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Just watched the DVD and was gripped from beginning to end. Why all
these bad comments? King's book reaches into the well worn bag of
Vampire clichés and recreates the myth. Instead of a wild, exotic
location, his vampire tale happens in our own back yard - small town
USA. The movie, like the book, details characters - typical types, but
uniquely drawn to perk our interest - setting up ordinary and
recognizable patterns of action and behavior. Enter the vampire;
strange things happen, the patterns shake and change; the town goes
from sunlit Americana to moonlit nightmare. This movie changes many of
King's original notions, but maintains the heart and soul of his book.
The first fifteen or twenty minutes, introduced by the Lowe character
with a steady and pointed commentary,
brilliantly introduces the story's characters while it's signaling the movie's main conflict. For me, this was seamless storytelling; convincing, entertaining, and, with the overall dark mood reflected in the words and Lowe's voice, a foreshadowing that's all the more ironic because what we're looking at is so ordinary. Being a TV mini series, the film makers didn't have to cram the book into a two hour box. Time is taken to develop characters, relationships; action unfolds at a pace that seems steadily natural - nothing is pushed. Knowing more about the characters means we feel more for them when bad things happen. At least, I did. Rob Lowe's measured, low key performance anchors the movie. I believed he was a writer, who's guarded, repressed nature was rigidly calculated as if all things in life progressed like words in a well written sentence. I found all the Vampire stuff genuinely spooky - mainly because it all seemed so sad. With only a few misguided gestures along the way (the incest bit, for one, seemed unnecessary), this director focused the movie with care and respect. Even when "bad" characters are "changed" we feel a kind of empathy that is all but nonexistent in Horror movies these days. Maybe watching it in one sitting, as I did, with no interruptions, is why I could follow and appreciate things that others (based on the majority of these comments) seemed to miss. My opinion is firm: this is a great movie.
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.
Another film adaptation of Stephen King's masterpiece 'Salem's Lot, one of
the scariest novels ever written. Presented by TNT as a two part
Ben Mears returned to Salems Lot, the small New England town where he was born, hoping to write the novel that just might put to rest what had happened to him as a boy in the old Marsten House. Unfortunately, Richard Straker and Kurt Barlow had other ideas.
A bit different than the 1979 version, mainly due to modern computer generated enhancements and Peter Filardi's loosely adapted teleplay.
Comparing the two mini-series, neither followed the book closely, although Tobe Hooper's earlier version was the scarier. Rob Lowe was more believable as Ben Mears than David Soul, but neither Lance Kerwin nor Dan Byrd fit the book's impish image of 11 year old Mark Petrie. Donald Sutherland's Richard K. Straker character never had a chance to develop, but it could never have compared to James Mason's portrayal, he was much more sinister.
The second part was filled with great performances by the cast and fantastic special effects and was far more enjoyable to watch with Rutger Hauer as vampire Kurt Barlow, while James Cromwell as Father Callahan gave the best performance.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
What were they thinking? This is terrible, I suppose they tried and it
may have even worked had they subtitled this 'masterpiece' a film
loosely based on characters from Stephen King's Salem's Lot: Any
resemblance either to the 1979 film or the novel is purely incidental.
Where do I start? The names are the same, but the characters seem to have been pulled from an entirely different book also called Salem's Lot not the classic by Stephen King. Here are some head scratching examples, Ben Mears witnesses Hubie Marsten's murder of his wife and his subsequent suicide, why? What is the point of this? It adds absolutely nothing to the film. The hopelessly miscast Rob Lowe's Ben Mears writes about Afghanistan (what?) Matt Burke is black and gay (why?) Father Callaghan joins the vampires and murders Matt Burke (Good grief) Dr. Cody has an affair with one of his patients and is blackmailed (Hey?) Mark Petrie is a troubled child from a single parent family (mamma mia!) Am I supposed to sympathise with him, I can't think of more contrived rubbish.The characters seem to be cardboard cut-outs from some awful daytime soap opera not real people. So when they die, you don't really care.The acting is atrocious, there is no chemistry whatsoever between the actors. The editing is deplorable, it's almost like watching a music video on MTV from some terribly bland and anonymous band.
I realise that books and films are two totally different mediums and it's not always possible to replicate what's in print on screen, but surely it's not that difficult. For heaven's sake, this is your basic vampire story, why the social commentary? Why rewrite the story? Why change the characters? I can only assume Stephen King was paid a hefty fee to give the go-ahead for this ham-fisted butchering of his classic novel. I had my problems with the 1979 film, but it now looks like a classic compared to this effort.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Well, what can I say, apart from disappointing.
Although this version of the book took on a different slant, and referred to characters missing from the 1979 version,I personally do not think it was for the better.
Unfortunately, I found Rob Lowe's performance as Ben Mears unconvincing, Donald Sutherland seemed to have been taking some form of medication and made Straker seem more like Father Christmas than terrifyingly chilling, Susan was unrecognisable from the book or 1979 version (now working as a waitress in her family's café rather than teaching at Holly Elementary), and as for Matt Burke, what can I say apart from his part obviously made the film politically correct.
The ridiculous upbeat version of 'Painted Black' at the end of the film was the worst thing and made a mockery of the whole story, it would have been far better to stick with something chilling that would have done this version justice.
I didn't find this a compelling film to watch like the 1979 version and it seemed to miss some of the 'edge of the seat' ingredients which the first one had.
I always thought a new version would be different, however in my opinion was certainly not better. All of the characters in the original were more believable and better cast.
I just live in hope that the next version is not only horrifying, chilling and full of suspense, but manages to be more true to the book.
I still think David Soul rocks, sorry Rob!
I loved this book so much and watched the original movie on t.v. When it aired as a kid. The original has always been one of my favorite vampire movies and i was totally jacked up to see this remake. God did it suck! Donald Sutherland was very good as crazed a Straker, but overall this was half the quality of the original. VERY Disappointing! I always thought the original was special because it was actually frightening for a t.v. movie. I wish so much that HBO had remade this film. The story is incredibly spooky and could have been sculpted into a fine remake, but i was thoroughly disappointed in the cheesy way they ended up making this film. It just has that "made for TV" feel to it. The casting was one of the many things i had a huge problem with. It seemed that the character's were all too young. Why make Matt Burke a gay man? That certainly wasn't in the book at all. ugh! Well, at least the star wars trilogy will be out soon on DVD. I sure hope that lives up to expectations...
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Having watched "Salem's Lot" that had David Soul as the main character,
I wanted to see this remake for comparison. Many said that it was truer
to the book than the 1970's version. That may be the case, but two very
important things were missing: 1) the true character development and
depiction and 2) the element of horror. When a movie tries to portray
suspense and horror, viewers should be left with some feelings of
uneasiness. The original "Salem's Lot" did that for me. The remake just
left me with my mouth open.
I remember the original "Salem's Lot" with Danny Glick coming to Mark's window in the fog. The music, the fog, and the claustrophobic atmosphere of the scene were chilling. I was a kid when I watched the original and I begged my parents to cut the limbs on the tree outside my window so they'd stop scratching against the window when the wind blew. And you could sense in Mark the fear of what he was afraid was happening and the pain of having lost his friends. In the remake, the scene seemed almost done for good measure. I also remember Barlow entering the prison cell in a fog to get Tibbits. Just watching Tibbits face showed enough horror without any gore. Watching him crawl through the ventilation in the remake was simply comedic.
In the original, I could understand Mark going up to the "house" to try to kill the vampire. After all, Barlow had killed his parents. In this remake, Mark was a brave little vigilante to go up to the house in advance of his mother getting killed. It would have made sense for him to go to kill Barlow "after" Barlow had murdered his mother. Then, that may have been to much like correct.
To delve into the character revisions would require too much investment in time. I was surprised to see how Ben Mears had been redefined from revered and misunderstood to being the object of animosity and misunderstood. Matt Burke's redefinition from a believable elderly, white male to a young, gay black male smacked of literary license gone mad. Burke's revision helped add a level of poor taste to the scene with him walking in on Mike, who had been turned into a vampire. "You want to touch me." In the original, the character told Matt Burke, "Look at me." That's what vampires want you to do -- look at them. Homoerotic or not, the scene added no value.
Anyone who watched the original remembers "The Master." Granted, Barlow looked very Nosferatu, that was quite effective. When he came through Mark's house and was just a cape on the floor before rising up to kill the parents, that was shocking to see something so horrific. When Barlow came into the house in the remake and was clinging to ceiling, I felt let down. And Rutger Hauer is such a great actor. And changing Straker from a smarmy, secretive watch dog to a severely underutilized Straker that was practically cast as a cameo was just wrong.
While it is impossible to have a movie conform in totality to any book, style can never replace substance. The remake of this movie could have used the mild Alfred Hitchcock flare of the original to instill fear in viewers while indeed focusing on the major characters as the book did to tell a captivating story. If I were a post teenager who had never seen the original, I would have been clapping my hands and pumping my fist in the air at the wonderful display of CGI graphics and fast-editing (ala Danny Glick's little brother quickly fading in and out when Danny was in the hospital).
With the removal of some superfluous scenes -- the beginning with Mears homeless style having his episode with the priest -- and continuity -- read above comment about Mark going to the Marsten house for the kill before he had a reason to do so -- what was a tolerable movie could possibly have been an okay movie. For the 70's I can accept the flaws that came with movie production during that time as compared to today's movie-making. But to try to best a movie of that time and fall short, well, it's a shame.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Oh dear. Where do I start with this horrific remake offering of the 1979 classic based upon Stephen King's 1975 novel 'Salem's Lot? I guess the beginning is good enough.
I have read 'Salem's Lot more than a dozen times and it has never failed to draw me in and entertain me. It has never been a "scary" book for me, the only one of King's books that drew me in enough for that was The Shining, but I always enjoy the images that it conjures. I enjoyed the original 'Salem's Lot with David Soul, Bonnie Bedelia, Lew Ayers, James Mason, et al, very much. It had a good script, was well paced for the most part, well chosen actors who could actually act, scares, good FX and suspense. It strayed from the book but was close enough that the omissions were a minor distraction one only looked for to nitpick. Overall, I would give it a B+ and that was well deserved for four years after the novel hit the shelves.
When this mini-series started on TV I had to wonder if I actually was watching the right movie. The beginning is so foreign to the book and the original movie that it doesn't even register as 'Salem's Lot until Ben Mears' name is mentioned. In the book the writer and the boy are in Los Zapatos, Mexico trying to recover from their ordeal in Jerusalem's Lot. The movie begins with Ben trying to kill the priest. Give me a break! The priest, Father Callahan lives and shows up in The Dark Tower VII: The Dark Tower for crying out loud. And that is only the first glaring deviation from the novel, but certainly not the last, that dooms this movie from the start.
The most outrageous character change is Matt Burke. In the novel he is an elderly teacher at the local high school. In the original movie he is played admirably by Lew Ayres but in this remake he is a black man and that would be an acceptable politically correct nod to our time but what was up with the "alternative lifestyle" (read: gay) garbage? The narrative by Lowe states he is accepted as long as he stays in the closet. Being gay adds nothing to the story or his character but was deemed important enough to tell us about. Who cares? Certainly not me.
So many other characters were butchered so badly it would take forever to name them all but Father Callahan must be mentioned. In the novel he loses his faith and does succumb to Barlow's ministrations but he runs away from Barlow and his parish. He DOES NOT become Barlow's new familiar. This seemingly explains the opening of the movie although this revelation is left for the last 15 minutes and leaves one wondering about the opening for the entire movie. And that is the crux of this worthless mini-series' problem. Someone suggested it was paced too fast but I don't think that is it. Continuity is.
You might find this movie mildly entertaining if you've never read the novel or seen the original movie however it isn't marketed towards newbies. It is made to generate interest from established King fans and fails miserably. In the mini-series Ben Mears is said to have found Birdie Martsten in the bathroom of the Marsten house and then witnesses Hubert Marsten hang himself. In the novel Marsten kills his wife in THE KITCHEN and hangs himself in 1939. Ben enters the house, being nine years old, and sees Hubert hanging in an upstairs bedroom a full 12 years AFTER the deed. It is not until he is in his 30's that he returns to Jerusalem's Lot to confront his demons.
Things like this were explained in the original movie but were embellished for the mini-series to no good end. I never once felt terror for anyone in the movie. In fact, the "scariest" moment came when Mark is in the boarding house kitchen, appropriate music is playing to denote suspense and burnt toast pops up out of the toaster. There is nothing before that to draw a person in to such a point that a "gotcha" like that might work and that pretty much explains why this movie bites nothing but the big one. (pun intended).
I am not a big fan of remaking movies or reworking characters into today's world. The one notable exception was the remake of the ghastly 1980 Stanley Kubrick vehicle 'The Shining'. Don't get me wrong Jack Nicholson is a great actor and Shelley Duvall may be the penultimate Olive Oyl but Wendy Torrance she ain't. The mini-series had the time to let us all know that Jack Torrance was ALREADY crazy when he entered the Overlook. The hotel just helped him walk a little farther down that road. 'Salem's Lot did absolutely nothing to explain, enhance or improve upon the original movie. Save the three hours of your life this thing consumes and read the book. If you can't do that then watch The Shining mini-series instead. You will be spending your time wisely compared to watching this dreck.
Aspect ratio: 1.78:1
Sound format: Dolby Digital
Whilst researching material for a new book, a writer (David Soul) returns to his home town and finds it infested by vampires operating from within a creepy old house overlooking the area.
Mikael Salomon's ill-advised remake of Tobe Hooper's classic TV miniseries tells much the same story, but fails in almost every respect. Peter Filardi's script takes fewer liberties with Stephen King's novel than the original, but Salomon demonstrates no great empathy with the material, and the results are turgid and uninvolving. There's very little urgency in the depiction of a creeping menace which threatens to overwhelm the eponymous town, only a sense of indifference as Salomon consistently fluffs many of the ingredients which distinguished the original: The crate-delivery to the Marsten house is resolved in a perfunctory manner; Marjorie Glick's return from the dead occurs too quickly and lacks even the most rudimentary elements of suspense; the climactic showdown between Good and Evil inside the Marsten house unfolds in routine fashion, etc.
On the plus side, Rob Lowe is an inspired choice for the role originally taken by David Soul (his love-hate relationship with the Marsten house is clearly established this time around), and there's a memorable scene in which an unpleasant school bus driver (Andy Anderson) gets his comeuppance at the hands of his former 'victims'. Elsewhere, Andre Braugher essays the role of a gay teacher whose sexuality fuels his first encounter with the living dead (rough-trade beauty Christopher Morris), a huge turnaround from the original version. But the movie is labored to the point of redundancy, and seems to last an eternity. With his white hair and beard, Donald Sutherland's villain comes off looking like a demonic Santa Claus, and Rutger Hauer (Anne Rice's original choice for the role of Lestat in a film adaptation of her novel 'Interview With the Vampire') is barely on-screen long enough to make an impression as the lead vampire, though his portrayal is thoroughly undistinguished. Production values are fine, and Ben Nott's photography makes a virtue of the bleak landscape and wintry locations (the movie was shot in Australia, doubling for New England), but the characters seem totally disconnected from one another, and the film isn't remotely frightening. It doesn't simply fail in comparison with the original miniseries, or even with the novel; it fails on its own terms, and has few redeeming virtues.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I have to say that this version of the classic David Soul one was
atrocious. It was too slow in the story line and I kept waiting for
some action to happen. The original, I felt was edge-of-the seat
frightening (and I love to be scared not just entertained) with the
vampire flying in through the window and displaying the big fangs -
where were the fangs in this version? As regards the "Master", Rutger
is not a patch on the "nosferatu" aka Mr Barlow: he oozed terror and
you just knew he was going to get "stuck right into someone", Rutger -
sorry mate you just ain't the same.
I guess that when the Americans decide to remake a perfectly good shock horror movie, we should be only too wary of what occurs - lack of suspense, lack of good horror and altogether a boring movie.
See it for yourself - this is only my opinion and it may not be the best - I just like to be scared out of my wits not bored to death.
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