A Haunting In Salem (2011) - Can't Stop the Movies
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A Haunting In Salem (2011)

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Here it is, the blind DNA result of mixing the cleaning crew of Saw, the pacing of Paranormal Activity, and the plausibility of The Exorcism of Emily Rose. It's a disaster.

Oh goody, in the same week that I get the chance to review the Sarah Palin documentary I also am deemed the pleasure of reviewing the latest film from Asylum.  For those of you who are unfamiliar with the notable Asylum brand, imagine if legendary penny-pincher Roger Corman was somehow reborn in studio form to a life of perpetual knock-off cynicism with no charm whatsoever.  Their films, to date, have been dirty and boring affairs leaving me feeling a bit empty inside.

Part of Asylum's modus operandi is to take an established product and create a very direct off-shoot.  For example, you get Transmorphers instead of Transformers or The 18-Year Old Virgin instead of The 40-Year Old Virgin and so on.  To date, Asylum has yet to produce a single film whose DNA couldn't be traced back to the tentpole releases of the year (200 m.p.h. to this year's Fast Five, for another example).

It's a sign of how slow movies have really been lately that Asylum decided to go with a low-brand version of a horror movie which wasn't even successful to begin with.  A Haunting In Salem continues the fine mockbuster tradition Asylum has started by being incomprehensibly dull, but is still the best of their filthy ilk.

This being the studio that brought us Transmorphers, which, near as I can tell, was shot in a single gray corridor on Betamax - this is damning with faint praise.

No dental coverage for anyone who worked on the film, so it seems.

Still, whoever's house they got to use for the weekend was certainly put to good use.  A father (Bill Oberst Jr, I'll spare the rest the humiliation) is welcomed by the mayor to a large and vaguely gothic mansion for reasons unknown.  Granted, based on all available evidence the town consists of nine people, so there stands the chance the mayor hands off houses to citizens personally.

Anyway, we know this house is "bad news" because a bunch of witch trials/murders took place right outside its walls many years ago.  This scene is included so the father, apropos of nothing else, can question his wife as to whether she believes witches really existed or were tempted by Satan.  You know, the usual kind of pillow-talk brought on by main characters who are able to see flashbacks in their own film.

The movie jets along at a pace far too glacial to charitably call "slow".  Lingering shots of an ominous coat-rack fill the background as the daughter starts losing teeth, the son plays video games and the wife is pulling hair out of the drain.  Fine, situations which have the potential of being scary, but unfold at the rate of Paranormal Activity.  Which is to say, hardly unfolding at all considering the Paranormal series (for its other flaws) is built entirely on anticipation.

It's competently shot but, let's be honest here, so what?  Asylum has now made enough money for itself the studio can afford some above-grade camera equipment to use with its films but hasn't bothered to hire a single writer worth a damn.  The performers here do what they can with the material presented.  As such, they don't have much to do, and I credit Bill Oberst Jr. for portraying the only character who goes through any change, yet still managing to stay in the exact same facial expression the entire film.

His smile just deepened his face further in on itself. It's the most terrifying part of the film.

A Haunting In Salem barely exists.  Roger Corman, for all the crap he put into this world, at least had the decency to start the careers of some of the best directors of all time (including Martin Scorsese and James Cameron to name two) as well as producing a couple of oddball classics (Rock 'n Roll High School chief amongst these.  But this?  This is just a studio which profits and prides itself on confusing grandma around Christmas time.

At least, for once, they don't have a good movie to confuse this with.  Shame it's still the best Asylum has ever produced.

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A Haunting In Salem (2011)

Directed by Shane Van Dyke.
Screenplay by H. Perry Horton.
Starring  Bill Oberst Jr.

Posted by Andrew

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  1. Agreed, Asylum’s movies are the worst in the industry. It looks like the actor who was to play the “real” sheriff bailed at the last moment so caught between a rock and a hard place they subbed in the stage grip.

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