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Return to Salem's Lot, A
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by Jack Sommersby

"Toothless Vampire Tale"
1 stars

Barely released to theatres, it racked up a disappointing take and disappeared faster than the ushers could clean the popcorn off the floors.

The Tobe Hooper-directed TV movie Salem's Lot, an adaptation of best-selling author Stephen King's novel, had more than enough atmosphere, suspense and scares to sustain its two-hundred-minute running time. No small feat, this. A terrifying tale of vampires plaguing a small rural Maine town, it was spooky and disturbing -- an impressive work that still ranks as Hooper's best, even taking into account his fine 1973 visceral classic The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. That said, no one was exactly wishing for a sequel, but that hasn't stopped veteran B-movie king Larry Cohen from co-writing and directing A Return to Salem's Lot, which, contextually, is a sequel in title only since it bears neither a single character nor story strand from the original. And it's a distressingly lackadaisical cinematic affair, at that, coming from the same moviemaker who's given us such lively entertainments as Q: the Winged Serpent and The Stuff; both starred the versatile actor Michael Moriarty who served up a pair of highly-winning eccentric characterizations, but here is stuck in the uninteresting role of anthropologist Joe Weber, taking a reprieve from South American jungle excursions to spend time with his estranged son in Salem's Lot where his dear departed aunt has left him a dilapidated house. Vampires have completely taken over the town, and they go about their everyday business in orderly fashion: with half-vampire "drones" manning the businesses and tending to community-service duties during the day, the fully-transformed creatures come out of their coffins at night to suck blood from the cows for their main supply and occasionally feast on human blood from tourists who happen upon the place; they even have a school system for their youngsters, instilling in them anti-human propaganda with teachings of the Spanish Inquisition and the like. But they decide to spare Joe and his son under the agreement that Joe will write a "true chronicle," a "Bible" detailing the Earth's oldest surviving race to change the way outsiders feel about them -- which, of course, is innately nutty in that they crave human blood as the tastiest of delicacies; it's doubtful future "educated" humans will have a more favorable disposition toward them. They try keeping Joe in-line by using his unaged-in-appearance high-school sweetheart to seduce him, and getting his son infatuated with a pretty blonde teenage-looking girl for good measure. And if all this is as dull-as-dishwater as it sounds, you're certainly not alone.

Not ten minutes in you just know the movie isn't going to deliver the goods what with its unbelievably poor visual life and stagnant scenes failing at generating even rudimentary interest. Salem's Lot had palpable eeriness to spare, along with a storytelling assurance that expressively established a distinctive time and place -- you were right there with the characters enveloped in the deeply-ingrained gothic texture of it all, and afterward it was impossible to shake off. A Return to Salem's Lot is nondescript, placid, downright enervating. Cohen doesn't put forth the moviemaking fervor to give the proceedings much in the way of immediacy; he's striving for a another comedy-chiller, which Q and The Stuff succeeded as, but the humor is flat (one vampire telling another to wipe its mouth isn't exactly a laugh riot) and the scares direly absent (the attempts are amateurishly flubbed). Cinematographically the movie is too soft-focused, and Cohen shoots many of the dialogue scenes from twenty feet away, and the action sequences, all of which are atrociously staged (particularly a fistfight in a rock stream), a good fifty feet -- you find yourself involuntarily leaning toward the screen to get some kind of reading on what Cohen is going for. Obviously he's being metaphorical in regard to AIDS and Nazism, but the treatment is so vague and his ideas only half thought-out that they don't connect to anything in particular; and because Cohen's either skimping on or screwing up genre conventionalities that might have made the movie fun, the audience, depleted of every ounce of goodwill, has nothing to fall back on. Dialogue has never been Cohen's strong suit, and it's even worse this time around ("If you didn't have my son, I'd kick your fucking ass around this town until you couldn't suck orange juice"), but where before he gave his actors free rein to improvise and come up with fresh spins on their characters, the cast, excepting Samuel Fuller, a veteran director (Shock Corridor) who gives his role as a doggedly-determined Jewish Nazi-hunter a good deal of gusto, come off as sluggish, defeated, as if they'd had their thespian wings clipped during preproduction. There's one of the worst electronic-keyboard music scores in recent memory, a pitiful lack of adequate special effects that's always calling attention to the movie's low budget and thus to the movie as such, and inane correlations between vampirism and capitalism. There's nothing to genuinely respond to in this dunderheaded misfire. It's the ultimate in cinematic vapidity.

Watch the original instead.

link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=2415&reviewer=327
originally posted: 08/01/13 08:26:46
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User Comments

2/13/17 morris campbell awful a insult 2 salems lot 1 stars
6/14/07 Vincent Ebriega Words can't describe how I hated, hated this crap they call a film. 0/5. 1 stars
3/06/03 Charles Tatum Did King really sign off on this? 1 stars
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  02-May-1987 (R)

  N/A (18)

  N/A (M)

Directed by
  Larry Cohen

Written by
  Larry Cohen
  James Dixon

  Michael Moriarty
  Ricky Addison Reed
  Samuel Fuller
  Ronee Blakley

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