Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Salem: Season 1 Review

For those whose dark witch interests where not satiated with American Horror Story: Coven, WGN's Salem is a welcome surprise. Instead of style trumping story, this series remained focused on a straightforward narrative loosely based on the Salem witch trials of 1692, plucking many actual names from history. 

Two things immediately stood out: the thick layer of supernatural hokum, and the period setting. The sets, costumes, and even lighting were exquisite and painted a very crisp picture of early Colonial life. The dialogue however often tested even the most forgiving fan and came across as modernly stiff rather than antiquated and flowery. (By contrast, every line Ichabod Crane utters on Fox's Sleepy Hollow seems completely genuine and out of place.) This is mainly due to the uneven cast who were not all up for the very difficult challenge of acting in a period piece. And there were many loooooong and Important monologues given by characters alone on the screen that might be better suited for a theater stage – it's just not a normal convention for a dramatic TV show! 

Nothing on this show is subtle or nuanced and perhaps that's the greatest achievement. It was bloody, full of sex early on, and then along comes the religious zealot Increase Mather and his implements of torture seemingly designed solely for women's lady parts (see below). The series is oddly compelling in a very entertaining way, and each week brought at least one moment of sheer audacity/outlandish brilliance from a horror perspective. Even though the story stalled towards the end, and the reveal was mundane at best, Season 2 premiering in April 2015 will be eagerly anticipated. 






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