Salem's Lot Reviews
Adaptation of a well known King novel of which I saw the film version which is simply all the episodes of the mini TV series stuck together into one movie. As said this was originally a TV series and you can see how it has been put together for this film version but that doesn't detract really, it kinda adds a little charm to the proceedings. Its not terribly scary by today's standards but there is a nice spooky atmosphere throughout which feels good on a cold dark rainy night.
Its a slow slow burner that's for sure, I must admit I was getting really quite bored in places as the film is three hours long and there's a lot of dialog all the way through, not much vampire action to be honest. What action there is is now quite quaint and harmless really, not much blood on show and some pretty amusing melodramatic acting as people fall foul of 'Kurt Barlow', but the makeup is still very good, especially the eyes of the vampires.
The film is well made and a good adaptation I think as it does seem encompass a lot from the original source, I haven't read the novel but there is a heck of a lot of info packed into the plot with good back stories and character development.
Must mention the legend James Mason here as his calm gentlemanly demeanor accompanied by his smooth, eloquent, perfectly pronounced voice works wonders for the evil vampires right hand man, Hopkins and Price eat your heart out hehe.
A curious addition to vampire lore which is slightly dull but altogether well crafted, the look of the main vampire obviously has been designed after the classic 'Nosferatu' look but in turn you can see how many future vampire films have also used this style and look.
"The ultimate in terror."
Salem's Lot is Stephen King's take on the vampire story and it is a pretty good one. A lot of what made the story so scary didn't translate well to the screen, but I still consider this a good adaption of the book. Tobe Hooper is a skilled horror director and while this isn't his best work, it's still a solid entry into the vampire sub-genre.
The movie took me somewhat be surprise. I didn't expect the acting to be nearly as good as it is because it was a made-for-tv film. The cast isn't spectacular, but they do a good enough job. The film isn't at all scary or even creepy, but it was still a fun movie to watch. I probably had more fun watching it than I should have.
A writer returns to his hometown that he left when he was 10 or 11 years old. He is obsessed with an old house that stands there, that is also rumored to be haunted. He makes it the subject of his next book. Shortly after arriving, weird occurrences begin and he suspects that whatever is going on has to do with an antique dealer, his partner and that house. The plot is solid enough, but it is nowhere near King's best work. Salem's Lot falls somewhere in the middle when it comes to King adaptions.
What can I say, I blame it on a throwback to my childhood - the original Amityville Horror still scares me as well because I was so scared of it as a child, even though watching it, I can see it's crappy. I didn't actually ever watch this one before, but it has that feel to it.
At 3 hours it is very long and does drag out a little in places, but I enjoyed it. It's nothing amazing, but I do tend to like Stephen King's stories, and 70's/80's movies in general, so I guess the era appeals to me as much as the story. Anyone with similar taste should enjoy this, I think.
The special effects in Salem's Lot are very cheesy - so cheesy, in fact, that I got the impression that they were like that on purpose. The way that the small town is presented is good, and it gives director Tobe Hooper lots of chances to create an atmosphere around the story. He handles the atmosphere side of the film with great skill, and that makes up one of the film's best assets. There's a reason why many fans consider this Hooper's only good movie besides The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, and the atmosphere is probably it. The story does take a while to get going, but the way that it introduces the characters is good and through it's atmosphere and the way that the story moves; the film never gets boring. I haven't read the book of 'Salem's Lot', so I cant comment on how the film relates to the writing; but I can say that it's nice to see the man that is probably the best contender to the crown of 'modern master of horror' handling a story about vampires in a traditional way. I loved the way that King didn't try to distance the story from the genre clichés, and it's nice to see a 'true' vampire film. Overall - good stuff and highly recommended!
Looking at it now, the main problem with the long version is that, though there's more than enough exposition to make us question what the hell most of it has to do with the main thrust of the story (the answer: not much), there's still not quite enough to give us a credible feeling of an entire community being decimated in the second half. I used to think that David Soul was super cool in this but, watching it now, his Ben Mears is pretty surly and unappealing; his first meeting with Susan Norton (Bonnie Bedelia) is ridiculously corny, and would surely have earned him a liberal Maceing and a kick in the balls in the real world. The brilliant idea of a fantasy-horror nut (Lance Kerwin) using his expertise to battle real-life vampires is disappointingly squandered; though I hate to admit it, "The Lost Boys" makes better use of the same theme. Anyway, I'll wrap this up before I start getting hypercritical. Great cast, great music. Sayonara!
The following are just a few points that have puzzled me over the years, products of the fact that so much of the action happens off-screen. SPOILER ALERT: DO NOT READ ON IF YOU HAVEN'T SEEN THIS MOVIE!:-
1. Who kills Mike Ryerson's (Geoffrey Lewis) dog? Since Barlow hasn't yet arrived on the scene, Straker (James Mason) presumably. But why?
2. Who 'kills' Ralphie Glick? Although the health benefits of wrapping someone in plastic and placing them in the boot of a car are open to question, I think we have to assume that Ralphie is still alive when Straker carries him into the cellar of the Marsten house; though still in transit at the time of Ralphie's abduction, only Barlow could turn the lad into a vampire at this stage.
3. Whose is that scrap of black fabric, found by Ben Mears when searching for Ralphie Glick? Straker's or Barlow's? Of course, we only have Straker's word for it that the two black suits he presents to the police constable are his only two. Sloppy police work, if you ask me!
4. Who dumps Larry Crockett's (Fred Willard) body by the lake, and for what reason (other than to tie a largely superfluous subplot to the main storyline)? The supposition is that two vehicles were used for this piece of mischief, one presumably driven by Straker, the other by Barlow, which seems reasonable enough at the time - until we actually meet Barlow, that is. For all we know, he may wear sensible driving shoes and his clutch control may be second to none, but at risk of exposing a lack of imagination on my part, I find it impossible to visualize Reggie Nalder's Nosferatu clone driving that car. Given that his wife's lover has died in suspicious circumstances, I also find it incredible that the police allow Cully Sawyer (George Dzundza) to leave town so swiftly.
5. What happens to Jason Burke (Lew Ayres) after his heart attack? Helpless in a hospital bed as vampirism and fire rage though 'Salem's Lot, the old man's uncertain fate is perhaps the bleakest and most unnecessary loose end in the whole movie. Why couldn't he just die of that heart attack? Similarly, what happens to Susan's mother when her husband and daughter fail to come home?
This is not a 'bloody' vampire movie, but it is extremely 'creepy', specifically in terms of the vampire make-up designs. This movie may move too slow for those not pre-disposed to the story and desiring a scare at every turn. When this film does scare, it does it well, and is always worth the wait. The end was brilliantly executed, and I think few people will forget the first time the "master vampire" popped up with his animalistic bulging yellow eyes, or when the kid came scratching at his friend's window (not the first kid, but the protagonist kid).
All good things said, I think Hooper could have done better in terms of cinematography and editing.