A Return to Salem’s Lot (1987) Review

A Return to Salem’s Lot is the “Sequel” to the 1979 mini series, director Larry Cohen had originally wanted to direct the 1979 adaptation but lost the role to Tobe Hooper. Warner Bros later approached him to direct a low budget film for them and he suggested a sequel to the Salem’s Lot mini Series.

In all honesty the film is as far from a sequel as you can get, apart from the town name none of the previous characters return here and there is little reference to the mini series. The poster shows the Master behind the film title but to my surprise the he is also absent in the film, a great example of false advertising to sell a product.

This film follows two protagonists Joe an anthropologist studying human nature in African Tribes who returns to the USA to take care of his Son Jeremy a teenage trouble maker who is threatened to be thrown into a mental health institution.

The pair travel to Salem’s Lot the childhood home of Joe who has inherited an old farm from a deceased relative, during the daytime the town is run by Human Drones as a ruse to hide away the towns dark secrets. At night all of Salem’s Lot vampiric residents roam the streets looking for human or animal blood to drink so that they can survive.

The leader of the vampires is Judge Axel a manipulative and influential old man who reveals to the vampires to Joe and promises not kill him or Jeremy providing that Joe will write a study of Vampire behaviours and life styles to be released in 200 years time.

Joe is desperate to leave the town and even during an escape attempt he is caught so he wants to comply just to see him and Jeremy safe but unfortunately thanks to a manipulative young girl, Jeremy is having a hard time choosing not to turn into a vampire and this becomes another major plot in the movie and another issue for Joe to help him with.

I want give some praise to actor performances in this as for a cheesy sequel to a story that never originally had one most of the actors in this put a lot of heart into their performance’s.

Michael Moriarty who played lead protagonist Joe is really good in this and gives a really convincing performance as a concerned father but also a bit of an asshole who at times can be selfish especially around work.

Judge Axel played by the late Andrew Duggan is really great as the villain in this and comes across as fairly innocent but will draw blood if it means he will get what he wants, a strange comparison but the character actually reminds of Lotso from Toy Story 3 as both characters have similar goals and personality traits.

My final praise goes to the late Samuel Fuller an actor and real life WW2 veteran who plays an eccentric Nazi Hunter who has come to Salem’s lot looking for an individual. He eventually teams up with Joe to try and destroy all of the vampires in town.

Everyone else does an ok job here but isn’t exactly memorable and the only annoying performance came from Ricky Addison Reed who plays Jeremy but to be fair its more the character than the performance. Jeremy is so unlikable in this, he is whiny, annoying and overall a stereotypical “bad kid” but the character is so over stereotyped that its a lame and seriously corny performance from an actor that probably could do a better job if given some decent material to work with.

You can tell this was a low budget production but to be fair they did the best with what they had and some of these effects are actually pretty decent and to my knowledge do not rely on any CGI, the film obviously uses a lot of fake blood but the burning effects are pretty good especially when using holy water. Judge Axel’s final form looks a little silly and cheap and was obviously this films take on the Masters make-up but here it kind of sucks and to be honest they would have been better leaving him with his human face and finding a creative way to kill him.

A Return to Salem’s Lot is a pretty good vampire flick all things considered, it isn’t deep or will stick with viewers for a long time but as a B-Movie it is a lot of fun and while it doesn’t hold a candle to the 1979 mini series it has some really great performances, some decent effects and a story that is silly but still compelling and you will to see it through till the end, you can tell a lot of work went into this and while it didn’t have much connection with the mini series or Kings book there is some respect to those versions and its obvious that the name wasn’t only used to sell the film but does actually try to be a proper continuation just with new characters.

Next time we will be taking a look at the 2004 Salem’s Lot mini series a very much forgotten version and I am very eager to see if it holds up.

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Salem’s Lot (1979) TV Mini Series Review

From his first story and straight into the second, welcome to the beginning of the Salem’s Lot deep dive, in this series of articles I will be discussing every major adaptation of Stephen Kings second book Salem’s Lot before finally discussing the original story to see which version is the most accurate to Kings vision.

We will be starting this deep dive with a television mini series which was funded for development and broadcasting on Warner Bros Television. In Europe the tv series was cut down from its original 3 hour length to only 2 hours and was released as a movie. Today we are discussing the full 3 hour version

In this film we start in Guatamala where Ben Mears and a young boy Mark Petrie are on the run from the remaining Vampires of Salem’s Lot

We are then taken to a flash back of Ben Mears revisiting his home town of Salem’s Lot in order to garner inspiration for his next book, specifically a book which is to be based on the old Marsten house, a home which gave him childhood trauma after he discovered the hanging body of Hubie Marsten.

Unfortunately Ben’s plans to move into the house are put to a stop after he discovers the home has been purchased and converted into an Antique store ran by Richard Straker the partner of the Austrian Immigrant and rarely seen Kurt Barlow.

Throughout the nights victims both adult and children are disappearing only to turn up much later, pale and sickly before dropping dead and re-waking with a taste for blood.

Its a grizzly and sad mystery with no one knowing where to turn or just what the heck is going on, the victims have the signs of Vampirism but only Ben and Mark truly believe in this possibility, can they save Salem’s Lot from these blood sucking parasites or will they also join the legion of the undead?

This re-telling of Stephen Kings novel garnered a lot of hype from Horror Fans thanks to its director Tobe Hooper who directed the popular 1973 film The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.

At this point I have read the book and its clear to see that a lot of the gore and sexual themes of the novel have been altered for Television which was expected, thankfully Director Tobe Hooper handled this extremely well managing to keep key moments from the book in this version and while they are heavily altered they are still scary and manage to deliver on plot progression.

A great example of a scary scene is when Ralphie Glick pays a nightly visit to his older brother Danny, Ralphie had previously gone missing and was presumed dead. This eerie performance from actor Ronnie Scribner alongside the ghostly effects is the perfect balance to leave watchers with chills.

To be honest compared to some other films of this era the effects in this are really impressive, the film didn’t use any CGI imagery and had a high dependence on physical effects and makeup, CGI was still in the very early stages at this point with its first ever appearance being the 1973 film Westworld. Physical effects always work better in the horror genre and this is no exception.

The camera angles were specifically inspired by the works of Alfred Hitchcock such as his 1960 masterpiece Phycho, these inspirations are particularly prevalent during shots of the Marston House and certain closeups when characters meet their end.

The cast and crew for this special was in all ways fine, not one performance is particularly uninspired and you can tell a lot of care went into certain portrayals, the biggest barrier to actor performances is actually the way this story is cut together, this is a long book and while the most important parts of the story are included even some of those had to be significantly shortened to fit into the 3 hour length of the special, this left earlier scenes of the special feeling a little rushed and choppy which I personally feel had a big impact on allowing actor performances to thrive and help make viewers become attached to these characters and it is a shame because apart from this the 1979 TV mini series is excellent.

For a low budget mini-series this is seriously well directed and its dark and gothic inspired imagery make for some really creepy and scary moments, you can tell a lot of care went into this entire production and while it does have its problems specifically with pacing which in turn affected actor performances over all what we did get was an almost perfect adaptation of that original book, yes it was heavily cut down but with good reasons and something I will explain in more detail when we discuss the book and also why a page for page adaptation just wouldn’t work too well on the screen.

up next in this journey through Salem’s Lot is the 1987 “Sequel” A Return to Salem’s Lot

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