A Return to Salem’s Lot (1987)

return to salems lot poster 1987 movie
1 Overall Score
Story: 1/10
Acting: 1/10
Visuals: 1/10


Not even so-bad-it-is-good

Movie Info

Movie Name:  A Return to Salem’s Lot

Studio:  Larco Productions

Genre(s):  Horror/B-Movie

Release Date(s):  September 11, 1987

MPAA Rating:  R

return to salems lot vampire

Looks like someone went to K-Mart for their vampire costume

Anthropologist and delinquent father Joe Weber (Michael Moriarty) is called home for an emergency intervention with his son Jeremy (Ricky Addison Reed) whose behavior is forcing his mother (Ronee Blakley) to commit him to an asylum.  Joe agrees to take Jeremy to help him fix up his inherited family home in Jerusalem’s Lot, Maine…but Salem’s Lot has its own secrets.  Salem’s Lot is home to a coven of vampires and Joe could be the key to recording their history.  With Jeremy as their bartering chip, Joe finds himself sucked into the world of the vampires and escape may only come with death…or rebirth as a vampire.

Directed by Larry Cohen (who co-wrote the script with James Dixon), A Return to Salem’s Lot is a low-budget vampire horror film.  Based on the 1975 Stephen King novel, the film is a loose sequel to the 1979 TV miniseries.  It was released to negative reviews.

’Salem’s Lot is one of my favorite Stephen King novels and the mini-series was one of my earliest experiences with real horror (way too early at that).  I didn’t see this sequel until college and hated it…and rewatching now, I forgot how bad it really was.

return to salems lot tara reid vampire window

“Remember how scary the vampire in the window was in Salem’s Lot, guys? Let’s try not to do any of that this time”

Larry Cohen made a decent living on lower-budget horror films simply because he knew how to make twists to make them either better, a satire, or surprisingly complex.  A Return to Salem’s Lot does none of these things.  While the 1980s were ripe with things that could have been used to make vampires a social critic, none of that happens…nor is the movie particularly scary or funny.  The tone is all over the place and it feels like the actors don’t have much direction in how they are supposed to be interpreting the events in the film.  It picks up a little bit with the addition of filmmaker Samuel Fuller as a vampire killing Nazi hunter, but even that isn’t played to the fullest.

The acting is awful.  Michael Moriarty is a Cohen regular and has done far better work with him.  I can’t figure out if we’re supposed to think Joe is a jerk, a curmudgeon, or just bombastic…he never develops.  I feel sorry criticizing Rick Addison Reed because he’s just a child actor but gives a cringe-worthy performance as the just who like his father is all over the place in tone.  Andrew Duggan is fair as Judge Axel (it was the actor’s final role) and the movie features a small role by Ronee Blakley as Joe’s ex-wife.  The movie features the first acting role for Tara Reid as the young vampire girl who seduces Jeremy.

return to salems lot jeremy coffin ricky addison reed

We all feel your pain, Jeremy…and you helped cause it

The original Salem’s Lot mini-series built some of the best scares on broadcast TV through relatively little and gave a great Nosferatu inspired (and terrifying vampire).  The vampires in this movie are weak (if not just goofy looking).  The film is poorly shot and not even edited in a very effective way.

A Return to Salem’s Lot is a humongous disappointment.  It would be great if it was “so-bad-it-is-good”, but I’d even argue that isn’t the case…it is just bad.  With great modern vampire and werewolf movies being released in the 1980s along with other genre bending films, A Return to Salem’s Lot missed the boat, but it could be argued that it didn’t even come close to making it to boarding.

Related Links:

Salem’s Lot (1979)

’Salem’s Lot (2004)

’Salem’s Lot by Stephen King

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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