My favorite Stephen King book and by far my favorite King book movie adaptation is Salem’s Lot. Originally aired as a TV mini-series, for years it was one of the spookiest movies I had ever seen. Until I saw this movie, I had never thought that vampires were scary at all. Although this version of Salem’s Lot did not follow King’s original novel as closely as the TNT remake in 2004, the 1979 version did have a lot going for it that makes it a timeless classic. A near all-star cast including David Soul, James Mason, Bonnie Bedelia, Lew Ayres, Geoffrey Lewis and Fred Willard does a tremendous job bringing the novel to life in spite of the cheesey special effects. In one scene you can quite clearly see the crane arm moving an actor as if he was flying.
The movie aired over two nights and for reasons still unknown to me, my parents let me sit and watch every nightmare inducing minute. As if the nine-year-old version of me needed any more things to make me scared of the dark, I could not add Barlow and the vampires to the list. The Barlow in this movie nothing like his counterpart in King’s story. With ghoulish, Nosferatu features and an almost mindless lust for killing, he upped the creepiness factor of the film by a factor of ten.
By today’s standards, this film could almost be shown on ABC Family, but it never fails to raise the tiny hairs on the back of my neck. Proceeded by King’s first novel adaptation Carrie in 1976 and then The Shining in 1980, the world had been fully introduced to the brilliant and now wildly celebrated talents of Stephen King. For me, Salem’s Lot is a must-see staple for Halloween and of course I treated myself to watching it specifically for this review.
Although Salem’s Lot doesn’t rate very high with critics, it does have a small following of fans who like me, think fondly of this film as a throwback to our childhoods. It’s a nice old friend to revisit once in a while to feel nostalgic and to sometimes remind ourselves there use to be things that went bump in the night.