A Haunting in Salem DVD Review
Directed by Shane Van Dyke
Written by H. Perry Horton
2011, Region 1 (NTSC), 85 minutes, Not Rated
DVD released on October 4th, 2011
Bill Oberst Jr. as Wayne
Courtney Abbiati as Carrie
Jenna Stone as Ali
Carey Van Dyke as Mike
Josh Roman as Kyle
Gerald Webb as Mayor Collins
Once upon a time, witchcraft was all the rage in the sleepy town of Salem, Massachusetts, until opportunistic Christians started getting all uppity and brought the whole craze to a stop with a series of infamous trials. This resulted in a lot of people being hanged, drowned, tortured and generally fucked over due to accusations of witchery in the area by residents who were spiteful, greedy, bored or just a bunch of jerky assclowns who needed to feel superior to their neighbors. Nothing gives a town a bad reputation like the people who live there, but for various reasons people in horror films continue to move to this place.
Now it’s Wayne’s turn as he and his family jump at the chance to move into a fantastic house and get their lives back in order. It seems Wayne, a former cop, has been through a rough patch, and strapping on a gun to patrol a new neighborhood is just what he needs to straighten his head. The Mayor is on hand to welcome the new sheriff and explains that every man to hold the office has lived (and likely died) in this house for free as a token of the town’s appreciation. He also discourages Wayne from listening to the ramblings of the local greenskeeper, dismissing his claims as “urban legend.”
It appears early in the film that ghosts are technologically savvy, as daughter Ali receives mysterious instant messages on her oversized laptop. The idea is abandoned as quickly as it appears however, but it offers quality suspense to viewers with short attention spans. Who could be sending the mystery IMs? I don’t know, because the script doesn’t care enough to follow through. Also quickly dispatched is the greenskeeper who tries to warn the newcomers, but luckily he is mildly retarded and easily ignored until his death by hanging.
The family is threatened by an unseen force, shit happens around the house, daughter gets attacked by ghost and blah blah blah. Look, the bottom line is simple, having seen the same century of horror movies set in spooky houses as everyone else, the makers of this film have taken some decent notes and managed to get a few decent jumps out of this by-the-numbers assignment. This is far from a bad thing, but it isn’t the freshest plot you are likely to find on the shelf either.
Director Shane Van Dyke (Paranormal Entity) nails it with this fun haunted-house flick that only takes a short time to hit its stride as a quality genre piece. The film follows the essential blueprint laid out by better filmmakers, and succeeds more often than not at providing some nice moments of fear along the way. Legitimate surprises lurk within the low-budget shadows, as the script is able to retain a more downbeat final act than a studio picture would allow. Adding to the atmosphere is an effective score by Chris Ridenhour that succeeds at doing its job without drawing too much attention away from the picture.
The faces this time around are generally pleasing. Though there is not a breakout performance in the bunch, nobody sticks out as a particular stinker either. Bill Oberst Jr. stars as Wayne, and while he carries a strong screen presence, his physical appearance may lead to a career typecast as villains. Jenna Stone shines as Wayne’s daughter during the extended finale and Courtney Abbiati keeps the scenario grounded as a wife and mother caught in a bad situation that steadily spins out of control.
The Asylum is known for rushing the gate in anticipation of the next big Hollywood blockbuster and churning out one piece-of-shit knockoff after another, but they are at their best when they create an original work. The ‘giant animal’ or ‘natural disaster’ flicks are always fun for group viewing, but the serious efforts occasionally pay off and A Haunting in Salem is nowhere near the bottom of their catalog of offerings.
Video and Audio:
The Asylum delivers a respectable 1:78 anamorphic transfer that retains the original aspect ratio. Colors are strong and black levels solid as the image retains a sharpness that should please most viewers.
Audio options include a 2-channel stereo mix for anyone playing the film through television speakers, or a more inviting 5.1 surround mix for those living with even a basic understanding of a home theatre system. There is surprising activity to be found here and the rear channels get an unexpected workout that will satisfy the spook fans.
The original trailer is offered within the usual assortment of upcoming titles showcased in a trailer pool that starts the disc for those who can’t get enough of The Asylum.
A brief (6-minute) featurette showcases the behind the scenes effort that went into making the film. Oddly, the majority of the material focuses on the difficulty of shooting the film in 3D, despite there being nothing gimmicky within the film to suggest the process or even a chance to view the movie in anything other than glorious 2D. Neither the cover art nor the trailer mentions the 3D, but online marketing ads include a giant stamp denoting the 3D status of the Blu-ray. Weird.
A gag reel rounds out the bonus features and reveals the good times had by cast and crew while forgetting lines or tripping over their tongues in a presentation everyone should be familiar with.