Part 2 of The Blog Complainer’s cramming muck-up, Let’s go!
We’re returning to the vampire theme with Salem’s Lot. It’s a 1979 Stephen King adaptation and from director Tobe Hooper, who also made the Texas Chainsaw Massacre five years prior and three years later will collaborate with Steven Spielberg to make Poltergeist. I didn’t realise until I started watching it, but this isn’t a movie, it’s a TV mini-series, which explains the abnormally long runtime. Figuring this out did kind of undercook my experience because this is made for 1970s TV when you weren’t allowed to show any of that violent gory stuff on a 9 o’clock prime time schedule!
The story and drama is where it’s all at, as a horror writer named Ben Mears arrives in the small town of Salem’s Lot to study the strange urban legend murder house he remembers from his childhood. He meets a variety of town residents like a real estate salesman, a constable, a gravedigger, a young girl returning home to be a teacher and an old man in a black suit who is opening an antique shop and definitely doesn’t look shady in the slightest! You will need to keep track of all these characters in this three hour long mini-series as they set in motion a chain of events that may involve some folks being knocked off, while Ben and his pals look into the big mystery surrounding the resurgence of vampires in this small town.
Again, don’t worry about the violence as a good chunk of the deaths will involve some sort of fade to black effect. The most violent thing you’ll find here is an old man lifting up another old man with his superhuman strength of course, only to then carry him across the grand staircase landing so he can impale him on some mounted deer antlers at the end of the hall. You can argue it’s a little extreme, but I don’t think so. What this mini-series does effectively is be creepy and eerie, more so when the vampires come into play with their scaly white skin and glowing eyes. This movie also helped revaluate one of my problems with the 1958 Dracula, as to why do people throw themselves at vampires? Salem’s Lot shows that the people who will become future vampire victims have all lost someone very close the day prior and then they’re hit with nightmares and a hypnotic trance, I think, so they open up their windows to invite the ghostly vampire to come in. That’s my take on it, and I am officially unsettled.
On the downside, did we really need all these different side characters? It was already hard to keep up with most of them, which made it even more disappointing when all this investment led to either nothing or a cheap death. As for the characters themselves, they’re a mixed bag. The more antagonistic characters I feel have more to work with as they get to go all out with their cartoony villainy. For example the only scene in this whole movie I would consider actually scary is the scene where the wife-abusing truck driver threatens to shoot the real estate salesman in the face for having an affair with the wife that he sees as his possession. It’s scary because the man looks deranged enough for you to believe that he might actually shoot the late Fred Willard in the face whilst his wife is in the other room. Of course the trucker lets him go, only for him to be killed off-screen in the very next scene by the blue Nosferatu vampire, which did lessen the effect.
I was going to complain about the length, but it is a mini-series after all so there is the option to just not watch all it one go, unlike what I did. Although you still might run into the same problem of that the first half is pretty boring set-up and while all the good stuff is the last half. To give Salem’s Lot some credit it does have the best ending out of the four, I’m covering this year. Action-packed and quite bitter sweet, is all I’m going to say about that.
One day I might need to revisit Salem’s Lot as I did enjoy watching it, but overall it was still a mix bag. We still have one movie to go after this, which will either be one sleep away, or a click away depending when you read this. BC, out!