26th Feb2018

‘House of Salem’ Review

by Phil Wheat

Stars: Jessica Arterton, Leslie Mills, Liam Kelly, Jack Brett Anderson, Robert Lowe, Dean Maskell, Andrew Lee Potts, Anna Nightingale | Written and Directed by James Crow

House-of-Salem_Key-Art

It would seem that British horror is on something of a roll at the moment. Film after film it seems filmmakers from these shores have stepped up their game tenfold, be it in an attempt to compete with their American counterparts or be it that more home-grown horror is finally seeing the light of day (a few years ago British-made product would really struggle to find distribution outside of a few small DVD labels here in the UK). Whatever it may be, it’s safe to say British horror is back with a vengeance. And James Crow’s House of Salem is a perfect example of that.

Screened Frightfest in London back in 2016, House of Salem is the latest horror film from Kent-based writer/director James Crow, whose former film Curse of The Witching Tree was something of an undiscovered gem – debuting to some pretty decent reviews from critics when it was released back in 2015; and some glowing reviews from genre fans. Crows latest film is thematically similar to Ti West’s House of the Devil, and – despite being a British production – is deeply rooted in American witchcraft lore (hence the “salem” of the title).

House of Salem also takes its cue from the likes of The Collector, where the anti-hero protagonist must turn hero to save themselves and those around them, and sees a group of kidnappers become a child’s unlikely protectors after discovering they have unwittingly been set up to take part in a satanic ritual. As they begin to uncover the truth of the house they find themselves trapped, they must battle demonic forces and uncover a legacy of over a hundred years of murder in the name of the Devil.

Starting out as something of a The Strangers pastiche, House of Salem takes its time in getting to the truth of its tale, but the journey getting there is well worth it – packed with interesting and intriguing visuals which throws some disturbing imagery into the mix; performances that really hold your attention – in particular lead Jessica Arterton (the cousin of Gemma Arterton) and the kidnapped child as played by Liam Kelly, who have a real familial chemistry giving Crows film the emotional core it needs; and a twist that is revealed in a slow, satisfying manner: for those that are familiar with films of this ilk it’s something of a “I knew it moment”, whilst those less versed in horror will be more likely to accept the change in tonality, from more of a crime thriller to outright horror, thanks to the aformentioned pacing of the reveal.

There are some slight missteps along the way, the odd piece of bad staging and execution but the sum of the whole equals much, much more than the parts; and in House of Salem writer/director James Crow has crafted a fantastic fear flick that continues the long-standing British tradition of superb gothic horror.

**** 4/5

House of Salem is out now from Wild Eye Releasing.

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