Monday, September 8, 2014

Film Review: A Haunting in Salem (2011)

A Haunting in Salem (Review)
United States/2011
Format Viewed For Review: Netflix Instant
Netflix Streaming: Yes
Amazon Prime: Yes

"It's a boring and uninspired film that drags its feet."

The new town sheriff, Wayne (Bill Oberst Jr.), moves his family into an old, creepy house with a haunting past...

A Haunting in Salem basically follows Wayne and his family as they settle into their new home. Things go bump in the night, some weird messages are received, and Wayne has some nightmarish visions. It's pretty much every ghost movie ever made, sharing many similarities with The Amityville Horror. Nothing unique or differentiating occurs in the film -- at all. The ending is predictable, and drags on and on -- it's almost like the film didn't want to end.

The story is often unintentionally humorous, too. There are stupid plot points, hilarious plot holes, and bad acting. All of it blends together to create a hilarious experience. It's not the enjoyable-type of hilarious, though, like The Incredible Melting Man, it's more like the "laughing and turning the movie off"-type of hilarious. The hilarious plot holes, which aren't textbook plot holes per se, also negatively affect the horror.

For example, the daughter of the household receives "creepy" disturbing instant message on her computer. One message calls her by name, and the film treats it like it's supposed to be scary -- "like, omg, so creepy, how do you know my name?" But, her name is in her username! Of course it knows your name! Then, there's another character who burns her face in boiling water. All is well... until you realize she was able to boil the water in a mere 5 seconds.

Otherwise, you can expect... Well, more like you shouldn't expect any horror. There are a lot of jump-scares but no suspense, which makes the jump-scares ineffective. There isn't any atmosphere, either, and the house really isn't as creepy as the film wants it to be. I enjoyed two of the jump-scares, but only two -- and that's all of the "horror" I enjoyed in this feature-length film.

The acting ranges from bad to mediocre. Bill Oberst Jr. is mediocre -- I couldn't care what he looks like, but he just doesn't have any conviction or charisma for a leading role. Courtney Abbiati plays a housewife, and she delivers a decent performance -- probably the most redeeming part of the film. It looks and sounds like a straight-to-DVD horror film. Nothing really stood out on the technical side. Director Shane Van Dyke delivers an uninspired and bland film -- his direction fails to develop any horror whatsoever and he fails to pull great performances from the cast -- he also doesn't seem to care for continuity. Like many films from notorious film studio The Asylum, it doesn't feel like there is much direction or writing going on.

Overall, A Haunting in Salem is a very bad film. As a horror film, it fails to deliver any suspense or scares -- it doesn't even use its setting to create a haunted house atmosphere. It's a boring and uninspired film that drags its feet. It's often unintentionally humorous, but it's missing the charm from films like The Incredible Melting Man that would make it tolerable and even enjoyable. Aside from two good jump-scares, there isn't a single reason to watch this film -- fan of the genre or not.

Score: 1/10
Parental Guide: Some violence and blood.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Jonathan, Thank you for an honest assessment of my work in this one. I think "mediocre" is being generous. My abject failure in this role completely changed the way I approach character and my acting style, I hope for the better. In the 4 years and 40 films since I've tried to learn from this humiliating failure. Hopefully some of my more recent work will please you. Sorry you had to sit thru what I am well aware is my worst screen role ever.

    Bill Oberst Jr.

    1. Don't be so hard on yourself, at least you weren't the worst part of this film. Regardless, I caught a very small glimpse of you in "The Den" and think you'd be perfect for creepy or villain roles. I honestly look forward to seeing more of your work. By the way, thanks for reading!

      Jonathan S