With “The Lords of Salem,” Rob Zombie explores a world of supernatural horror as he tells the story of a Massachusetts woman who may be living among a coven of witches.
The new movie from the rocker/filmmaker has more dread and less camp than previous efforts. He steps outside his comfort zone of B-movie madness to create a character study in the cryptic spirit of Roman Polanski.
The director’s wife, Sheri Moon Zombie, stars as Heidi, a lonely DJ who lives in an old apartment building with a mysterious landlady (Judy Geeson) and her two friends (Dee Wallace, Patricia Quinn).
Because Heidi is a recovering drug addict, it’s tough to say whether she is witnessing the resurrection of Salem witches or if her delirium is chemically induced.
It’s been 10 years since the release of Zombie’s first film, “House of 1000 Corpses,” a cult hit that spawned a sequel, “The Devil’s Rejects.” Sheri portrayed a murderous Bette Davis fan named Baby Firefly.
When Zombie remade “Halloween,” he recruited Sheri to portray the mother of serial killer, Michael Myers.
Zombie’s next project will involve menace and hockey masks. No, it’s not a new installment of “Friday the 13th.” He is prepping to shoot “Broad Street Bullies,” an inspirational sports movie about the Philadelphia Flyers’ glory days during the mid-1970s.
Rob Zombie delves into the supernatural with his new movie, “The Lords of Salem,” the story of a woman who begins seeing ghostly visions in her apartment building in Salem, Massachusetts, a town still haunted by its history of witch trials. Zombie’s wife, Sheri portrays the main character while the supporting cast includes scream queens, Dee Wallace (“The Howling”) and Patricia Quinn (“The Rocky Horror Picture Show”). During a recent visit to New York, Zombie and Sheri talked about making the movie and the crowd response to the picture when it premiered as a midnight selection at the Toronto Film Festival.
This summer, Zombie will be headlining the Mayhem Festival package tour, promoting his new album, “Venomous Rat Regeneration Vendor.”
He’s making two Jersey stops: playing the Susquehanna Bank Center in Camden on July 19 and the PNC Bank Arts Center in Holmdel on July 23.
We spoke with Rob and Sheri Zombie in New York.
Q. So “Lords of Salem” is like a chick flick.
Rob: In kind of a weird way, it’s the ultimate chick flick. I didn’t think of that until I was on set and, every day, I would look around and go, “Once again, it’s me and nine women.”
Q. To me, this is a movie about a character who is struggling with insomnia and addiction. Is that how you read the character?
Sheri: I love that you see it that way because I like when people have different views on the movie and it makes you think. The insomnia thing never occurred to me.
Q. People are always saying how tired she looks.
Rob: That’s true, but I always attributed that to her history as a recovering drug addict. Is she doing drugs secretly, lying to everybody? Is it the drugs or are there real life crazy forces getting into her head?
Q. I was watching Heidi and comparing her to Baby, who was very sexual and very overt in the way she carried herself. Heidi is kind of the opposite. How did you get into the physicality of the character?
Sheri: The wardrobe certainly played a part. Baby was always more exposed with her outfits, but for Heidi, she’s a cool hipster chick who’s not into playing up the sexuality. She’s into music. She’s into tattoos, but she’s not really into showing off her tattoos. She doesn’t wear clothes that reveal them. They’re just there.
Q. There seems to be this sort of repulsion with the female body in the story or am I reading into that?
Rob: When you see the witches, the old time-y witches, I wanted to make them sympathetic in a way, because maybe they’re just the 1697 version of the crazy hippie women who wanted to run around the forest naked, but that is exactly what would get you killed in puritanical Salem. There is a lot of repression to it all.
Q. That witch song is pretty memorable. I enjoyed the contrast between this dark music and then you hear an exuberant song like “Blinded by the Light.”
Rob: One of the thrills for me is being in a position to take songs that are meaningful to me and use them in movies. Something like the Velvet Underground, I hit upon that early on because they have that same morose, weird vibe that I wanted the movie to have. It seemed like a band of depressed heroin addicts making this atonal music … The music they made fit perfectly with the vibe I was trying to establish.
Q. Sheri, what kind of responses have you been getting from people about the Heidi character.
Sheri: Rob showed me a picture of someone who had already gotten a tattoo of her on their arm.
Q. How is that, seeing one of your characters immortalized on someone’s arm?
Sheri: It’s weird. I would not be that committed to a character in a film, but I think it’s great that people are that into it.
Rob: I get it. I was that type of person. I am that type of person where these things mean so much to you.
Q. Have you seen any movies recently that made you want to get a tattoo of a character?
Rob: I have an “Argo” back piece that’s incredible.
Q. Don’t get me started on “Argo.”
Rob: Doing Ben’s beard was painful. Where I grew up, there wasn’t a lot of stuff and there wasn’t a lot of people to relate to so these movies that you get into, you become so obsessed with them that you want to be part of it and for a lot of people, that’s how it becomes part of them. I’ve seen people that have their entire arms or entire legs covered with every single character from my movies. It’s fantastic that people could be that fanatical about something. I understand it because I’ve been that fanatical about a lot of things in my life.
Q. In the upcoming movie, “Broad Street Bullies,” is there a good role for Sheri?
Sheri: The goalie!
Rob: She is going to play a 6-foot-5 hockey enforcer. She had to lose weight for “Salem,” but I’m going to … pump her up for this one.
Q. Is there a certain symbiosis, touring and recording and editing a film? Do they all feed into each other?
Rob: Usually, they’re kind of separate. I’ll go off and make a movie for a couple of years and I won’t do anything with music or vice versa, but with this one, I had them all happening at the same time, so vibe wise, there is an overlap between the album and the movie.
Q. The new album title, “Venomous Rat Regeneration Vendor,” is that a metaphor?
Rob: I was just told that Harry Connick Jr. has an album coming out of the exact same title.