WGN America’s new series is not for the weak of heart

Set in Salem, Mass., in the midst of a witch panic, the pilot episode of “Salem” features Shane West (“A Walk to Remember”) as John Alden, a young man who has quite a reputation in the town. John is the son of the very first person to set foot in Salem. Unlike the rest of the town, John does not believe witches are a concern, but he is surprised when he finds out he was wrong.

“Salem,” which is WGN America’s first original scripted series, is not kidding around. There are definitely several characters, major and minor, and scenes that leave a person shuddering at the creepiness — like an old hag who controls and ruins a young woman as she feeds off of her. And humans with a pig, stag and wolf head upon their own as they perform a ritual too disturbing to describe to summon some creature. And do not get me started on the odd human/creature/thing that is shown more often than I would like.

The set up of the show is great. The town itself is eerie, dirty and surrounded by woods, which makes it the place perfect for dark magic. In the middle of the town is a stage-like structure where people are displayed and punished for their sins. It is also where people are coaxed into revealing whether or not they are witches by various ways like crushing a person under a basket of rocks — the number of rocks and the weight of the entire thing slowly increasing as the person is questioned.

Moreover, the characters are very interesting and many of them are quite mysterious. As the episode went on, I felt as if each character revealed something about him/herself that adds a little more personality to the already twisted atmosphere. Secret witches, ruthless pastors, devious maidens and an angry, hard-headed soldier (see Shane West’s character) are just a few that show up in the pilot. It also definitely helps that the acting is on point, with each actor and actress giving a little more creepiness and mystery to each of their characters.

Ultimately, “Salem” requires a liking to scenes that will make one jump, quite possibly yelp, and/or cringe in your seat. It is attention-grabbing, and leaves the audience wanting to know what will happen next. It is interesting since the plot is actually relatively different from other shows that have come out so far this year. Overall, “Salem” is definitely a good show to watch if you are into the creepy, toad-coming-out-of-a-person, scary old woman kind of show.