EXCLUSIVE: Rob Zombie has committed to make The Lords of Salem his next directorial outing. The film has been put together by Haunted Films, the company run by the Paranormal Activity team of Jason Blum, Steven Schneider and Oren Peli. The pic is a co-production between Haunted Films and Alliance Films, marking their third film together. The first, the James Wan-directed haunted house thriller Insidious, was acquired by Sony Pictures Worldwide right after its midnight premiere at the Toronto Film Festival last week. Barry Levinson is currently shooting the second, The Bay, in South Carolina. Octane, the genre arm of IM Global, will handle international sales of Salem.

The thriller is set in contemporary Salem, where the inhabitants receive a demonic visit from a 300-year old coven of witches. Zombie will write the script while on his upcoming concert tour circuit, and will shoot next year. Zombie tells me he originally hatched the Salem premise several years ago, but started stirring the cauldron again when he changed his plan to direct a remake of The Blob. He made the deal with Haunted Films because he liked the autonomy. “What excited me most was Jason saying, you can have total control over the script, casting and final cut,” Zombie told me. “I said I’m in.”

Zombie came to filmmaking after a long career in music, where the sounds in his head went right onto the album. Movies are more collaborative, and draining. “I’ve had differing levels of control, with the best experience being Lionsgate on The Devil’s Rejects, when I made the movie and they said, `great.’ The two Halloween movies were more give and take, and I had enough bloody battles to get my way that by the time I got it, I didn’t care anymore.”

He has always kept his budgets down, but his indulgence will be making a movie that’s allowed to unfold. “It’s so hard to make a patient movie, and if a classic like The Shining was being made now, you know some studio executive would say to cut 70 minutes out of it,” Zombie said. “People who’ve seen the director’s cut of Halloween on DVD like it better, and these theatrical releases are being cut to little more than the length of a TV show.” Zombie estimates he lost 15 minutes of his picture during its theatrical run.

Zombie changed his plans to bring back The Blob because after directing two movies inspired by the 1978 John Carpenter fright classic Halloween, he couldn’t bear playing the comparison game again.

“I wanted to break away from anything related to preexisting material,” he said. “The remake train is getting pretty tired now and when I made Halloween, everybody complained, either that it was too much like the original or too different. I like that people either love or hate what I do because it’s better than being in the middle, which means forgettable. But when you do an original premise, they take it on face value and after three years of not being able to win on Halloween, I just couldn’t go through that again.”

Zombie and his producing partner Andy Gould will produce with the Haunted Movies trio, and Brian-Kavanaugh-Jones, who left CAA to head up Automatik for IM Global’s Stuart Ford, will be executive producer.