Many times there are moments of shock in a movie reviewer’s life. One of those is the joy of leaving a theater after seeing a movie you thought was going to be horrible and realizing you were wrong. That’s how I felt when the credits rolled on The Asylum’s “A Haunting in Salem.”
When I watch a movie produced by The Asylum there are certain expectations you come to the table with. You expect plenty of cheesiness, CGI that matches television films from the early 1990s, and quite possibly some of the worst acting you’ll ever see from actors who haven’t worked on anything big in at least 10 years. Strangely, “A Haunting in Salem” rose above almost everything on that checklist.
In “Haunting,” the new sheriff of Salem, Massachusetts, moves his family into an old home that has a dark secret. It’s haunted by the vengeful spirits of 19 people who were hung for being witches in 1692. He must now find out if there is a way to stop the curse and convince his family that he’s not crazy.
I have to say that “A Haunting in Salem” is one of the best films I’ve ever seen come out of The Asylum. It isn’t played tongue-in-cheek at all and the tone is very serious. It’s still low budget, but it doesn’t look any worse than the indie films shown on Chiller every day. The house was perfect for a haunted horror film. It reminded me of “The Skeleton Key” and “The Haunting in Connecticut.” Someone also told me the house reminded them of the one used in “Dream House.” The cinematographer did a great job of hiding the fact that it was obviously located in a residential area. Even the special effects were well done, and there were some nice jump scares.
Shane Van Dyke directed “A Haunting in Salem.” Shane is the grandson of Dick Van Dyke and has been directing and starring in movies for The Asylum for a couple of years now. He helmed films like “Paranormal Entity” and “Titanic II.” He is at the top of his game with this supernatural thriller. Van Dyke truly is getting better and better.
The cast isn’t typical for The Asylum either. There’s no semi-big Hollywood star to help draw people in. There are just smaller actors putting forth their best efforts to be convincing and sincere. They do an admirable job. Stars include Bill Oberst Jr. (“The Secret Life of Bees”), Courtney Abbiati (“How I Met Your Mother”), Jenna Stone (“Miss Behave”), and Shane’s brother Carey Van Dyke (“Diagnosis Murder”).
The Asylum released “A Haunting in Salem” in two different formats. Available versions include a single disc 3D Blu-ray and a regular format DVD. Both have the same special features. There’s a “Making of ‘Haunting’” featurette, which concentrates on how they filmed in 3D and the makeup effects. Most of the gag reel is someone putting their hand in scenes making bunny ears or something of that nature. As usual, there are tons of trailers. I have a small bit of advice for The Asylum: It’s probably not a good idea to include a trailer for a soft-core porn teen flick on movies that younger kids might watch.
I would recommend “A Haunting in Salem” to anyone who frequently watches movies shown on Chiller or SyFy. It’s definitely as good, if not better, than any of those low-budget indie flicks. However, be warned. It’s “Based on True Events” and is “In the Tradition of ‘The Amityville Horror’ and ‘The Shining!”
For more articles by Eric Shirey, check out:
November 9: ‘Silent Night, Deadly Night’ Debuts to Controversy 27 Years Ago
November 8: Hammer Classics ‘Horror of Frankenstein,’ ‘Scars of Dracula’ Released
November 7: Filmmaker Takes Horror Fans Into Christian Haunted ‘House’
Eric Shirey is the founder and former editor of Rondo Award nominated movie news websites MovieGeekFeed.com and TheSpectralRealm.com. His work has been featured on Yahoo!, DC Comics, StarWars.com, and other entertainment websites. Eric has interviewed and worked with actors like Harrison Ford, Brooke Shields, Gerard Butler, Brendan Fraser, Selena Gomez, and many more.
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