Did anybody else catch this on Sunday and Monday night on TNT? I had never seen the original movie and it is one of the few Steven King books I have yet to read, but I still found it to be a pretty entertaining made for TV movie. Obviously it was no "The Shining" or even "The Stand" but I was pleased with what I saw. For anybody out there in W-Ville who caught this new version and read the book or saw the old one, was it about the same or should I give the older versions a look? I'm pretty sure I'll be reading the book no matter what.
I really liked the old one. I thought it was a pretty good, creepy movie. The fact that Tobe Hooper directed also appealed to me. Was it the best horror movie that I've ever seen? No. Did I like it better than the TNT version,? Definately. If you liked the TNT version, then I think you'd like the original mini-series.
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I was kinda disappointed with the TNT version. I loved the book, and the original TV-movie creeped me out when I was a kid, but this one just didn't do much for me. I thought Rob Lowe was pretty stiff as Ben, and really had no chemistry with the chick who played Susan. I thought Rutger Hauer was GREAT as Barlow, even though he was only in a few scenes. I usually really like Donald Sutherland's work, but I didn't think this was one of his better performances, either.
The problem with doing a vampire story is balancing out the slow revelation of the major vampire with the resulting carnage. There are several common stages...
1) Mysterious newcomer
2) Unexplained deaths
3) Episodic attacks on sub-major character
4) Death of sub-major character
5) Return of sub-major character as vampire
6) Suspicion of vampirism by one person
7) Destruction of sub-major character vampire
8) Confirmation of vamparism to multiple people
9) Episodic attacks on major character
10) Rescue of major character
11) Destruction of major vampire character
12) Cliche useless Hollywood plot twists (Friday the 13th Disease)
The effective bits are toward the top of the list, suspense is dramatic, action and killing are numbing.
The original Salem's Lot had a slow pace. I think it turned off the Dracula crowd because Barlow did not appear early and had no charisma, but personally I thought that was a nice change of pace and more realistic than Frank Langella as a charming cadaver.
Donald Sutherland is a poor man's James Mason on his best day, and the over-the-top wacky look they gave him didn't help. A "familiar" helps the vampire by blending with the crowd, not by sticking out like a sore thumb. Also it seemed like Sutherland's Straker was channeling Von Sydow's Satan from "Needful Things" which is a useless tangent in a good vampire story.
Rob Lowe has always been a dismal actor and I'm sorry to see choads like him getting vehicles like this. The producer is probably some jackoff my own age who marked for Lowe in the eighties and thought his name would be a drawing ticket. I guess I should count my blessings that Whitesnake didn't do the soundtrack.
David Soul was a weakness in the original. It would be nice to see the role given to a real actor with a great, smiling heel foil like James Mason. Also the pacing has to be kept slow. The key moment in any vampire movie is that moment where people start to believe in Santa Claus, er, vampires, rather than dismissing them as a myth. Once that shift occurs, the movie has about thirty minutes to kill off the vampire and tie up loose ends before it becomes absurd.
When the priest was visiting the hospital and looking down at the books about Vampirism, I cringed. Who the hell would go out and buy a half-dozen books on the subject? Do they even exist? Have we all not seen dozens of movies anyway?
Old Dracula stories worked because they were set in a time when people had limited medical knowledge. Modern vampire stories need to deal with autopsies, embalming, cremation, and the fact that doctors and cops wouldn't dismiss bite marks or loss of blood.
Their first thought would be that some crackpot or cult was trying to imitate vampirism. The drama would be dancing along the thread of not knowing whether the attacks where being done by a cult or by the unthinkable until the evidence was overwhelming, at which point the vampire would need to be killed before the town devolved into a George Romero flick.*
The new Salem's Lot hit the Romero level and spent too much time there for my tastes. If anything in this world was wiping out whole towns, we would have heard plenty about it by now. Vampires would need to be a lot more subtle to still walk among us.
(*Romero made "Night of the Living Dead", a movie which was effective largely because it isolated a handful of characters from the rest of the world.)
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