Arielle Cimino and Jeffrey Ryan’s horror-comedy Mass Hysteria follows a group of actors who reenact the events surrounding the witch trials of Salem, Massachusetts. Bu this year, the cast becomes the targets in a modern day witch hunt. The film stars Geena Santiago, Jeffrey Ryan, Charlie Pollock, Louis Cancelmi, Destry Allyn Spielberg, Michelle Veintimilla, and Michael Underhill.
Across the board, the cast does a great job with the material they have been given. Geena Santiago is compelling and engaging as the lead character, Paige, and Jeffrey Ryan does an equally good job as her theater friend, Turner. Paige is preparing for her final performance in the small production of the Salem witch trials, taking place on Halloween night. From there she plans on moving to New York City, where she dreams of performing in theater. Unfortunately for Paige, she is mistaken for a real-life witch.
Mass Hysteria presents a group of Salem tourists as villains who happen to find themselves dropped off into horror movie mayhem, an element to be a nice alternative to the norm. Each member of the ensemble cast of tourists is by and large one-dimensional, with most of them becoming the stereotypes of the Halloween costumes which they are wearing. Particularly entertaining among the tourists are Jeffrey Ryan and Michelle Veintimilla, who both steal each and every scene. It is mostly the tourists, lead by Ryan and Veintimilla, who set out to destroy Paige and her friends.
The blood and gore quotient of Mass Hysteria never reaches an over the top level of gruesomeness like so many movies of its ilk, but I don’t think the filmmakers ever aimed for that particular height of mayhem. The effects are mostly limited to glimpses of a rash-like wound on several characters’ hands and multiple characters vomiting various colors of bile. Horror-comedies often rely on outrageous gore gags for laughs, but here the violence feels more restrained, and rightly so.
There are moments in Mass Hysteria where the laughs rely on slapstick, but it is a pleasant relief to see most of the comedic elements come into play with intelligently written, darkly humorous, metaphors. It’s obvious the film is played for fun, but there are multiple moments within the story that viewers can read social commentary. Big kudos to the editing team who move the film along a quick pace and avoided presenting it’s social messages in a heavy-handed kind of way. In doing so, most of the jokes never miss a beat. It’s obvious that without the editing style on display here, a big portion of the laughs would fall flat.
Mass Hysteria features a brief running time and clocking in at only sixty-five minutes, the film moves along at a nice and steady pace. However, in some instances, the length of the movie seems to be a downfall. There are several key relationships and situations that could have been expanded upon to give the finished product a little more depth. Despite the film’s brevity, multiple locations are on display as the theater troupe runs from the tourists and it’s entertaining to see how much of the town of Salem the filmmakers fit into the movie. All of the sets were put to good use, as each location feels unique.
The film takes place at Halloween, but unfortunately it never really feels like Halloween. Most of the spooky season stuff is regulated to costumes and a few jack-o-lanterns. That said, the film is beautifully shot and appears to be a much larger production than it actually is. The film would benefit from a slightly longer run time that would hopefully flesh out a few underdeveloped elements that gave an impression that I was only getting a Cliffs Notes version of a larger story. All in all, the film is a fun and entertaining horror-comedy. Anyone who likes theatrical related horror movies ala Stage Fright, The Gallows, etc. will get a kick out of Mass Hysteria.
Mass Hysteria premiers on Salem Horror’s Facebook page on April 1st. Will you be checking it out? Let us know your thoughts on Twitter, in the official NOFS Subreddit, and in the Horror Movie Fiend Club on Facebook!