‘House Of Salem’ reviewed

There is a halfway interesting conceit for this micro budget riff on Kill List and You’re Next but this is lost amongst the overpowering sense of sloppiness that permeates throughout the whole film.

Josh isn’t like other boys his age, just look at his onesie and stuffed lamb, named Saint Peter, who he talks to. If these signifiers of a sheltered life weren’t enough then there is also the issue of his kidnapping by a gang of mockney gangsters who seemed to have wandered in from some other DTV gangland thriller and hidden him in a mansion in the woods whilst they await delivery of their ransom. And to top it all off poor Josh keeps having visions of dead children who warn him that the worst is yet to come.

So far so sinister but writer and director James Crow’s micro budget riff on Kill List and You’re Next stumbles from the off with stilted dialogue that when it isn’t overexplaining the plot manages to throw out such deadpan zingers as “I’ll chop your cocks off.” That such dialogue is delivered by a cast that, although enthusiastic and committed, still have a touch of the local amateur dramatics society about them fails to help matters.

Making a film is already difficult and making a low budget film is really difficult. Therefore, it is a shame to attack a film like this where all the budget seems to have been spent on securing a camera, lighting and making sure the cast get paid without feeling like you are slightly picking on it. So, apologies to the cast and crew who have managed to bring this to the screen and get it released, which is a considerable feat in itself.

However, with that being said, House of Salem is not an easy film to watch. The paper-thin plot is stretched out and slowly paced with next to nothing to sustain its running time of over an hour and a half. Then there is the matter of technical issues that pop up regularly throughout; audio levels, particularly with dialogue, rise and fall in single scenes, camera shots pan from side to side for too long and stop too late. The location of the mansion seems impressive with plenty of space to play around in but is brightly overlit to such a degree that the film has zero atmosphere and even less style to mask its budget. The hoods, masks and robes that a group of devil worshippers sport in the later stages of the film never seem no more expensive or professional than the type you could buy from a Halloween store in the town centre and most damningly for a horror film the special effects and gore are quite frankly non-existent.

There is a halfway interesting conceit for why this is all happening but this is lost amongst the overpowering sense of sloppiness that permeates throughout the whole film. Again, I apologise for picking so mercilessly on a film that had such low resources to begin with but one look at James Crow’s IMDB page shows that he has his next two films in pre-production, and had already completed sixteen before this which is particularly impressive for a British genre filmmaker in this day and age. Hopefully this one-man industry can forge more of a style and original voice with future endeavours no matter what the budget.

Left Films presents ‘House of Salem’ on DVD & Digital 1st October 2018. Starring: Jack Brett Anderson (Wolfblood, Don’t Hang Up), Andrew Lee Potts (Primeval) and introducing Liam Kelly.

❉ Iain MacLeod was raised on the North coast of Scotland on a steady diet of 2000AD and Moviedrome. Now living in Glasgow as a struggling screenwriter he still buys too many comics and blu-rays. Has never seen a ghost but heard two talking in his bedroom when he was 4.

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