Salem’s Lot The successful writer Benjamin “Ben” Mears returns to his hometown Salem’s Lot, Maine, expecting to write a new novel about the Marsten House. Ben believes that the manor is an evil house that attracts evil men since the place has many tragic stories and Ben saw a ghostly creature inside the house when he was ten. Ben finds that the Marsten House has just been rented to the antique dealers Richard K. Straker and his partner Kurt Barlow that is permanently traveling. Ben meets the divorced teacher Susan Norton that is living with her parents and they have a love affair. Ben also gets close to her father Dr. Bill Norton and his former school teacher Jason Burke. When people start to die anemic, Ben believes that Straker’s partner is a vampire. But how to convince his friends that he is not crazy and that is the truth? Salem’s Lot
This movie is an odd cross between “Peyton Place” and “Nosferatu”…and it works! Set in the small, isolated and somewhat inbred community of Jerusalems Lot (called Salem’s Lot by the locals) this film is more about small town dirty secrets which are really not secret at all. Everyone knows everyone else’s business, gossip is a way of life and the town’s mistrust of outsiders is both expected and justified when two men show up in town and a little boy goes missing. This is a story about a small town that just happens to have a vampire in it.
James Mason is elegance personified as the “Renfield” character who sticks out like a sore thumb in this tight-knit community and makes himself the object of suspicion when he moves into the local haunted house and opens up an antique shop. His European accent, expensive suits and somewhat prissy manners make him a hot item of gossip. So too does the arrival of Ben Mears also cause local tongues to start wagging. Mears was born and raised in Salems Lot, having moved away as a small child. He returns as a semi-successful author and a recent widower, haunted by childhood memories of the Marsten House Salem’s Lot – the local haunted house in which James Mason now resides. Yet another outsider is Mark, a new teen in town with a morbid collection of horror movie paraphernalia. These three characters are drawn together by force as more people go missing and the small town residents, with their narrow vision, cannot accept what is really happening. It is up to the outsiders – the author who knows, the teenager who believes and the human who is a monster – to solve the mystery.
Salem’s Lot When the vampire finally appears, it is a frightening, exhilarating experience. Reggie Nalder as Barlow, the ancient Master whom James Mason serves, is a disgusting parasite, a physical homage to Nosferatu with his rat-like teeth, his long bony fingers and his hypnotic eyes. He is the frosting on the cake for this excellent film. By the time he makes his appearance, it is almost unnecessary. The paranoia has already decimated the town, and the fear of the unknown is the greatest monster of all. But though he may be unnecessary, he is not unwelcome. He is a wonderful vampire, a truly hideous beast, a fine salute to what a vampire should be – ugly, vile and obscene.
This is one of my all time favorite vampire films, right up there with Nosferatu and Subspecies. To hell with whining, pretentious vampire Pretty Boys – this is the real stuff, and it doesn’t get much better than this. Salem’s Lot