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Robbie Parry
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Posted: 19 August 2018 at 12:52pm | IP Logged | 1 post reply

I visited my family today and instead of us chatting, we decided to watch a film (or, rather, a mini-series released as a 'film'): 1979's SALEM'S LOT.

I watch this at least once a decade. It never fails to impress me, and I consider it the best adaptation of a Stephen King novel. Originally a mini-series, it seems to be shown as a 'film' more often than not.

It stars David Soul as Ben Mears, a writer who returns to his hometown of Salem's Lot, Maine - and discovers that vampires are working rather surreptitiously (as I suppose they always do). Throw a mysterious house and an antiques dealer (James Mason) into the mix - and you have a rather eerie story.

By modern standards, this may seem ponderous and slow, but as always happens when I watch it, it's slow-burning nature is all part of what makes it so effective. Everyone seems so immersed in their performances, and I soak up every line of dialogue, every moment, every horrifying aspect, etc. Every performance is solid.

It all feels very credible, too. I'm not saying this is necessarily a bad thing, but in a lot of horror films, people do seem a tad quick to accept the existence of vampires and the like once they see the evidence. They seem rather casual about it. Here it's different. Dr. Norton (Ed Flanders) sees a vampire with his own eyes, but during a car journey with Mears, he can't quite seem to accept it. When I finally come face to face with a vampire - not soon, I hope - I am not sure I'll totally believe it, either.

I feel adaptations of King's novels have been very hit and miss over time, but I am glad to have watched SALEM'S LOT again. I don't think it has dated much. The only thing that ever really dates a film/show for me are hairstyles and fashion. Other than that, I think it stands up well in 2018.
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Bill Collins
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Posted: 19 August 2018 at 1:15pm | IP Logged | 2 post reply

I think the best adaptions are the ones that are not out
and out horror, Stand By Me, Misery, Shawshank, Green
Mile.I like Firestarter and Christine, but have not read
the original books of those, so maybe my perception of
those films is skewed?
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Doug Centers
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Posted: 19 August 2018 at 4:36pm | IP Logged | 3 post reply

I'll tell you what, that floating boy tapping on the window scene scared the bejeezus out of me when it aired.

That and the doll from Trilogy of Terror are my scariest tv moments.

Haven't watched Salem in decades but if Robbie says it holds up, that's good enough for me.
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Robbie Parry
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Posted: 19 August 2018 at 6:14pm | IP Logged | 4 post reply

Thanks, Doug.

I wonder, would a 2018 reboot have CGI vampires, glitz, glamour? Fast-paced action heroes.

There's something to be said for slow-burning and ponderous storytelling.
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Peter Martin
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Posted: 19 August 2018 at 6:25pm | IP Logged | 5 post reply

The Salem's Lot mini is very good. The pacing of the second half definitely picks up, though there's an argument to be made that the whole benefits from the slow build-up of the first half.

An interesting cast of character actors populate the town, which contributes massively to capturing that rich tapestry depicted by the book. David Soul doesn't reflect the character as described in the book physically (who, let's face it, is more like Stephen King), but he is very good. I love his monologue about visiting the Marsten House as a child ("I ran. I RAN!").

Very good, creepy score and there are many genuinely scary scenes. Mr Barlow is memorable, though this is clearly where the TV adaptation diverges most severely from the source. Barlow in the novel is an articulate Dracula analogue, rather than the blue monster seen here.

One of the best TV horrors, in my opinion. The floating Glick boy is unforgettable.
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Robbie Parry
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Posted: 19 August 2018 at 6:32pm | IP Logged | 6 post reply

You know, I haven't read the book. I have started reading King's books chronologically recently. CARRIE was the first, so I am thinking SALEM'S LOT will be next.

Incidentally, RETURN TO SALEM'S LOT was a complete waste of time. 
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John Popa
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Posted: 19 August 2018 at 7:42pm | IP Logged | 7 post reply

The floating child tapping at the window was my introduction to horror (as I've probably mentioned here before.) I sneaked down from my second story bedroom when I was six years old and peaked in at what my parents were watching just at that moment, and promptly refused to look out my window at night until I was practically in college.

I re-read the book every year in September or October, it's my favorite King book for sure.

The full version of 'Salem's Lot is certainly slow especially since it's not trying to be paced like a feature film, but it gives you a lot more of the town, which is what so much of the book is (it's 100 pages or so before anything evil happens.)  I like the slow awakening in the book of evil amongst them, so I like the full version taking its time to get to the jumps.

I haven't seen the cut down version in years to compare, but I've grown to consider the full mini-series a favorite.  David Soul is great (although, as noted, not much like the book's description of a smaller, 32 year-old writer.)  The biggest change though is the movie makes Barlowe into a silent, Nosferatu-inspired monster, whereas in the book the main vampire is elegant and well spoken.  The change doesn't especially bother me, much of that fueled by nostalgia, of course.

They did remake 'Salem's Lot' a few years back as a cable mini-series with Rob Lowe as the lead.  It's justifiably forgotten.


Edited by John Popa on 19 August 2018 at 7:44pm
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Trevor Smith
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Posted: 19 August 2018 at 8:11pm | IP Logged | 8 post reply

“You know, I haven't read the book.”

**

Appropriately, perhaps, considering the subject matter - you are dead to
me, Robbie.
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Brandon Frye
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Posted: 19 August 2018 at 8:20pm | IP Logged | 9 post reply


 QUOTE:
  The biggest change though is the movie makes Barlowe into a silent, Nosferatu-inspired monster, whereas in the book the main vampire is elegant and well spoken.

King has stated that one of his biggest influences for Salem's Lot was Bram Stoker's Dracula novel and that Salem's Lot was basically 'what if Dracula came to a modern American town.'  King's physical description of Barlow was pretty close to how Stoker described his Count (hawk nose, mustache, etc). 

But King was also heavily influenced by the more monsterous vampires of the old EC Comics and gave his vampires many of those attributes (white skin, red eyes). 

I'm not sure why the decision was made to make Barlow the speechless, feral monster he was in the film but he did succeed in scaring the crap out of me as a kid. 


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Peter Martin
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Posted: 19 August 2018 at 9:49pm | IP Logged | 10 post reply

I re-read the book every year in September or October, it's my favorite King book for sure.
---------------------------------
John, it was the first King book I read and it's definitely one of my favourites of his. It's a very satisfactory novel. I think the Dead Zone is probably up there with it and The Stand.
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Ed Aycock
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Posted: 20 August 2018 at 9:09am | IP Logged | 11 post reply

I first read "Salem's Lot" when I was 14; it was the second Stephen King novel I ever read.  When I re-read it in my 30s after reading a lot more King, it seemed like an early novel, completely enjoyable but the thing that really got me was that the sly dog King had upended a famous New England novel (Grace Metalious' "Peyton Place." which I had also read in the interim) and added vampires to it.  It works very well.

I was a little disappointed in the miniseries as it didn't show the entire town being taken over but what only seemed like a small amount of people.  The book was terrifying in its depiction of everybody falling prey to it.    
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Matt Reed
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Posted: 20 August 2018 at 9:46am | IP Logged | 12 post reply

 Robbie Parry wrote:
There's something to be said for slow-burning and ponderous storytelling.

I love a good slow burn.  Ponderous storytelling, however, no thanks.  It's all in the definition:

Definition of ponderous

1of very great weight 
2unwieldy or clumsy because of weight and size 
3oppressively or unpleasantly dull lifeless 
  • ponderous prose
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