gideon43's Movie Review of Salem's Lot (1979)

Rating of

Salem's Lot (1979)

You'll enjoy Mr. Barlow. And he'll enjoy you.
gideon43 - wrote on 05/20/10

Salem's Lot really shouldn't work. It doesn't have a lot going for it. For starters it was a made for TV production which in the 1970s meant no profanity, sex or over the top violence. It also meant a limited budget and other constraints such as regular cliffhangers adapted for TV ads.
It had a pretty mediocre cast (David Soul as lead, come on) and a pretty mediocre director in Tobe Hooper.
Hooper's career can hardly be classed as legendary, his most famous movie The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) is highly overrated although it takes plaudits for having the most enticing title in Film History, Poltergeist (1981) would probably be Hooper's second most famous movie but if the urban legend is to be believed, Steven Spielberg was on hand for most of the directing duties as Hopper was deemed to be unreliable.
Resisting all these potential disadvantages, Salem's Lot triumphs miraculously. Scare for scare, chill for chill, this is possibly the most frightening movie ever made.
In the full original 184m version, the atmospheric and slowly wrought tension is cranked up to the max as a small American Midwest town is callously and brutally overtaken by Vampires.
Salem's Lot keeps things simple, Haunted House, traditional vampires, wooden stakes, holy water, good vs. evil. All tick the box. Neglecting any humorous undertones, all the actors play it straight as a die and help to create a menacing and disturbing aura.
Despite a few changes to Stephen King's original novel, the author was said to be fairly pleased with the finished product (although he was irked by the change of one of his main characters, Mr Barlow). Herein lies Salem's great strength, it plays like a book keeping the viewer on the edge of their seat as it tantalisingly stirs up the emotions developing an eerie and indomitable feeling of dread.
From a personal point of view, I remember Salem's Lot been an event. When it was first televised in the UK, everybody at my school seemed to be talking about it. To impressionable 13yr olds, this was probably our first introduction to a proper Horror film (remember, no VCRs in those days).
I still believe this is the best Vampire film ever and fully deserves its place in the 25 Greatest Horror Movies Of All Time.

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