December 5, 2017 A Haunting in Salem (Movie Review)
From Director/Actor Shane Van Dyke (Chernobyl Diaries 2012, The Sacred 2012), grandson of Dick Van Dyke, comes the Horror film A Haunting in Salem. Initially released through The Asylum films Direct-to-DVD in 2011, back on October 26, 2017 it saw an exclusive release at Cinemark Theaters across the USA.
Written by H. Perry Horton (Shark Week 2012, Two-Headed Shark Attack 2012), A Haunting in Salem uses the Salem Witch Trials of 1692 as frame for its story. As most of the movies produced by The Asylum, it tries to take bits and pieces of classic Horror films and blockbusters to create something new, but does it succeed?
A Haunting in Salem opens with scenes of old drawings of witch trials and the audience is shortly introduced to the Corwin House, an old mansion usually given by Salem’s mayor to the town’s sheriff. A seemingly ghostly presence is drowning the current sheriff’s son in the bathtub, just to smother his wife with plastic film moments after. As the sheriff arrives at home, he discovers his wife’s body in bed and tries to set his house, including himself, alight, only to be pushed outside of the bedroom window by the presence.
Only days after the incidents at Corwin House, the new sheriff, Wayne Downs (Bill Oberst Jr.: Abraham Lincoln vs. Zombies 2012, Scream Queens 2016), a PTSD-stricken army veteran, arrives with his wife Carrie (Courtney Abbiati: How I Met Your Mother series, The Receipt 2005), his daughter Ali (Jenna Stone: D.U.I. 2014, Party Like a Roman Emperor 2012), and his son Kyle (Nicholas Harsin: Pink Bikini 2017, Confessions of a Teenage Jesus Jerk 2017) at their new home, greeted by Salem’s mayor, Avery Collins (Gerald Webb: Battle of Los Angeles 2011, Sharknado 2013). Soon, strange occurrences start to happen, when Ali is contacted by an unknown user in her computer’s instant messaging program and Carrie discovers a tooth attached to a string of hair in their shower’s drain, however, this is only the beginning of the horror the Downs family has to live through.
As a typical haunted house film, A Haunting in Salem is heavily borrowing from classic movies of the genre like 1979’s Amityville Horror or 1980’s The Shining, though not as well executed. The interesting story idea gives room to what could have been a great Horror film. Sadly, with weak acting overall, plots holes, predictable jump scares, and cheap special effects, which are sparsely used, A Haunting in Salem does rather bore its audience than entertain.
All this in mind, a gleam of hope for the cast is Bill Oberst Jr., who really delivers his part with passion and stays believable throughout the whole runtime of the movie. In his defense, Van Dyke probably had a vision in mind when making A Haunting in Salem, but for whatever reason, could not deliver it properly. Additionally, the photography often lacks ambition with shots taken out of “101 on how to shoot a film” book, which lets the film’s presentation seem fairly amateurish.
Overall, A Haunting in Salem is a weaker entry in the long line of films produced and distributed from The Asylum.
A good movie does not necessarily require a lot of money to be made, but the production and entertainment value of A Haunting in Salem stays as low as its budget. One could dismiss a weak plot or acting if the movie itself could at least connect to its audience, but as outlined, A Haunting in Salem fails in doing so. For these reasons, CrypticRock gives A Haunting in Salem 1.5 out of 5 stars.