Apr 23, 2014


I must be honest, I did not expect much from WGN's first original TV series Salem in the first place. Yet, I could not possibly imagine, it would be that bad. Like most people, I've seen my fair share of trashy horror movies - all that garbage that earned less than half of its budget - but up to this point, there hardly was any series that would fill this niche on TV. In its tackiness Salem can only compete with some of the low budget Russian TV shows, and has a good chance of winning (if you've never seen Russian series, just take my word for it: the comparison with them is an insult).

Salem takes us back to the end of the XVII century, when all the infamous witch trials took place. In the center of this series are Mary Sibley (Janet Montgomery) and John Alden (Shane West), who are smart enough to become lovers in the society where non-marital romantic relationships are severely punished. Consequently, Mary becomes pregnant, but is forced to solve this problem on her own, as John gets conscripted to fight Indians, before she learns about her condition. So she decides to get rid of the baby by sacrificing her fetus to the devil (on that note, she seems quite far on, how could she hide it for so long?). 

When seven years later John returns, he finds his hometown engulfed in witch hunting hysteria, instigated by the loyal customer of the local brothel Cotton Mather, the preacher. And Mary is married to a rich old guy, who's immobilized by the stroke (also, she's a witch, which John is yet to find out).

Somehow, the show manages to portray the obvious lunacy of puritans and at the same time introduce the idea that they weren't really wrong about the necessity of the witch hunt. Apparently, those hypocrites' fault was not the killing and torture in itself, but their inability to detect correctly, who must have been killed and tortured. Call me narrow-minded, but this is an idiotic premise.

The plot progression, the dialogues, the special effects and the acting induce yawns; the scenes from various horror movies look ripped off, rather than cited; the series is full of cliches and shallow characters. From the first episode we have learned all witches' names, and can probably guess how the story will advance fairly accurately. The only question left unanswered is whether Mary has any useful or interesting magical powers. She doesn't seem to show any significant abilities except for limited mind control. All the other scenes where she performs her witchy stuff, seem to be put there just to expose her body.

Clearly, the creators did not intend it to come off funny, which makes it especially amusing. The only environment where this series could actually be enjoyed is in the company of drunk or stoned. There you could at least laugh at numerous failures of this show's script and its ridiculous special effects. But if you're in the mood to get scared, don't even bother, there's no way in hell Salem could help you with that.

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