Movie Name: ’Salem’s Lot
Studio: Coote Hayes Productions
Genre(s): Horror TV
Release Date(s): June 20, 2004
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
When a man named Ben Mears (Rob Lowe) is brought in for attacking a minister named Father Callahan (James Cromwell), he is rushed to the hospital with life threatening injuries. He begins to tell the tale of a town called Jerusalem’s Lot and the horror that started there. ’Salem’s Lot like most town had secrets, but the biggest secret was about to move into the Marsten House in the form of a man named Richard Straker (Donald Sutherland) and his unseen business partner Kurt Barlow (Rutger Hauer). Barlow is a vampire and once Barlow comes to town, ’Salem’s Lot’s town dirty little secrets might not be the town’s biggest problem.
Directed by Mikael Salomon, ’Salem’s Lot was a TV mini-series adaptation of Stephen King’s 1975 novel. The mini-series aired in two parts on TNT from June 20-June 21, 2004. It was met with average reviews but nominated for a Primetime Emmy for Outstanding Music Composition for a Miniseries, Movie or a Special (Dramatic Underscore).
I really enjoyed the book ’Salem’s Lot and the first adaptation of it (also a mini-series) in 1979 was one of the first horror films I can remember seeing. With a creepy concept for a vampire picture (essentially Peyton Place meets vampires), ’Salem’s Lot’s remake should have been pretty good…instead, it turns into quite a boring picture.
The new version of ’Salem’s Lot messes with the story too much. Granted, the original film has gotten quite a following over the years and out and out remake could have rubbed people the wrong way, but this attempt to bring it to the screen loses a lot of the novel’s heart and scares. The plot just trudges along with major differences and not enough modernizing to make it different but also not enough of the old-school horror that made the first one full of jumps. The first half of the film moves at a decent clip, but once the vampires are uncovered and Mears forms his band of vampire-slayers, the movie just gets stupid. It needed to split the focus between the small town secrets and the vampires to make it a bit more balanced.
Like many of these Stephen King adaptation, they do draw in a good cast. I’m not a huge Rob Lowe fan and I think he plays the character of Ben Mears a bit odd, but the decision to kill Samantha Mathis’s Susan Norton was a dumb move that negated any connection between the two characters. Andre Braugher did some nice stuff with Matt Burke and James Cromwell can always play people like Callahan perfectly. Dan Bryd’s Mark Petrie was turned into a punk kid, and I liked him better as the good boy. Both Donald Sutherland and Rutger Hauer were a letdown. James Mason played Straker as a real creep in the original version and here hams it up. I also much prefer the out-and-out monster version of Barlow with the Nosferatu look.
By making Barlow a rather normal looking vampire, some of the extra creepiness of the first mini-series is lost. In addition to that scenes like the window scene just couldn’t distinguish themselves in a way that was better than the first time. In addition, flashback’s to Ben Mears early encounters in the Marsten House don’t really add to the story enough that the stylized shooting and constant memories are worth it.
’Salem’s Lot just isn’t very good. It is better than some of the King mini-series in that it looks like a lot of money was put into it, but it is just misdirected. I don’t pretend that the original Salem’s Lot is the finest piece of horror cinema, but it does have some great moments…here you get mostly forgettable vampires and a movie that goes on way too long.
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