, as she’s one of the aforementioned descendants of the Salem persecutors, but Whitey and Herman serve as equally compelling personalities, equipped with plenty of memorable idiosyncrasies and generally endearing personalities. You couldn’t ask for a stronger pair of supporting characters, and the synergy shared by the three exceeds simple believability and far, far surpasses expectations. These three are the perfect triangle of colorful thought and impacting action. Each plays a pivotal role in the tale, and unlike some of the characters conceived by Zombie in the past, they’re all vastly different. The fact that they form one cohesive unit is further testament to Zombie’s growth in regards to manufacturing multifarious characters.
Evenson’s technical prose isn’t astoundingly articulate, so don’t expect a tale of the most complex assembly. That level of storytelling isn’t present here. However, B.K.’s forthright delivery ensures the novel bypasses the myopic and mundane. The Lords of Salem bowls over the imagination with in-your-face brutality, graphic imagery, unforgiving menace and believe it or not, some touching humanity. There’s simply no time to be lulled into boredom, and there are extremely few hiccups here to nit-pick. This is a savage story that slams readers in the cerebral cortex like a sledgehammer to the forehead.
And, for those of you wondering, Zombie’s love of vintage horror fare is unquestionably evident in this piece of work. Denying the nod’s to legendary film works like Roman Polanski’s 1968 masterpiece “Rosemary’s Baby” and Charles Martin Smith’s 1986 offering “Trick or Treat” is an absolute impossibility (unless you live under a rock and have somehow managed to miss two pieces of highly entertaining film). Zombie has once more let the homage bug run free, and B.K. Evenson has taken up those appreciative reigns with pleasure.
As noted, I cannot yet speak on the quality of The Lords of Salem as a motion picture. On paper however, this is a scintillating story that grabs readers by the balls and refuses to relinquish a death grip that keeps the eyes bulging, the veins pulsating and the mind running a mile a minute. It comes with great joy noting that Rob Zombie, B.K. Evenson and Grand Central Publishing have an official grand slam on their on hands!
Pre-order The Lords of Salem right here, right now!