As far as vampire films go...nothing rattles me more than 1979's Salem's Lot. Jesus Christ, I was so scared of this film when I was younger. I mean, I look back at it now and...yes, it is a bit dated. Yes, the special F/X aren't as great as from what I remembered them to be. But, damn...it does still chill my bones in it's own evil way.
The film is directed by Tobe Hooper (damn, I didn't realize I had so many Hooper-directed films on my list) and has many oh-my-God-I-know-that-guy actors in it...but, none stand out more than the late James Mason as Richard Straker, the vampire Barlow's care taker. He's so elegant as the controversial new owner of the Marsten House - the local haunted house.
Then there's novelist Ben Mears, played straight by David Soul of Starsky & Hutch fame, a native of Salem's Lot who has returned home after many years away. He meets a young teenager, played by Lance Kerwin, who happens to be a big fan of horror movies. I think the fact that I was a huge horror movie fan as well kind of drew me into the film when I was younger. They end up teaming up to fight the forces of evil and save the town of Salem's Lot from the clutches of Barlow, the misunderstood vampire.
Soon, the townspeople start turning into blood-thirsty vampires and the fit pretty much hits the shan. The story is classic Stephen King, adapted from a novel of the same name. I believe this was the only time King and Hooper appeared in the credits for the same film. Speaking of Hooper, he does such a fine job here with the pacing and the tension. Salem's Lot originally aired as a TV mini-series and every once in a great while you'll catch it on some network around this time of year. It's best to seek out the actual series and not the theatrical cut, as that one butchers most of the film's content in favor of a shorter running time. Although, one can argue that the shorter version has a much better pace. However...you can watch each episode a night at a time...which would allow you that old school feeling of story chapters.
Oh...and I have to mention this because it still haunts my unconscious hours. Salem's Lot contains one of the creepiest vampire sequences of any film before or since. The fuckin' scene where the kid comes back to life as a vampire and taps on the other kid's window still has the ability to raise the hairs on the back of my neck. I've seen the sequence on YouTube recently in the safety of my own home and found myself lining the windows of my house with garlic afterward. Scary.
Jesus Christ is that fuckin' picture scary as all hell!!!
Anyway, Salem's Lot scared the living Holy Hell out of me when I was a young child, partly because my mother once told me when I was a young innocent tyke that if I stayed up past midnight then Dracula was going to drink my blood. To this day...I tend to think twice about seeing the other side of midnight. Think I might've mentioned that during the Fright Night segment...sorry.
Salem's Lot is an effective translation of a classic Stephen King novel. While it is not up to today's standards...especially in the F/X department...it still holds a scary cinematic experience. One deserving of your time this Halloween season and many more to come.
4 out of 5
Thanks for reading,
PS.....here is the scene that has shaken my very core time and time again...enjoy...