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House of Salem

Coming Soon


Directed by:


English filmmaker James Crow has a different concept of horror, and I think it revolves around talking people to death. HOUSE OF SALEM (2016) COULD BE A LOT MORE OF ANYTHING were it not for the fireside chats of condescending exposition, cringe-worthy SFX, and “magical autistic kid”.

We’ll nutshell this because there’s a lot going on and very little of it is good.

A “troubled” boy is kidnapped from an affluent family and secreted away in a large well-appointed house, and guarded over by your usual motley crew of barely competent kidnappers. They think they’re supposed to wait for a call from the family so they can split the last big score and leave a life of crime forever. Someone else, however, is waiting for a signal from someone even more affluent with a far more spiritual payoff, and that’s when things begin to go bad.

Not really, things go bad pretty much from the second scene, but whatever.

Our victim, Josh carries around a stuffed lamb with a large black button eye he calls St. Peter. St Peter speaks to him in a voice that sounds a lot like Josh’s own (though that may just be the poor sound design of the film), and he’s forced to wear a polar bear mask with duct-taped eyes. Now, this could also be a white wolf’s mask, I dunno. There are lots of masks in this film, but they’re all the rage these days with the kidnapper set.

Special needs children wired into the supernatural isn’t anything new, wholesale betrayal by one or more parties against comrades also isn’t anything new. Jamming them both together sounds super exciting and maybe even novel if you’re not paying attention, and I can commend the efforts of writer/director James Crow, but there is soooooooo much chatter.

so. much. chatter.

Because the majority of this story is exposition that lives in the writer’s head we need the history and the location, and backstory spoonfed to us as everyone leans against something comfortable to hear ridiculously long explanations no one really has time to hear because there are FORCES TRYING TO KILL THEM.

Our kidnappers are borderline competent, which is a theme for these kinds of movies. Smart kidnappers don’t have multiple moving parts with room for catastrophic errors. Smart kidnappers don’t have gaps of knowledge among members. Smart kidnappers don’t send 5 people to kidnap and babysit 1 kid. With these movies, there will always be 1 kidnapper who identifies with the victim, which always leads to the downfall. It has to happen because we need to feel sympathy for everyone about to die playing on our innate need for redemption through sacrifice. The problem is we don’t care about anyone in this movie, not even our “troubled teen” Josh because he’s inconsistently “troubled”. The voices, the actions, the rocking – it’s all too stereotypical of what someone thinks is “autistic” (which is another problem for another time).

House of Salem movie reminds me a little of The House on Willow Street (2016)with the same basic premise of masked kidnappers, a bound teen, and the gnawing realization of a very bad idea, expect The House On Willow Street knew how to tell a story, knew how to visually explore backstory without awkward chatter, and knew how to bring around a more than satisfying conclusion.

James crow should probably watch The House On Willow Street and come back with a better effort.

House of Salem (2016) is Not Rated, but I’d peg it as a PG-13 – there’s some blood, swears, people getting shot, some rather laughable “Satanic” elements, and general criminal incompetence. If you’re looking to kidnap a child with no backup plan, this is not your how-to guide.

House of Salem is streaming now on the following services:
Movie Reelist Contributor: MontiLee Stormer
MontiLee Stormer is a writer of horror, dark and urban fantasy. She’s also is a troublemaker, concocting acts of mayhem and despair for her own selfish pleasure. An avid movie watcher, she prefers horror but will see just about anything if you're buying. Poltergeist (1982) is her favorite movie and she actively hates The Shining (1980) due to its racism, misogyny, the butchering of the source material. She could host a TEDtalk on this single subject. Writing about herself in the third person is just a bonus.

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