The Lords of Salem (2012) By Michael Campochiaro of Starfire Lounge

It’s October, the autumn air is turning cool and crisp, and I’m itching to watch as many horror movies as I can this month. Every year I make room in the Halloween watchlist for old favorites, but also for relatively new classics. One of those more recent classics is The Lords of Salem (2012). Written and directed by Rob Zombie, The Lords of Salem explores what happens when a Salem, Massachusetts disc jockey becomes dangerously entangled with an ancient coven of Satan-worshipping witches. Zombie’s wife and frequent collaborator Sheri Moon Zombie plays the hard rock DJ Heidi, while horror and cult movie veterans Dee Wallace, Judy Geeson, Meg Foster, and Ken Foree, among others, round out the cast.

In the decade since its release, The Lords of Salem has become a bit of a cult classic, at least among discerning horror fans who love a good, scary witch story. In my opinion, Zombie has never made a better film. His movies are often hit or miss for me, with House of 1,000 Corpses(2003) and Devil’s Rejects (2005) being major hits, while his two Halloween remakes and 31 (2016) were less impressive. As much as I love House of 1,000 Corpses and Devil’s Rejects though, The Lords of Salem exists on a different level. It’s a haunting and impactful work of art, the sort of movie that sticks with you forever, giving you instant shivers any time you recall it’s finest, most disturbing moments.

Zombie establishes a thick, suffocating sense of dread from the start that never lets up. The film is drenched in chilling, autumnal atmospherics. Between cinematography, editing, score, and performances, all elements work in perfect harmony to create something altogether unsettling. There are several disturbing shots in the film that linger in the mind’s eye long after the end credits. Zombie was at his creative peak with The Lords of Salem, no doubt about it. It sure doesn’t hurt that he has legends like Meg Foster and Bruce Davison turning in stellar performances, or that the Salem, Massachusetts locations are obviously perfect for a horror story about witches.

Let’s take a minute to praise Sheri Moon Zombie’s lead performance. Whatever you may think of Mrs. Zombie’s talents, she has earned her stripes in several of her husband’s flicks, during which she’s delivered what the roles demand. In House of 1,000 Corpses, she’s a demented loose cannon, cackling and strutting around the Firefly clan’s house of horrors. With The Lords of Salem, she’s called on to play it much more low key, even solemn at times, and she succeeds at matching the film’s excessively gloomy tone. In her hands, Heidi’s harrowing descent into the ancient coven’s grasp is sad to watch.

Once we realize why the witches want Heidi, it begins to feel like she’s practically helpless to defend herself. That’s a bold move by Zombie: as the movie progresses, any hopes for a happy ending feel increasingly unlikely. If this all sounds like a bummer, it is, but that’s why I love it so much! It commits to relentless tension building and doesn’t give us any easy outs. For me, that’s why The Lords of Salem is Rob Zombie’s masterwork, and the film of his that sits most comfortably alongside other excellent, slow-burn horror classics like Messiah of Evil (1973) and Next of Kin (1982). It’s a remarkable display of restraint from Zombie, a filmmaker more associated with frenzied chaos than with this film’s stark, autumnal horror. If you’re looking for a perfect Halloween season movie to watch on a chilly October evening this year, then turn the lights down low, fire up The Lords of Salem, and prepare to have trouble sleeping that night.

UNK SEZ: Make sure to visit our pal Mike at his home base HERE!

Five Black and White Horror Flicks Perfect for Halloween

It doesn't quite feel like Halloween unless I get some black-and-white films in my diet. I know y'all know to check out the classic UNIVERSAL stuff that includes all the usual suspects (FRANKENSTEIN, WOLF MAN, THE MUMMY, et al.) and I know you've heard me harp on and on about supernatural favorites like THE HAUNTING, THE INNOCENTS, BURN, WITCH, BURN, CURSE OF THE DEMON, THE UNINVITED and HORROR HOTEL. And certainly you know enough to salute any and everything within a seven mile radius of the name VAL LEWTON (GHOST SHIP, 7TH VICTIM, CAT PEOPLE and assorted kin) but here are five more glorious and nutritious mood setting B&W features that deserve a tip of the pointy witch's hat this time of year!


I'll never forget the fine night I fell asleep in front of the TV and woke up to this gem and was instantly mesmerized. Somehow this one is known as a tag along B-flick but it could have fooled me with its incredible atmosphere and memorable visual flair (which includes a smoke-framed POV shot from within a fireplace). There's a gloomy, fog-dipped mansion on a seaside cliff (with massive stain glass windows), an ancient family curse involving a ferocious fuzzy beast and wall-to-wall off-beat characters trying to figure it all out. My only complaint is that it's too short!


This FRANK CAPRA flick based on the popular stage play is a well-known classic of course but I don't think we've mentioned it enough around here. CARY GRANT should be more than enough to charm you into checking it out but if horror fans require more: it includes plenty of murder and mayhem; it takes place on a Halloween day littered with swirling dead leaves; and it features PETER LORRE and RAYMOND MASSEY doing a fine impression of BORIS KARLOFF, his costar in another B&W necessity, JAMES WHALE's THE OLD DARK HOUSE.


Please don't act like you've seen enough movies starring THE BAD SEED's momma NANCY KELLY because you know you haven't. Here she stars as a lady who returns to her hometown after surviving an incredible bus accident (the special effect showing a toy bus falling over a miniature cliff is adorable) and begins to suspect that thanks to her witch hunting ancestor, she's living under a witch's curse and may be possessed by a dead witch herself. I certainly could do without the tacked on ending that explains all of the cool stuff we've witnessed away (boo, science!) but otherwise this is one highly entertaining and pleasantly spooky flick.


Exactly one year ago today on October 28, 2014, I was singing the praises of this movie so jump back in time and read all about that HERE.


This is another one we've talked about before (HERE) but I'm bringing it up again because it was just recently finally released on DVD (under the title HAMMER FILMS COLLECTION) thanks to the wonderful and generous folks over at MILL CREEK. I got my copy for less than 5 bucks and it includes four other movies for crying out loud! You can't beat that kids, not even with a broomstick!!!

The Victim (1972)

Ack, can't we slow this October thing down? This weekend is Halloween and I'm not even properly spooked yet unless you include the other night when I had to get up to use the bathroom and I was super worried that I'd have a heart attack if I bumped into that scary plague doctor dude from that creepy Polish viral video.

To be honest, as much as I appreciate everybody's enthusiasm for the holiday, sometimes all the desperate commercialism and pumpkin latte caramel spice crap can dampen my fervor and that's when I need to go old school! In an effort to achieve the desired mood, the other night I realized that I had to find a super rainy movie with lots of howling wind and tons of hoary lightening sound effects. I'm comforted by the fact that nearly every stormy seventies TV offering features the same familiar cracks and crashes. If I'm especially lucky I'll stumble into something that sports the same stock footage of lightening that appears at the beginning of GILLIGAN'S ISLAND.

Happily I stumbled into the 1972 TV movie THE VICTIM starring ELIZABETH MONTGOMERY and holy crap, EILEEN (BAD SEED, BURNT OFFERINGS) HECKART!!! If you're keeping tabs that's a score, a score and a double score (I probably just lost some of our younger readers just then to whom I say buh-bye). MONTGOMERY plays a lady named Kate who visits her sister unaware that her sister was recently murdered. The killer decides that they might as well kill Kate too and the whole movie is her running around in an empty house in the middle of the night trying to avoid being murdered. It actually has a very similar premise as this Australian movie I just watched called LADY STAY DEAD (1981) but it also reminded me a bit of THE HOUSE OF THE DEVIL with its minimalism and limited location.

The ending kinda sucks. I'll be real. It's even a little extra frustrating because it could have been easily saved by one line of dialogue. It sort of just leaves you hanging and even though I can't say it doesn't give you all the information you need, it certainly doesn't emphasize it in a satisfactory manner. But that's just the very end and I can't negate an entire song just because of one weak note at the close. Otherwise, I absolutely dig the mood and music of this baby and felt it hit the spot. Even though I never caught this corny creeper as a kid, everything about it makes me feel like I'm staying up late and braving the danger zone. If you are of a like mind check it out but I'd say wait till late at night and make sure to pretend your computer is a portable television set. It's not at all scary but it will put you in the mood to be scared and that tastes a lot better than cinnamon pumpkin spice gingerbread crap.

Rob Zombie's Halloween 3

It's that time of year when I tend to watch every movie in the HALLOWEEN series and yes, that does include ROB ZOMBIE's 2007 stab and especially its profound 2009 sequel. With the news announced that the next HALLOWEEN installment will be a direct continuation of 1981's HALLOWEEN II, I guess I'll have to get used to the fact that I won't be seeing ROB ZOMBIE's HALLOWEEN 3 anytime soon.

That's just what you naysayers would like, isn't it? Well, it just so happens that I am not bound to the laws of your puny reality and in fact, I have already carved out my own dimension in which ROB ZOMBIE's HALLOWEEN 3 does indeed exist! What's more, it's standing right there under your pointy nose and it just happens to be called THE LORDS OF SALEM! You heard that right, from this day forth I'm just going to watch TLOS as if it were a very loose remake of H3:SOTW. Go ahead, try and sue me! No professional lawyer in his or her right mind would take your case! To be on the safe side though, let's look at the mountains of spurious evidence I've haphazardly compiled. Shall we?

Let's get the most obvious similarity out of the way first and that similarity is the overall lack of similarity! LORDS OF SALEM is to ROB ZOMBIE's two back-to-back HALLOWEEN films as H3: SEASON OF THE WITCH is to the original HALLOWEEN films in that they both feature a completely different storyline. Not for nothing, both movies directly focus on witchcraft and the pestilential use of black magic. And hey look... TLOS and SOTW have only one letter that differentiates them in the initials of their respective titles too! That probably doesn't seem like a big deal but when it comes to witchcraft, stuff like that matters. I think.

*Both films feature an actress who appeared in the first two installments (alive in the first, dead in the second) now playing a completely different role and sporting a hairstyle I'm not entirely on board with.

*HALLOWEEN 3 famously features a song that has the power to corrupt and destroy (The Silver Shamrock jingle) and yep, that's a pivotal part of TLOS too.

*Yikes! Silent, robot-like henchmen are seen roaming about!

*Look at these three darling ladies! They look harmless enough but that's not the case! They are wearing masks, so to speak, and should not be trusted!

Stand warned, troikas are powerful and the most powerful troikas fit a somewhat particular design. There is the grounding mother/boss (witch) symbolizing birth, there is the more jovial prankster (pumpkin) representing life and the final is the darkest, death (skull) representing conflict, closure and the proverbial kicking of the bucket. These three can be found in the duplicitous witches in TLOS and they appear in baser forms as H3's iconic Silver Shamrock masks. Here are some other examples:

(In some cases there may be overlapping characteristics here and there but you get the idea.)

It is important to note that in both the case of SEASON OF THE WITCH and THE LORDS OF SALEM, the nefarious plan to utilize witchcraft to trigger devastation can be deemed successful and that our heroes' attempts to alter the outcome are for naught. In one flick, the darkness seeps in thanks to a door left open by a nationwide addiction to consumerism and in the other, a more personal rekindled drug addiction is to blame... but what's the difference when the end result is pretty much the same?

Still not convinced? Neither am I! Oh well! What can I say; I enjoy a facetious fan theory every once in a while. I guess my point is that a fellow needs to watch something after they've finished the entire HALLOWEEN series and THE LORDS OF SALEM hits the spot for me because....witches! You can't do Halloween without witches! Nope, there's no replacing the one of a kind insanity-mobile that is H3: SOTW but I still hold strong to the belief that two films concerning witches scheming to cause mayhem on a massive scale can stand side by side in harmony! If witches have taught us anything it's that there's strength in numbers!

Watch This:: The Elvira Show (Unaired Pilot)

Today is the day I finally realized without a shadow of a doubt that I am trapped in the wrong dimension! I do not belong in this hell world where the pilot for THE ELVIRA SHOW went unaired. I belong in the alternate universe where THE ELVIRA SHOW ran for six seasons and now airs nightly repeats in syndication. Get me out of this damned dimension! I want to go home!

Halloween, it's Not Just for Halloween Anymore!

UNK SEZ: A couple years ago I listed ten of my favorite movies that took place on Halloween (HERE). There's probably not too many surprises on that list but hey, I had a relatively limited barrel of apples to bob from. This year I thought it might be better to pick out ten films that have NOTHING to do with Halloween but that still somehow carry something that feels like the Halloween spirit to me. These movies don't involve the holiday itself, but their tone or subject matter is simpatico and regardless of their aspirations or taste level, they all share a healthy respect for the eerie unknown.

BURN WITCH BURN (1962) Behind every great man is a great witch. Skeptic Norman Taylor learns the hard way which side his bread is buttered on when his life goes to pot after he forces his wife to can her craft. BURN (aka NIGHT OF THE EAGLE) earns extra charm points for allowing me to cram THE INNOCENTS into the conversation as its star PETER WYNGARDE appeared in that classic as the menacing Quint!

CURSE (NIGHT) OF THE DEMON (1957) (not to be confused with NIGHT OF THE DEMONS (1988) which does take place on Halloween) When will science ever learn to take its hat off when black magic is in the room? You'll find some kids cavorting in spooky masks in this non-Halloween tale and I swear the holiday itself makes a cameo in the form of a chillingly ominous windstorm. Non-believers beware!

THE EVIL (1978) What Halloween is complete without a visit to a haunted house and what better time period to dress the excursion in than the late seventies? Subtly is refreshingly kicked to the curb and any thoughts that you've seen all this before are swept away by a surreal eleventh hour house-call call by old scratch himself!

ONE DARK NIGHT (1982) Staying overnight in a haunted house is one thing but who would have the nerve to camp out in a psychically animated corpse occupied mausoleum? Possibly tame by today's standards, who can complain when the company you are keeping includes MEG TILLY (PSYCHO II) and more importantly the one and only E.G. DAILY? Keep an eye out for my favorite tunnel (Los Angeles'2nd Street), which has also appeared in BLADE RUNNER and THE TERMINATOR among others!

WITCHBOARD (1986) If you'd like to know what it's like to be the best Ouija board-centered horror move ever made, you'll have to ask this one! I don't know what's more awesome, the first glimpse of bearded, axe-wielding evil spirit Malfeitor or seeing music video vixen TAWNY KITAEN dressed in drag. Extra points for yanking a still feisty ROSE MARIE and quirky character actress KATHLEEN WILHOITE into the mix!!

GHOULIES (1985) Silly though it may be, there's something so weird going on in this movie that I have to give it a nod. I find the titular creatures more adorable than scary so I'm placing blame solely on "Greedigut," the lady little person with the ill-fitting demonic voice (the late great TAMARA DeTREAUX) for my inexplicable unease. Joining the kooky chaos is JENNIFER's LISA PELIKAN, KILLER PARTY's RALPH SEYMOUR, TWIN PEAKS' JACK NANCE and good lordy, MARISKA HARGITAY!

STIR OF ECHOES (1999) You'll find a career high performance from KEVIN BACON here and even more impressively, a truly unique and refreshingly un-flashy presentation of the supernatural. What sets this flick apart is its sense of loss, after the scares have dissipated, there's a rank tragic vibe that's a little bit harder to shake. Extra points added for recruiting both ILLEANA DOUGLAS and the unnerving nightmare LIDSVILLE to take part in this spooky RICHARD MATHESON-penned mystery.

THE GATE (1987) Aw, remember the giddy fun it was when your parents would take off and leave you alone in the house all night as a kid? Makes me want to pop corn and watch QUINCY M.E. This movie is tons of fun and the stop motion monsters are super cool yet how flipping scary is it when the folks return home but are not acting quite themselves? SPEILBERG would be proud (if he was drunk). Extra points rewarded for upgrading the usual dusty book with a heavy metal record played backwards!

DOLLS (1987) Knowing that killer dolls inhabit this film should be enough for anybody. This creepy compact dark fantasy takes place on "The longest night ever" and when it's not fulfilling your requirements for biting bloodshed, it's making you chuckle like hell. The opening scene that involves a teddy bear's grizzly revenge is too good to be true and the moral warning that if you don't keep the kid inside you alive, you're likely to end up a puppeteer's plaything, is one we're always happy to back up here!

DEMONS (1985) O.K., now it's time to get a little rowdy. Who can say no to a free ticket to a horror movie? Not me. The premise, about a demon outbreak occurring during a movie show while the audience is trapped within the theater is wildly out there, so how come whenever I watch this flick I believe every thing it tells me as if it were the gospel? Ack! Maybe it's my claustrophobia and fear of crowds that takes over, but I can never help putting myself in the place of the characters and noting that I would be a shivering wreck hiding under a chair looking for a way to kill myself and praying for a helicopter to land on my head. DEMONS has no time to explain itself. You're already dead.

THE FOG (1980) While everybody and their brother was scrambling to duplicate HALLOWEEN's success by lifting the more obvious stalk and stab aspects of the film, its co-creators took the less crowded route and delved head first into the uncanny ambiguity that really made the flick tick. What they came up with is the ultimate ghost story that is THE FOG. It may take place in April, but this telling of a night when the supernatural world collides with ours is arguably just as appropriate for the holiday as its predecessor. Plus you get to see what really happened to Laurie Strode after the night he came home, she changed her name to Elizabeth and went hitchhiking!