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Mass Hysteria
The Devil in Salem

USA 2020
produced by
Arielle Cimino, Jonathan T. Coleman, Matt Perusse, Jeff Ryan for First-Names Films
directed by Arielle Cimino, Jeff Ryan
starring Geena Santiago, Jeff Ryan, Scott Swayze, Alexandra Dietrich, Luke Deardorff, Destry Allyn Spielberg, Robert D. Murphy, Matt Perusse, Louis Cancelmi, Charlie Pollock, Daniel Alvarado, Michelle Veintimilla, Jessica Richmond, Molly Sidell, Kellie Moon, Hannah Wagner, Chloe Eaton, Michael Underhill, Dustin Teuber, Ryan Villacci, L.J. Nicolas, Zack Reardon, Kristopher Schooner, Dave Hanson, Carl Schultz, Sarah J. Mann, Anne Sablich, Jill Rogati, Seth Parks, Calvin Berry, Matt Lacorazza, Christopher O'Connell, Ryan Cannister
written by Jonathan T. Coleman, Christopher O'Connell, music by Matt Russell

review by
Mike Haberfelner

Available on DVD !

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Paige (Geena Santiago) has been doing local theatre in Salem, Massachussets for years, but now finally her manager Chadwick (Charlie Pollock) is offering her a big role in New York City, so it's good bye to her hometown with one last show on Halloween - and what else would it be about than the Salem Witch Trials, with her playing the lead, an innocent woman accused of witchcraft. However, the show is under no good star from square one, as while the show is attended by a bunch of drunk tourists who are more than willing to cause a disturbance, there's a religious zealot, Samuel Hale (Matt Perusse) outside just waiting to brand someone a witch and cause public unrest. In the show's finale, Paige's character lets out a curse, with Paige locking eyes with a tourist that has been a particular nuisance throughout - and that tourist keels over and dies on the spot. A traumatic situation for everyone, but of course mere coincidence, even by police rule - but just the piece in the puzzle Samuel Hale has been waiting for, so he pronounces Paige a witch ... something which really takes off after a few more tourists die like the one in Paige's show. So Paige and her friends - bff and boyfriend wannabe Turner (Jeff Ryan), co-stars Devin (Scott Swayze) and Margie (Alexandra Dietrich), and cowardly stage manager Charlie (Luke Deardorff) find themselves on the run from a misguided but angry mob. They seem to diminish in number because many more die from the same symptoms as the above, but it seems the less in number the get, the angrier they get, too. And driven by Samuel Hale, they don't even ask what's actually killing them. On the run, Paige eventually finds out - and what she learns isn't exactly calming, on top of having to fight for her life ...

 

Of course, Mass Hysteria is not the first film about a crowd misguided by a religious zealot bringing doom on an innocent - but maybe one of the funniest ones. And that's funny not even in an over-the-top, gross-out way (though there's some vomit at hand), but a film that finds humour in the situations the main characters are thrown in, sees the irony behind the story and shows a willingness to just entertain - but without forgetting the dramatic aspects of the plot. And thanks to rather light-footed performances by all involved, this bridging of drama and comedy works quite beautifully, and makes up for a rather enjoyable movie.

 

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