House of Salem

A group of kidnappers become a child’s unlikely protectors, after finding out they have unwittingly been set up to take part in a deadly game of human sacrifice.

There are some damned good ideas in James Crow’s latest horror thriller, House of Salem. Sadly, for every good idea there are the same amount of missteps that keep this low-budget pic from hiding the frayed edges of underdeveloped ideas and a lack of polish.

“Little” Josh (Liam Kelly really pushing credulity playing a kid in the single digits) is being tucked into bed. Skittish and afraid, the boy clutches his stuffed animal, sensing that something is coming to get him. His babysitter ignores the sincerity of his pleas and shoves a sedative into his mouth. Of course, Josh is right, and before we know it, masked assailants are in the house, the babysitter is beaten and laid out on the floor and the boy is kidnapped.

“…for every good idea there are the same amount of missteps.”

The band of masked kidnappers is led by the gruff Leslie (Leslie Mills) and his criminal-with-the-heart-of-gold daughter, Nancy (Jessica Arterton). The two, along with Jack (Brett Anderson) and Mick (Robert Lowe) have been hired to abscond with the adolescent and go to a large abandoned home where they will await further instruction from their employers.

What begins as a typical crime thriller slowly descends into occult horror. As the bandits wait to be given their next move, they uncover symbols and signs around the hideout that indicate that their captive is more valuable than they were first led to believe.

The mystery unravels and what we get is a serviceable plot written with earnest, performed relatively well, and executed with a sort of hit or miss quality. Let’s be very clear, a budget does not make a good movie. You have but to look at Michael Bay’s ignominious career for clear evidence of that. However, a little bit more editing in the script and some work on the performances would have given this piece a better chance at being consistently entertaining.

“…a serviceable plot written with earnest, performed relatively well, and executed with a sort of hit or miss quality.”

The production is typical, low-budget, on-the-fly filmmaking that aspires to be more. Writer, director James Crow is a prolific creator and one that deserves to be given some attention. There is a real effort here to tell a story in a way that audiences haven’t seen before, yet here Crow only occasionally rises above the predictable missteps of a young filmmaker. In short, keep an eye on this guy.

House of Salem may not be the mix of House of the Devil and Don’t Breathe that it aims to be but there are enough interesting ideas to make you sit up and take notice.

House of Salem (2017) Directed by James Crow. Written by James Crow. Starring Jessica Arterton, Jack Brett Anderson, Liam Kelly, Leslie Mills, Robert Lowe, Pierse Stevens.

House of Salem is worth VOD (**).

Norm’s Rating System: Full Price (****), Matinee (***), VOD (**), Don’t Bother (*)

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