If you have ever left a town you at one time called home you find yourself thinking about those early times in your life. You may even want to think about going back home to visit people, or to restart the creative process again. This is what writer Ben Mears (David Soul) tries to do when he travels back to the home of his youth. Mears finds himself back in such a small town, with such a strong history and has even gone through a name change from Jerusalem’s Lot to Salem’s Lot.
Salem’s Lot is like any small town in America. It is a town where secrets are not truly secrets at all but things of public knowledge, but just barely hidden from those they would harm. This is the Salem’s Lot that Mears finds himself driving back into. As Mears was only about ten years old when he left town he is not recognized when he walks into the local realtor. He inquires about places he could possibly rent and asks about the long empty Marsten house.
Unfortunately for Mears, the house has just recently been purchased by one Richard Staker (James Mason). Staker, and his business partner, are moving into Salem’s Lot and are in the midst of opening an antiques shop. They had purchased the old Marsten house not long before Mears came back to town and asked about the long abandoned home. See, Mears had hoped to pen a story that used the old home as a reference point for the story. As the film goes on, we find out that something horrible happened in the house back when Mears lived in the town. This has lead Mears to believe the house to be pure evil, and unfortunately as the film goes on Mears suspicious of the house begin to prove true.
Salem’s Lot was made as a television miniseries but the direction and story make this something that should have been on the big screen. The reason for this is that series did an incredible job at building suspense. It is somewhat obvious at the short beginning of the film that Mears and a young boy are being hunted by something. It is in the flashback of the film we find out what maybe after them and how cruel that something could be.
The best aspects of this film are the way they use the suspense and the imagination to build the story. This belongs at about the time one of two local boys meet a dark hand in the woods on a way home. The boy eventually reappears at his brothers window in what can be called one of the scariest moments caught on film. The fact that this is done in a television miniseries adds to the way it is shown. I am sure there are people today that still get nightmares from this very scene.
Salem’s Lot does one thing very well and that is building interest in the mysterious business partner of Staker, one Kurt Barlow. We see the local realtor asking about him and the town sheriff as well. No one has seen the man, but as things begin to happen in town Barlow and Staker become under investigation. The show did a great job of showing how fear of the unknown can cause sheer panic in a small town. We begin to know that Barlow is probably the man, or creature, behind what is happening and when we finally see him it is quite shocking.
Salem’s Lot is one of those series that stands the test of time. The show may lack some of the special effects that we have come to see in today’s television and films, but it makes an impact. Those who have seen Salem’s Lot will tell you that the series left a lasting impression. The villain in the film may even be an homage to the original vampire films, and the servant Staker is played masterfully by Mason. The fact that this is now available as a home video release shows that this series is truly something worth seeing.
How do you think this version did against the new one?
Like so many remakes I have to say I find the original to be better done. I think it’s primarily due to the fact that a remake often takes the original idea and “tries” to make it better. They may use special effects, or update the plot, but often it doesn’t work. Why? Well you already know the key story line and the key plot points. It’s hard to watch a remake when you already know what’s going to happen.
The other thought I have on that, is that often the original is something so unique that it holds a spot in the mind. It’s like those who say films like Gone with the Wind, Casablanca and so on should never be remade. They were done so well the first time, don’t mess with what is already out there.
I know at this point, I am in no rush to see the remake of Fright Night, The Thing, Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark and a few others in the works. However, that is just me, for all I know these will all be brilliant.
I think you’re right about the first movie being in your mind and it can never be better. I wonder also… for those of us who did not watch these when they first came out, are the newer ones better because they are updated for our minds? I have a problem sitting through many 70’s horror movies… just because they don’t hold my interest or the clothes are so bad (sorry… I’m in to clothes!) 80’s ones don’t bother me as much.