Salem’s Lot (2004)

Salem’s Lot” (TNT Mini-Series) Salempromo1

It’s that time of year once again, when spooky sounds, black cats, and jack-o-lanterns dominate the landscape.  I will endeavor to post several reviews of some Horror movies from my collection that I hope will add to your holiday enjoyment (Or at least give you’re a thumbs up or thumbs down kind of guidance when it comes to choosing a Halloween movie to watch!).  I start by writing one about a remake of an older and better film.  I write to you now about “Salem’s Lot”.  This is the 2004 remake of the 1979 TV Miniseries.  It has some big names in it, including Rob Lowe, Donald Sutherland, Samantha Mathis, Rutger Hauer, James Cromwell, and Andre Braugher.  However, all the big names are not helping this mini-series.

It’s difficult for me to imagine a remake of the 1979 classic of the same name.  I was 9 when THAT version of the story was shown on TV and it scared the crap out of me!  It had a blend of a couple of things that all Horror films should have: lightning, sound, and surprising edits.  I say that because this version lacks that entirely.  “Salem’s Lot” is based off a Stephen King book that I have never read.  When I saw the original mini-series, I was horrified that little kids were victims in this tale of terror.  A note to all parents: be careful letting kids who are sensitive to such, watch this film.

The story centers around a writer returning to his hometown to investigate a spooky old house that overlooks the town, in which he had some terrible experiences as a kid.  It sounds almost as some form of therapy for the writer, named Ben Mears.  The background of Ben’s childhood trauma is that he witnessed the owner of said spooky house commit suicide and then discovers the owner’s wife dead on the floor of the bathroom.  It would seem as though all bad things in this town have to do with that house.  The new owners of the house are an antique dealer named Richard Straker and his European partner, Kurt Barlow.  Once these new owners arrive in town, bad things start to happen.  Kids disappear, dogs are killed, and people are winding up in the hospital suffering from shock and acute anemia.  The source of these disturbances: Kurt Barlow is a vampire!  Little by little, the town starts to succumb to the evil of Barlow and is being repopulated by the Undead.  It’s up to a young teen, a school teacher, a wayward doctor, and Ben Mears to save the day.

By the way, they don’t succeed.

As sad and as anti-climatic as I wrote that is exactly how this film plays out.  It’s flat and boring.  It lacks any of the wicked feeling of the vampire.  Even the kids as vampires don’t seem that frightening.  It’s really quite sad, and I look at it that way because of how fantastic the original “Salem’s Lot” (1979) was.  In the original, the role of Richard Straker was played by James Mason and he made Starker more than just terrifying: he made the vampire’s keeper/assistant into a formidable foe.  Sutherland was wasted on the same role in this version; he could have been truly devilish.

The whole of “Salem’s Lot” seems to be about the past and everybody seems to be in denial that vampires are taking over the town.  Hmmm.  I think ANY small town would be vacating the premises as soon as somebody ran outside and yelled “Vampires are taking over!”  Seriously!  I mean, you see the Sheriff – who KNOWS that something is going on – dismiss his duty and just tell his deputy to take a leave of absence while he goes golfing…in another state.  Nobody wants to say the word “vampire” because people with think they are “crazy” – and yet, everybody is dropping dead and rising again in rapid fashion (in the span of 3 days it seems that half the school’s population is missing).  That’s what I don’t like about this version of the story.  It hastens everything and offers none of the ambiance of that creepy old house, or the pitch dark forest that surrounds the town.  In a nutshell, this Horror film lacks the mood of a true classic Horror film.

If you want to see a long and very frightening version of the same tale, check out “Salem’s Lot” (1979) because it is vastly superior to this flat, rushed, and tame comparison to the original.   If you can’t find it, or you deem yourself a vampire aficionado and you think you owe it to yourself to watch every vampire film ever made, check out this version of “Salem’s Lot” (2004).

…and that’s it for this edition of THE REEL VOICE.