HOUSE OF SALEM ** UK 2016 Dir: James Crow 96 mins
Child actor Liam Kelly, dressed in a onesie and clutching a teddy bear, is the best thing about this otherwise clunky hybrid of kidnap drama and 1970’s-style Devil movie from prolific writer-director James Crow (CURSE OF THE WITCHING TREE).
Kelly is the “special” son of a rich family targeted by small-time criminals. They stage a somewhat botched home invasion but manage to escape with Kelly- before gradually realising the boy is a key part of diabolical preparations for an imminent ritual. There are creepy scenes of the disturbed kid menaced by his closet dwelling “dead” brother, and the nightmare-laden build-up seems to bode well, but the film falls apart with heavy handed exposition and flat adult performances. The clumsy dialogue sinks it early on: the script’s attempt to capture authentic crook-speak reaches a nadir with “I’ll cut your fucking face off and mail it back to the care home where you came from!” Crow falls back on cheap shock tactics, and the genre melding feels like a contrived spin on earlier, better films (KILL LIST, RACE WITH THE DEVIL, et al). The downbeat ending is in the spirit of the remorseless American occult horrors of the 1970’s, but it is heavily telegraphed by the script and seems a long time coming.
Review by Steven West