'Salem's Lot

A Review by Chris McCaleb

 

Many of you are probably thinking, wow, this guy either 1) just came out of a coma, or is 2) seriously, SERIOUSLY behind the times. 'Salem's Lot? Why review a film that's twenty years old?

 

Because this is the beginning of a series where I review video picks, you naysayers. Or, in this case, Recently Seen on TV picks.

 

I saw a version* of this film last weekend. Let me assure you that this is no Exorcist or Creepshow. This movie was made for TV, and looks it. But some of the visuals in this film haunt me to this day. The horror movie genre has been absolutely crammed with vampire stories, and we've all been exposed to a lot of vampire imagery. But very little - Francis Coppola included, Bela Lugosi included - stays with me like the images from this film. I defy anyone to watch the dead Glick boys floating up to the window, scratching to be let in, and not think about it - A LOT - as you turn off all the lights to go to bed. Or what about Geoffrey Lewis as the cemetery caretaker jumping down into the grave, opening the coffin, and finding the corpse staring up at him with those eerie green eyes. Or Mr. Barlow flying through the window and sort of growing out of cape into a horrible, Max Shreck-like vampire? Where did THAT come from? GOD! I'm scared just thinking about it now.

 

This film also has the rare distinction of being one of the successful Stephen King film adaptations, horror category. And while this movie does have all the beats and limitations of a TV movie from the seventies, it is still VERY effective with no gore whatsoever. It's perfectly safe for TV, and yet very scary. I watched it in the middle of the afternoon on Sunday, and was still creeped out by the little Glick boys. What IS it about little dead children in Stephen King adaptations scaring me so much? The scariest thing about the original Shining film was the two little dead girls as well**!

Tobe Hooper may not be the best director in the world, but he has certainly provided us with some of the most memorable images in horror films. Texas Chainsaw, that big mouth from Funhouse, that naked vampire in Lifeforce, and you just KNOW it wasn't Steven Spielberg's idea to have the guy pull off his own face in Poltergeist.

 

* It is one of those films that was made for TV and was then released theatrically here and abroad, so it exists in several versions. It doesn't really matter which version you see - it's not one of those movies you analyze frame-for-frame for Captain Howdy.

 

** You know it's true.

 

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