Return to Salem's Lot, A
Reviewed by Russell Tharp
Rating: 8 Beans
arry Cohen must have an uncle in the movie business. There's just no other way to explain it. Try to imagine convincing Warner Brothers to finance the U.S. release and distribution of your movie with this pitch:
"OK, remember that 1979 TV miniseries based on Stephen King's book Salem's Lot? You know, the flaccid, poorly directed vampire story that's scariest moment was realizing that it really was going to make you watch Hutch (or possibly Starsky, who can tell?) wimp his way around the town in bell-bottomed corduroys for four hours? And remember that vampire, the one they flat-out stole from Nosferatu? You do? Great! I made a sequel for about a buck twenty-five; and I want you to release it as a theatrical movie!"
Cohen's uncle must be placed pretty high up Warner's chain-of-command, because the movie got released--and I mean "released" in the sense of "A genetically-engineered strain of instantly-fatal venereal warts was accidentally released into the world's water supply," or "Release the hounds!" It's that bad. It makes the first "Salem's Lot" look like "Citizen Kane." I haven't seen production values this poor since my high school play, writing this illiterate since my last visit to AOL's Nintendo message boards, or acting this unbelievable since my wife's last orgasm.
Michael Moriarty (TV's Law & Order) plays Joe Weber, an anthropologist who moves with his teenaged son to Salem's Lot, all the while blissfully unaware that the town is run by vampires. You see, all those folks running around in the sunshine and not instantly bursting into flames aren't vampires, but drones bred by the vamps to make the town look normal. The vampires don't attack the humans anymore; but instead they've formed a society in Salem's Lot. They run town meetings, Bloodaholics Anonymous sessions, and school for the vampire kiddies at night. (Do vampire kids lose their baby fangs? Just wondering.) Joe ineptly stumbles onto their secret--which an intelligent human being would have done about 15 seconds after hitting town--and is asked by the vampire mayor, Judge Axel (Andrew Duggan), to compose a vampire Bible, because what the vamps really feel they're missing is some good home-style religion. (Why they couldn't all convert to Buddhism or some other cross-free faith is never adequately explained.)
Joe isn't too keen on the idea, but he's trapped in the town so he agrees to go along with the plan. Meanwhile, he busies himself by impregnating a vampire woman (is that possible? She's dead, isn't she?) and watching helplessly as the vampires seduce his son into the attractive world of coffin-snoozing. Eventually he meets up with Van Meer (Samuel Fuller), who has devoted his life to hunting Nazi war criminals and/or vampires, in the strangest mix of Simon Weisanthal and Dr. Van Helsing that I could ever imagine. Before long they run all over town doing the typical vampire-hunter things: staking the vamps in their coffins, opening the curtains to let in the sunshine, burning down buildings, stepping in bear traps, and forgetting to check their watches so they're caught unaware by the setting sun. (Why are vampire hunters always surprised by sunset? It happens every day, for god's sake. Don't these people have alarms on their wristwatches?) Soon follows the climactic battle between the forces of evil, represented by an old man in really bad Muppet make-up, and the forces of good, represented by the puffy and thoroughly unathletic Moriarty. I'll let you guess who wins.
Stephen King must be driven nuts by the movies that are released with his name tacked onto them somewhere, but I'm sure being richer than God is some small compensation for the embarrassment he feels. Now that I've watched "A Return to Salem's Lot," I just wish that someone would compensate me. Or that I had an uncle as powerful as Larry Cohen's. You see, I've got this nutty idea for a movie...
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