Salem’s Lot (2004)

  • Year: 2004
  • Released: 20 Jun 2004
  • Country: United States
  • Adwords: Nominated for 1 Primetime Emmy. 2 wins & 8 nominations total
  • IMDb:
  • Rotten Tomatoes:
  • Metacritics:
  • Available in: 720p, 1080p,
  • Language: English, French
  • MPA Rating: TV-14
  • Genre: Drama, Horror, Mystery
  • Runtime: 181 min
  • Writer: N/A
  • Director: N/A
  • Cast: Rob Lowe, Andre Braugher, Donald Sutherland
  • Keywords:
89% – Critics
65% – Audience

Salem’s Lot Storyline

After attacking Priest Father Donald Callahan (James Cromwell) in a homeless shelter and falling with him from the window of a high floor on the street, successful writer Ben Mears (Rob Lowe) tells his motives to his nurse in the hospital. His story begins when he returns to his hometown of Jerusalem’s Lot to write a novel and face the ghosts of his past in the Marsten Mansion. However, he realizes that evil lives in Salem’s Lot, and the place is crowded with vampires. He fights against his fears and skepticism, and with the support of some local friends, they battle against vampire leader Kurt Barlow (Rutger Hauer) to get rid of evil.—Claudio Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

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Salem’s Lot Movie Reviews

Revisiting the “Lot”

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 mini-series.

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.

Very enjoyable *SPOILERS*

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.

You liked the 1979 version? Then you’re gonna do just fine with this remake.

I’m just gonna tell it like I feel it is: This re-make of Stephen King’s well-known tale of vampires deserves the same rating as the original ’79 made-for TV version. A lot of people say stuff like “It’s not as scary as the original…”, but they forget that they saw the original when they were kids. I’m pretty sure that when you show the scene were Rutger Hauer (with fangs & contact lenses) is crawling around on the ceiling (in this new version) to any kid, it will scare the living daylights out of it. The story moves at an okay pace and is actually constructed like one big flashback. Decent performances from the whole cast (Donald Shutterland is pretty evil in this one) and characters with enough background to make them interesting. I also had the feeling that near the end, there were a lot more vampires than in the original ’79 version. The whole town seemed to be infected. A solid three-hour movie, worthy of your time.