"The Lords of Salem" Book Review
Written by Steve Pattee
Published by Hatchette Book Group
Written by Rob Zombie with B.K. Evenson
2013, 336 pages, Fiction
Released on March 12th, 2013
Whether or not you like Rob Zombie's music or movies, you have to respect his passion for the horror genre with whatever format he's working with. In his music, in addition to some of the titles and lyrics, you'll find countless dialog clips from horror and exploitation movies dropped throughout his songs. And in each of his films, he's always squeezed in at least one genre (many times more) legend in either a bit role or a major part. Stars like Bill Mosely (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2), Ken Foree (Dawn of the Dead), Tom Towles (Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer) and more have all been a welcome addition to Zombie's big screen creations. And now, with his The Lords of Salem setting to hit theaters soon, Zombie has brought back another item from yesteryear – the movie tie-in novel.
Back in the day, I used to buy film novelizations whenever I had the chance. I remember having The Fog, Halloween II, Escape from New York and more. Sadly, I don't remember what happened to those books, and like my Star Wars action figures, I desperately wish I still had them (although I would keep the novels and sell the figures... for more novels). It may be me, but it seems like the movie novelization is not nearly as popular as it once was because I just don't see them like I used to (with the exception of tie-ins to TV shows like Buffy, Angel, Supernatural and the like). And yet somehow I wasn't all that surprised when The Lords of Salem movie tie-in book came across my review plate because if anyone was going to do this, it would be Zombie.
The book – and I suppose the movie – follows Heidi Hawthorn, radio DJ and recovering drug addict, as she is having arguably the worst week of her life. She's been having strange dreams, seeing things that may or may not be real, and after playing an album in her home that had mysteriously arrived at the radio station, her (possible) hallucinations just go from bad to worse becoming violent beatings and horrific sights. But things get even crazier after a track is played over the airwaves and some women in town eviscerate their loved ones after hearing the song. Could it be a coincidence that all of these women (including Heidi) are ancestors of a group of men who tortured and killed a devil-worshipping, baby-killing coven of witches back in Salem's heyday of burnings, drownings and iron maidenings? Could the final words of Morgan, the leader of said coven, of "The descendants of this town of Salem will fall to my power! I will rape the children of your children... I will claim them as my own, whores into eternity!" finally be coming to fruition? Probably a safe bet on both. Good times will be had by all.
B.K. Evenson co-wrote The Lords of Salem with Zombie, but this being the first time reading something from either, I could not differentiate who wrote what. That said, the corroboration appears to be seamless as there aren't any moments where the flow is interrupted. At 300-plus pages, the book moves along at a brisk pace juxtaposing between mystery and ultra-violence. The characters throughout, while not entirely rich with development, are adequate enough to keep me both entertained and rooting for them. Sadly, the most interesting character in the book, Francis Matthias, gets the least amount of (screen?) time. Considering he's the one that pretty much figures out what the hell is going on (he's the local expert on Salem and its witch history), you would expect him to be much more involved in the plot. Unfortunately, he's relegated to a relatively very minor role.
It's striking how mean spirited The Lords of Salem is. There are very little feel-good moments to be found here. It's just pain or fear page after page. That's not to say I'm the type to expect or demand happy endings (insert your own joke here), and there are times when I actually enjoy some psychological brutality. But the finale is dark and atypical of what general audiences want and expect (let's face it, the majority of movie goers want that Cinderella ending). I'm curious if the film goes the same route, and I'm torn on which I prefer. On one hand, the book's last, bleak chapter complements the tone and is completely fitting. On the other, after travelling through so much darkness, sometimes it's refreshing to see some light.
The Lords of Salem is a bit better than the many of the novelizations I read growing up. Perhaps part of this is because it's not someone hired to churn it out for a buck, but rather the person whose idea it was to begin with. Due to its very nature, there is little doubt the book elaborates on many things that the film won't and I'm quite curious to see what the differences are between the two. Fans of Rob Zombie do well to pick this one up, if only to check out the newest medium he is venturing into.