Friday Fright Feature: Book Review – The Lords of Salem by Rob Zombie

lords of salem cover

Lords of Salem
by Rob Zombie and B.K. Evenson
Grand Central Publishing
$14.66 (Hardcover) | $10.88 (Paperback) | $12.95 (Kindle Edition)
Release Date: March 12, 2013
Review copy received from the publisher in exchange for an honest review
Browse Inside this Book!

The Lords of Salem movie comes out April 19, 2013. For the official movie website, click here.

Plot Description:

Heidi Hawthorne is a thirty-seven-year-old FM radio DJ and a recovering drug addict. Struggling with her newfound sobriety and creeping depression, Heidi suddenly receives an anonymous gift at the station-a mysteriously shaped wooden box branded with a strange symbol. Inside the box is a promotional record for a band that identifies themselves only as The Lords. There is no other information.

She decides to play it on the radio show as a joke, and the moment she does, horrible things begin to happen. The strange music awakens something evil in the town. Soon enough, terrifying murders begin to happen all around Heidi. Who are The Lords? What do they want?

As old bloodlines are awakened and the bodies start to pile up, only one thing seems certain: all hell is about to break loose.

From musician-turned-writer-slash-director Rob Zombie comes a supernatural thriller, The Lords of Salem, which is a novel and has a movie version, as well. The story kicks off in Salem, Massachussets in 1692 at the peak of the witch trials, which have been the subject of countless novels, movies, and documentaries (for a list of those, click here). It’s always difficult and in some cases near impossible to put a new twist on a tried-and-true, well-worn plot convention, event, or genre creature, particularly in the cases of the Salem Witch Trials and Satan. In Lords of Salem, neither of them are depicted in a particularly fresh or innovative manner. They do pretty much what horror fans expect of them. If you’re looking for clever, nuanced horror, you won’t find it here, but fans of Rob Zombie’s work want a more “in your face”, familiar approach to horror that will guarantee them thrills and chills, and this book definitely doesn’t lack either.

The “revenge” motif is perhaps one of the most overused with Salem Witch Trial tales, usually taking the point of view of the wronged and innocent women accused of witchcraft who were tortured and killed, or from those who actually really were witches according to the story, and were caught and executed, vowing to return and wreak havoc on the descendents of those that wronged them. The Lords of Salem is of the latter variety, starting off with a prologue in which Mistress Morgan leads a coven of Satan-worshipping witches who brutally eviscerate a pregnant woman for their “Master” until they get caught by a band of witch hunters, including Hawthorne, who witness Morgan become possessed by Satan, vowing to take revenge on Hawthorne’s descendents for what he did to them.

We then flash forward to the present day with Heidi (short for Adelheid), Hawthorne’s descendent in question, who the witches soon find. She works at a radio station, which reinforces the connection between Rob Zombie and music (and the rest of the text is peppered with musical references, as well as using music cleverly to tie it to demonic appearances), along with Herman, nicknamed “Whitey” despite his race and size. It’s not long before Heidi starts seeing things, including what she swears is a figure standing outside apartment 5 in her building. But when she questions her landlady, Lacy, about it, the woman informs her that there’s no one there. Although the pacing slows a bit toward the middle, things pick up when the demonic entities Mistress Morgan promised would come after Heidi stay true to their word and begin to torture her through dreams, mental images, and physical acts. There’s quite a bit of violence and sadistic sexual acts depicted here, so more squeamish readers may want to sit this one out.

The novel, although written in a generally good narrative style, reads much like a movie tie-in, and is cinematic to a large degree, and although it makes for a rollicking good time for die-hard horror buffs, I’m almost tempted to say it’s better to watch the film, although if you read the book, it sets up a nice preview of what you can expect to see on the big screen when the movie comes out, which can perhaps enhance the movie viewing experience. Although it’s plain to see where the book is headed from the beginning, the ride to get to the end is an interesting one.

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