A Return to Salem's Lot (Larry Cohen, 1987, USA)

A Return to Salem's Lot finds Larry Cohen in the director's chair. Cohen had submitted a draft for the first Salem's Lot television movie and attempted to get credit for the film. Cohen was unsuccessful in getting credit, but never dropped his aspirations of helming a Salem's Lot project. Return is connected to King's work in name only - it involves a coven of vampires in a small New England town. That is essentially the only connection. All other characters and plotlines from the original film and novel are dispatched with.

Recurring Cohen collaborator Michael Moriarty plays Joe Weber, an anthropologist working in South America who is brought back to the US at the request of his ex-wife to watch their dysfunctional adolescent son Jeremy. Joe decides to take Jeremy to Salem's Lot, Maine, where his deceased Aunt Clara has passed down an old farmhouse to his family. Fairly soon they encounter Judge Axel (Andrew Duggan), the patriarch of the town, who reveals the vampiric nature of the residents as well as the "drones" - humans who have been bred to perform mundane tasks in daylight. 

Made for the burgeoning direct-to-video market, Return has a very strong sloppy quality, with various threads introduced at points only to be completely abandoned later on. What it lacks in coherence it makes up for in insanity, particularly once legendary director Samuel Fuller joins the cast as the Nazi-hunting Van Helsing-like character Van Meer. Fuller seems to have walked onto the film from a different movie and universe entirely, but his appearance is welcome. Return does not approach the "so-bad-it's-good" territory of Troll 2, but as a piece of trash cinema, its sense of humor and some outrageous lines of dialogue work better than expected. Not one of Cohen's best, but worth checking out for completists.



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