A Haunting In Salem

This concludes our Bill Oberst Jr. trifecta. A Haunting In Salem is another “quality” production from The Asylum, the makers of Abraham Lincoln Vs. Zombies. This movie was directed by Shane Van Dyke, the sale director of Paranormal Entity. Salem treads familiar ground. It’s about a family who moves into a bit old house and strange things begin to happen. This has been done so many times it is nearly impossible to keep track. Salem takes its cues most notably from The Amityville Horror. The strange things happen, the dad starts to go crazy, and things get bad. Once again Bill Oberst Jr. was the bright spot in a film far below his talent level. It seems that Van Dyke has found a pretty comfortable home at Asylum making these types of films and that’s fine. There does seem to be a market for them. But, from what I have seen, he won’t go from making Troma level productions to helming a Marvel movie anytime soon. And that’s fine. I don’t mean that to sound cruel. I just mean that he found his niche and seems to be comfortable with it. The performance of Carrie, the wife of Oberst’s character, played by Courtney Abbiati was also very good. The problem, like the previous Van Dyke film I reviewed, was the lack of subtlety. It was shot in a way that answers questions before you have a chance to ask them. I couldn’t ever get into the movie. Instead I just sort of kept looking at my wrist wondering why I wasn’t wearing a watch so I could wonder how much longer the movie was. I’m still going to be nice here and award it two stars, not because of the movie but the performances that elevated it from unwatchable to “it’s good background noise for an insomniac”. So to sum up – Asylum movies bad, Bill Oberst Jr. isn’t, and neither is the rest of the cast. 2 out of 5.


Paranormal Entity

There are a lot of movies out there that capitalize on the names of others. There’s Snakes On A Train, Transmorphers, Abraham Lincoln Vs. Zombies, and a multitude of others that do it with the art on the cover box or poster. Last night I watched Paranormal Entity. It took several aspects of what people responded to in Paranormal Activity and gave them a new twist…or attempted to anyway.

The movie begins with a family who just lost their husband/father. The mom was still an emotional wreck and began talking to him as if he was still alive inviting a presence into the house. The movie was shot as a found footage film complete with hand held video cameras, cameras stationed in the bedroom, and a camera in the living room. Weird stuff begins to happen in the house.

The movie was directed by Shane Van Dyke, a man who is no stranger to making features similar to bigger ones. He directed Titanic II and A Haunting In Salem, as well as writing others like The Day The Earth Stopped and Transmorphers: Fall Of Man. It’s not that the movie was bad it just didn’t have the same eerie feel as Paranormal Activity.

When making a found footage movie it is very hit and miss. Chronicle did a great job. So did The Blair Witch Project and Paranormal Activity. Even The Last Exorcism was passable. But there are too many that rely on that idea too heavily and others that just don’t know how to use it. This felt like Van Dyke just wasn’t sure enough of what he was doing. I place no fault on him as a writer. The script wasn’t bad. The acting was far above what I expected. Erin Marie Hogan and Fia Perera were good as the sister and mother. And Van Dyke was good as the brother whom we rarely see on camera as he’s the one holding it. All in all I would say it was a worthy effort but not executed to its full potential.

I’m gonna have to give 2 out of 5 stars. I’m reluctant to go so low but I don’t feel justified to go higher.

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