HOUSE OF SALEM (2016)
Directed by James Crow
Written by James Crow
Starring Jessica Arterton, Jack Brett Anderson, Liam Kelly, Leslie Mills, Robert Lowe, Andrew Lee Potts, Dean Maskell, Anna Nightingale, Nalân Burgess, Flynn Allen, Danny Szam, Pierse Stevens, Tony Fadil, Yohanna Farrell-Knight, Brandon Koen, Hazel Young, Elliott Odom, Lawrence Weller, Luke Flanagan, Josh Turner
Find out more about this film here, @HouseofSalemFilm, and on Facebook here
HOUSE OF SALEM is an ambitious and impressive film that does a pretty fantastic job of keeping the viewers on their toes and keeping them guessing just what type of horror film this one is.
When a young boy is kidnapped by a cadre of clown mask-wearing thugs and taken to a secluded house in the middle of nowhere, the group thinks that they are in for an easy payday. But there is something off about this autistic lad and the house they have taken him to and it involves ghosts, torture, sacrifice, cults, demons, and all sorts of weirdness that may very well lead to the end of the world as we know it.
I’d say the first hour and fifteen minutes of HOUSE OF SALEM is pitch perfect. Director/writer James Crow is able to amp up the mood and atmosphere of the cold dark house. He also constructs a pretty impressive little home invasion sequence at the beginning that, while it is reliant on creepy clown masks, also doesn’t solely rely on the creepy clown motif in order to instill chills. Though some slick editing and well choreographed actions, the initial abduction of the young child is done so in a way that really does work. Crow also introduces the supernatural in an even and ever-increasing rate that makes the whole scenario feel believable in the world of the film. This feels more like a well done blend of subgenres of horror rather than a bunch of odd subgenres being crammed together.
But once answers begin being provided and the film is forced to wrap things up, HOUSE OF SALEM unfortunately falls apart in the final moments. Crow keeps the ambiguity going most of the time, but rules that were established early in the story, are bent and sometimes broken and too much happens for no particular reason, leaving me with a sour taste in my mouth and a feeling that Crow really didn’t know how to end this film.
In the end, I feel James Crow is a director to keep an eye on. He really does have a gift and the first hour of this film shows it. Had this film had a second set of eyes on it in the scripting stage, I think a better and more satisfying resolution could have been achieved. Instead, we get a fantastic setup and a pretty amazing first hour, with an ending that resolves little HOUSE OF SALEM will deliver some potent chills and thrills. Crow has a deft eye for the macabre. And I enjoyed most of the actors involved, especially the sassy and bold Jessica Arterton and the gruff yet somewhat noble Leslie Mills.
HOUSE OF SALEM is a potent flick with nods to everything from YOU’RE NEXT to HELLRAISER and even THE ORPHANAGE, blending elements of many subgenres into one powerful, yet somewhat flawed in the end, mix.