Written by: Wayne C. Rogers
I remember trying to watch the newer television version of Salem’s Lot when it was first aired on TNT a few years ago, but it didn’t grab me at the time. I hate watching a mini-series on television that has a ton of commercials. Also, the little bit I saw of the show didn’t appear to be any more chilling than the original version had been.
For some strange reason, I’ve always felt that television and Stephen King don’t mix very well. I guess it has to do with what a major network is willing to censor and not censor.
This brings me right back to the second version of Salem’s Lot. I found a good price on the DVD and decided to give the movie another try, but without the commercials. I’m certainly glad I did. Though the mini-series still had its share of problems, I enjoyed it much more on DVD.
Rob Lowe takes over the role of Ben Mears from David Soul, playing a writer who returns to his small hometown to write a book about evil and ends up having to fight it tooth and nail. Rutger Hauer plays the vampire, Barlow, and Donald Sutherland plays his assistant, Straker. Both of them take over the evil Marsten House that overlooks the town of Jerusalem’s Lot, and it isn’t long before people start disappearing.
Andre Braugher and Samantha Mathis play Ben’s friends and accomplices in fighting the vampires. James Cromwell plays Father Callahan, the priest who lacks the faith to destroy the evil that’s taking over his town.
Having read the novel again, I was able to see that this television version of it stays somewhat truer to the story. Still, I found it difficult to find someone to root for. None of the characters appear to be very likable. The special effects, however, are well done, and both Sutherland and Hauer steal the show with their over-the-top performances. It’s easy to see that both men were enjoying themselves and hamming it up to a certain degree. Rob Lowe does a good job with his character, but David Soul was infinitely a more likable actor in the original series. I liked it that one of the search dogs in the movie was named Cujo, though he wasn’t a St. Bernard.
The movie runs three hours in length, and the last third is by far the best part, though there is one scene in the middle where a vampire in a jail cell squeezes into a tiny air vent in an attempt to get to Lowe, who’s in a nearby cell. That was a cool effect!
While not a 5-star film, Salem’s Lot is definitely not a 1-star movie, either. I’m happy I now have it for my “Stephen King” film library. One last thing to keep in mind when purchasing it, the DVD doesn’t have any extras on it. It would’ve been nice if there had been an interview with Stephen King and maybe some of the cast and crew, explaining why Salem’s Lot was being remade and what they hoped to accomplish with the newer version. No such luck. It’s like everyone took the money and ran!!!