Ben Mears -
Susan Norton -
Mark Petrie -
Richard Straker -
OTHER STEPHEN KING SHOWS
Salem's Lot '04
Nightmares and Dreamscapes
OTHER HORROR SHOWS
Ben Mears returns to his home town of Salem's Lot, a small place in Maine. He's there to write a book on th Marston House, the house that scared the hell out of him on childhood dare. The house, though, is already taken, by a man called Straker who is opening an antiques shop with a partner who has yet to arrive. Whilst the small stories of the town continue, a boy goes missing, a man is found dead and then the boy's brother dies in the hospital. Salem's Lot has become cursed.
A man and a boy pray in a small town in Guatemala. They fill up bottles with the holy water from the font, but get a shock when the water starts to glow. 'They' have caught up with the fugitives again. It's a brilliant opening and promises much for the two-part mini-series that is to follow it. Fortunately, the rest of the opening episode lives up to that promise.
When it comes to adapatations of the works of Stephen King, there are very few good ones, considering that he's the most successful storyteller the publishing world has ever known. This series will always be listed in the small number of classics alongside the likes of THE SHINING, CARRIE and MISERY. The opening half here is a slow burn build up of atmosphere and tension. Characters are introduced and we spend time with them in their unremarkable lives, allowing us to be familiar with them, to like them and so making what happens to them more effective. This is aided immensely by a strong cast and it's a measure of director Tobe Hooper's skill that he coaxes a convincing performance out of the headlining star David Soul (no really - he's good). James Mason is utterly evil without ever doing anything at all and Bonnie Bedelia is a welcome dash of normality as the love interest.
Despite being directed by Tobe Hooper of THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE fame, this is an object lesson in how to create real horror without the need for gore. Never has an inanimate crate been so scary, a house brooded over a town so evilly or a sense of foreboding hung so low over a fictional community. It's done so slowly and subtly that you almost don't realise it's happening until one of the few shock moments causes you to leap out of your seat.
The slow burn starts to accelerate as the first victims are found. The scene in which Danny Glick is visited by his dead brother, floating outside the window, scratching on the glass, is a memorable classic, creepy to the point of terrifying and all through the simple trick of playing the scene backwards to give it an otherworldly feel.
It's a strong story, wonderfully told, but not one to be watched alone in the dark.Top
Ben, Mark and Susan have figured out that the rash of deaths in the town of Salem's Lot are the work of vampires. The main vampire has arrived and his army is growing by the hour. Ben determines to go into the Marston house with Susan's father to kill the lead vampire in his coffin, but then Mark and Susan do something stupid and suddenly a rescue attempt is being made in a race against the setting sun.
As the disease of vampirism begins to spread, the main characters work out what is happening and get scared. Not your normal heroes these, but ordinary people scared out of their heads and wanting only to run, but forcing themselves to do what they believe that they must. The scene as Ben desperately fashions a makeshift crucifix whilst waiting for the Glick boys' mother to resurrect is a brilliant depiction of abject fear and probably the best piece of work that David Soul has ever done.
There's a bit more violence here as the vampires run riot, but it's still all done off screen and so is even scarier than trying to make it convincing on a small budget. The make up of the lead vampire (more NOSFERATU than Bram Stoker's smooth-talking count) is impressive, but his decay after the inevitable is not.
Director Tobe Hooper manages to keep the fear factor high by taking the action inside the Marston House, the hoary old haunted house theme mixed with the hoary old vampire story to create a very unsettling time. The acting is convincing enough to make the audience believe even the more implausible moments.
The best, though, is saved to the end as the coda set two years later in Guatemala proves predictable, but heart-breaking all the same.
Kubrick's THE SHINING probably remains the scariest adaptation of the works of Stephen King yet made, but this is the greatest TV adaptation by far.Top
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