Salem’s Lot (1979)

CBS presents Salem's Lot

“The house was a monument to evil sitting there all these years holding the essence of evil in its smoldering bones.”

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A writer named Ben Mears (David Soul) returns to his hometown of Salem’s Lot to pen a book about the Marsten house, a notoriously mysterious home perched on a hill overlooking the town.  When his worst fears about the house are realized, will Ben be able to get out of town before it’s dark secret swallows him whole?

Starring David Soul as Ben, James Mason as Richard Straker, Reggie Nalder as the Master (vampire), Bonnie Bedelia as Susan and directed by horror masker Tobe Hooper, Salem’s Lot is the CBS TV miniseries adaptation of the Stephen King novel of the same name.

CBS presents Salem's Lot

I’m going to come right out and say this, if for no other reason than I feel like Salem’s Lot is the elephant in the room when it comes to the Boston Top 50 list.  Landing at #17 on a list which includes the likes of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (also directed by Hooper), The Ring, and Silence of the Lambs, this 1979 TV miniseries manages (by Boston.com standards) to rank above films like 28 Days Later and The Hills Have Eyes.

How?

I’m not entirely sure.  It’s not that the adaptation is lacking in any way, shape or form both in terms of storytelling, casting, acting or cinematography.  Quite the contrary.  Salem’s Lot is a generally entertaining way to spend 184 minutes.

CBS presents Salem's Lot

I’ve tried viewing Salem’s Lot through the lens of 1979, as well.  Was the film intense enough for television viewers?  Yes.  Does Salem’s Lot work as a tried and true horror film despite the fact that is was made for television meaning it is replete with scares, thrills, shocks, and/or gore?  Maybe not so much.  Although there are  moments of relative intensity, Salem’s Lot seems to pale in comparison to other vampire films in the genre, and when put up against any of Hooper’s other directorial works.

And that’s something else, as well.  Salem’s Lot makes its appearance at #17 on the list as the only, I repeat only, vampire-centric horror film.  Surely, Let the Right One In, Nosferatu and even the 1992 adaptation of Bram Stoker’s Dracula could easily replace Salem’s Lot on the list.

But, I digress, and happily so.  I’m a fan of Stephen King, of Hooper, of Bonnie Bedelia, of James Mason, of practically every actor and filmmaker attached to this project.  And, at the end of the day, Salem’s Lot unquestionably delivers on atmosphere, story telling, and tension.

CBS presents Salem's Lot

The character development in Salem’s Lot is, I believe, at the heart of the film’s success.  That the filmmakers take the necessary time to fully engage the audience in the lives and motivations of its cast of characters is key to the film’s ability to maintain your interest and increase your worry.

There is also a charm to Salem’s Lot that is uncharacteristic and endearing, partially thanks to the performance of veteran (and acting great) James Mason who plays Straker, the protector and keeper of the Master.  Mason lends a classic horror film vibe to Salem’s Lot that I sincerely enjoyed.

Unfortunately, many in the states may have great difficulty in procuring a copy of Salem’s Lot for their viewing enjoyment.  I, myself, went to great lengths to find the film, both at a reasonable price and in a viewable medium.  I eventually turned to a source in the UK who provided me with a used Region 2 version of the film.  Was it worth it?  Sure, but then I didn’t pay $50+ for a copy of the film.

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Did Boston.com get it right?

1.) No.  What are you going to do?  Convert to Catholicism or hang crucifixes all over your house? Little good it did for the priest in Salem’s Lot.

2.) No.  Not unless you’re afraid of young boys floating outside your window at night, being mind-controlled, rats, dusty houses, or vampires in general.  If you are, then Salem’s Lot is going to make you soil yourself.

3.) Yes.  There are a few shock-worthy moments in Salem’s Lot, including the first introduction of “The Master” in the jail cell attack of Ned Tebbets (Barney McFadden).

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there's more to explore

Wiki facts: Salem’s Lot

Is Salem’s Lot rotten or fresh?

Read the Stephen King novel: Salem’s Lot

Related: Classic-Horror.com reviews Salem’s Lot (1979)

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One response to “Salem’s Lot (1979)

  1. Pingback: The List to End All Horror Film Lists | c.taylor·

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