Tagline: The Devil Has Come Home
Writer/Director: James Crow
Release Date: Available on VoD – 01/23/2018 (August 27, 2016 U.K.)
Runtime: 1h 40m | Rating: 4 out of 5 | Source: Received from October Coast for review consideration
I have to admit that I am guilty of judging a movie by its cover. I can’t say that I love the cover, it seems to be riding the creepy clown vibe but it has nothing to do with them. Thank goodness. I find clowns annoying but not very frightening. House of Salem starts out with the introduction to the child that we know will soon be kidnapped. The kidnapping itself was somewhat more unusual than most and I started to pay more attention. Eleven minutes in gave me a “Holy crap!” moment that ensured my attention for the rest of the movie.
The pacing of House of Salem stays pretty even throughout, picking up near the end. The acting was very good. Much better than I was expecting and the moreso when I realized that it is Jessica Arterton and Liam Kelly’s first movie. Liam Kelly’s acting in the role of the kidnapped child was great. He seemed to play it a bit younger than his actual age but it is right for the character. The other actors are great as well. They all have an ambiguity about them which makes it hard to know what they will end up doing in the long run or how they will react. I did have one minor issue and that was when they spoke with the masks on it was very muffled and a little hard to tell what they were saying. Some ADR would have worked well there with a slight cloth effect overlaid. The dialogue between the characters flows well and doesn’t seem stilted or poorly done.
The scares were low-key but very effective. More creepy and atmospheric rather than trying to make people jump. I appreciate that. It’s also a movie that does child death well. That might be a weird thing to say but it’s true. It doesn’t linger up close and gory for shock value. It gives you just enough to go on visually but keeps most of the scares to the creepy side rather than the in-your-face gory side. The scoring wasn’t stand out but it was very effective and suited the scenes. No huge musical build-ups to telegraph the scares from a mile away. One part in particular made me giggle. I was thinking that the masks that were used by the cult were reminiscent of The Wicker Man and right after a character made a Wicker Man joke. It gave me happies.
The locations in House of Salem were great as were most of the effects. In general the effects were low-key and the story didn’t rely on an over abundance of them, which was very refreshing. They obviously knew they were a weak area and kept the momentum up with story and dialogue, rather than cheap, poorly done scares. There were a few missteps, however. At certain parts you could really tell that the make-up effects were make-up. It was less noticeable in the far shots, it was only in the close-ups that it was readily apparent. Also, has pink become the new color for gunfire? I’ve noticed it in three different movies now. At first I thought it was a style choice in the first movie but I’ve seen it in others now so I’m wondering if it’s a cheaper effect? I don’t know. I just know it doesn’t look quite right.
House of Salem was great up until the last minute or two. It’s part of why I can’t give it the full five stars that I would like to. With the rest of the movie doing some original things it was kind of a let down. The climax and finale were great but the final couple of minutes kind of took away from it. It wasn’t done poorly, it’s just that type of ending has been done before. A lot. I think it would have better served the movie to trim off the last minute or two and let it end just before. But that’s just my opinion.
House of Salem turned out to be much better than I thought it would be. The plot was coherent and interesting and took a few turns that I wasn’t expecting. The acting was much better than I anticipated, especially from the newcomers. I look forward to seeing more of them.