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Becky Ann Baker,
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Ben Mears, a writer returns to the small Maine town of Jerusalem's Lot (also known as Salem's Lot), where he spent the first few years of his life, to write a book. Little does he or the townfolk realize that a couple of other new residents are coming...Straker, an antiques dealer, and his partner and master Barlow, a ancient and malevolent vampire bent on making Salem's Lot his new home. Written by
First off, let me say that I have read the original novel and seen the 1979 miniseries. Both are great in their own right. The novel is scary and foreboding. The '79 movie captures that feeling even though it changed a good amount of the story.
This 2004 adaptation doesn't attempt to mimic the feelings the '79 movie conveyed. In my opinion, this is a good thing. Although many posters seem to indicate they want to see the same scenes that were in the '79 version, what would this accomplish? The '79 version is on tape, so if you want to be scared in the same way, watch that.
The critics I've read so far have criticized this film for not being close to the novel. I guess I had a different expectation. I have long since given up on the expectation that novels translate perfectly to film. This does not happen (the rare exception being Lord of the Rings, yet even that had changes). Nevertheless, here are their main arguments. I'll respond to each one:
1) The ending of Father Callahan. - This is a 3 hour movie, and as such, plot points and characters need to be wrapped up. While Father Callahan may survive in the novel (only to reappear in The Dark Tower), this would leave more questions than answers to those who are watching the miniseries and getting the story for the first time. Remember how ridiculous the truncated version of the '79 movie ended--without knowing what happened to Susan? Films need to wrap up their loose ends.
2) The modernization of the story. - Salem's Lot was set in the mid-seventies not for any particular reason but only because that was when King wrote it. Obviously the original film took place in the seventies (as it was shown in 1979). Why must the new miniseries take place in the 70s? There's nothing in the book that requires the 70s to be the setting, and more people will be able to adapt to the current time. They don't sacrifice any of the story elements to do this. But since we are modernizing it, we do need to add some modern touches (i.e. email, cell phone, etc.) None of these take away from the story.
3) It's not scary / doesn't scare me as much as the '79 version. - Again, the '04 version isn't attempting to imitate the earlier film, and rightfully so. We don't need a shot by shot of what made the '79 classic horror (and it is) - this is how the remake of "Psycho" got panned. The original is a classic, and you can't remake a classic. So instead the director here (Saloman) decided to focus not so much on the fear but on another aspect of King's novel that was not focused on in the '79 version, and that is the entity of the town itself. The '79 version eliminated, combined, and truncated many characters, so that in the end, the only really main ones were Ben, Mark, Susan, and Straker. It worked, but this was a far cry from King's novel. The 2004 version gives us much more, including Dr. Cody, Dud, Ruthie, Father Callahan (in a larger role), Barlow (in the real role), and many other minor characters (i.e. the bus driver).
To sum up - No, it's not scary, but it isn't trying to be. There's a '79 version that did that very, very well. We didn't need them to remake that; it's good on its own. What we needed was an interesting story. Salem's Lot '04 gives us that. Don't expect it to win any Emmys, but hearing people say they wasted 4 hours of their lives makes me laugh. This is one of the best adaptations of a King work, and there are far, far worse.
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