DVD Review: Salem’s Lot
Salem’s Lot (1979)
Studio: Warner Home Video
DVD Release Date: October 26, 1999
Directed By: Tobe Hooper
Cast: David Soul, Bonnie Bedelia, James Mason, Lance Kerwin & Reggie Nalder
Review By: Annie Riordan
A young writer returns to his home town of Salem’s Lot, Maine to begin work on a new book, seeking inspiration from the dilapidated old mansion at the edge of town. When he learns that a mysterious man has rented the spooky ruin, he is immediately suspicious. His suspicions are only heightened when a young boy goes missing, and a strange, wasting illness begins to decimate the rest of the towns’ population. Soon, his greatest fears are confirmed: a centuries old vampire is feeding on The Lot, and turning it its residents into an army of the undead.
Ah, the 1970s, when made-for-TV movies were NOT cheapshit crapola! This one stands as one of the finest examples of how to do TV movies correctly and well. Tobe (Texas Chainsaw Massacre) Hooper was at the helm here, bringing Stephen King’s bestselling vampire tale to the small screen. It’s not a faithful adaptation, but even King’s fans can’t say it’s a BAD one. The atmosphere is genuinely creepy, overwhelmingly morbid and simply reeks of filth and disease. The excellent ensemble cast make the vast array of small town, oddball characters three-dimensional and very real.
Perhaps the biggest deviation from book to film was the character of the Master vampire, Barlow. Neglecting the suave, eurotrashy, Bela Lugosi-esque model given in the book, director Tobe Hooper instead made Barlow the Bloodsucker an homage to Nosferatu. Reggie Nalder, buried beneath a flowing black cape, a bald prosthetic, rat-like incisors, glowing golden contact lenses and tons of make-up (which at times looks rotted blue, other times dead white) is barely recognizable. Clocking in at just over three hours, Barlow himself does not appear until 2 hours, 5 minutes and 25 seconds have elapsed. (Yes, I checked). However, his appearance at this point is one of screendom’s most horrifyingly effective, pee-in-your-pants, jump scare moments EVER!
Whatever you do, do NOT make the tragic mistake of renting the 2004 remake starring Rob Lowe. It sucks out loud, and NOT in a good way. Stick with this 1979 original, a must-see for King fans, vampire completists and Nosferatu enthusiasts. It’s a true classic that deserves a good dusting off.
Brutal As Hell Rating:
4 out of 5