Salem's Lot (Tobe Hooper, 1979, USA)

Salem's Lot, directed by Tobe Hooper, is one of the better Stephen King television adaptations, and one of the better Stephen King adaptations in general. This is ironic, considering that the film's TV status meant that the most violent aspects of the novel had to be toned down. Still, the talent involved managed to capture the success of King's 1975 novel, without sacrificing too much. As with most Stephen King adaptations, Paul Monash's script does a fair bit of consolidating characters and tightening things up. At the director's helm is Tobe Hooper, who was hired based on The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. The film is one of Hooper's best works by far, demonstrating his competence as a filmmaker was not a fluke on Chain Saw.

While various aspects of the film have not aged particularly well (Fred Willard's hair, for example), one of the things that makes Salem's Lot stand out in King's filmography is its relative timelessness. Hooper and Monash do a nice job of capturing the small town, Petyon Place-style intrigue of the novel, building characters that we will identify with as the story courses into more supernatural territory. David Soul (Starsky & Hutch) personifies boyish Ben Mears well, but the highlight of the film is James Mason as the vampire Barlow's assistant Straker. 

Some of the visuals in the film are still quite powerful, including Danny Glick floating in the window after his turn to vampirism, as well as Barlow the vampire himself - he appears as a Nosferatu but on steroids. When Barlow moves quickly, I could imagine a generation of people being terrified. Between these scares and the small-town atmosphere, Hooper manages to successfully deliver on the source material and it is not a big surprise that Salem's Lot is still highly regarded in 2022.



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