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By Clint Morris | October 30, 2004

What the heck was Stephen King thinking twenty years back when he signed off on those film versions of say, The Shining or Salem’s Lot?. Ah, who yelled out ‘money’? Yeah that’d be the correct response, but despite the moolah, it doesn’t mean he expected the film adaptations to be about as rotten as a sliced, uneaten, granny smith. Overnight, these few typed tales were transformed into junky celluloid. Ok so “Salem’s” had it’s moments – and had a good make up artist on hand – but “The Shining”? Entertaining sure, but essentially only related to the book via name.

A couple of years back “The Shining” was remade as a mini-series. No offence to the visionary late Stanley Kubrick, but he clearly didn’t understand King’s book – the guys behind the redo, did. Ok, so it lacked the maniacal presence of Jack Nicholson, but the screenplay was more of a headline act anyway – and unlike that maze-y original, captivated us.

Now, “Salem’s Lot” gets the mini-series redo treatment. And you know what? You’ll actually want to sit through this one – Headline : David Soul fans picket the office – in its entirety. Next to the original, it’s a ripper.

The always dependable Rob Lowe stars as Ben Mears, a young writer who returns to his hometown of Jerusalem’s Lot – The ‘Jeru’ is missing from the town sign, leaving only the words ‘Salems’ – to pen a book. As if he didn’t think some of the locals were weird enough – part of the reason for returning to pen the book – he starts to suspect that the town’s new antique dealer (Donald Sutherland) might have something to do with the sudden disappearance of a couple of folks. And he’d be right – the Santa Claus looking merchant and his imperceptible partner (Rutger ‘Can you say typecast?’ Hauer) are robbing the populace for their vampiric needs.

In addition to the strong cast, the filmmakers pace the film fittingly – using half the film to introduce us to the populace, then strip them away and get the human vs. vampire bout happening in the second half. And although the special effects budget is perceptibly low, some of those cheapish effects are actually quite effective.

There are a few problems with the show. The plot holes are substantial and forthcoming (Vampire’s can’t enter your house without being asked, though Hauer’s character can smash right through the kitchen of anyone’s abode?), there’s some noticeable goofs (car steering well on right-hand side, then the left-hand side, then the right-hand side), and Australian viewers might be a little put off by some of the locals performances in the film. Robert Grubb (SeaChange) has a good stab at an American accent and Rebecca Gibney too, for the most part, but a few of the local actors in there don’t even seem to be trying. Their accents sway between Ocker Aussie and American at the best of times. Most of the Aussies look quite at ease in the film, there’s just a few that seem to struggling – forgetting they’re not in a local Aussie soap, but a fluffy U.S horror pic.

Again, it’s something you overlook once the story kicks in.

“Salem’s Lot” isn’t quite as good as “The Shining” mini-series, but it is good. And like the latter, the best news is, is that it is better than the original.

No Extras. Unfortunately.

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  1. Chuck Anziulewicz says:

    True, Stanley Kubrick’s “The Shining” was NOT a faithful adaptation of Stephen King’s novel, nor was “2001: A Space Odyssey” a faithful adaptation of Arthur C. Clarke’s novel, nor was “Dr. Strangelove” a faithful adaptation of “Red Alert” by Peter George. Kubrick was not interested in simply adapting books for the big screen; he was interested in creating ART on his own terms.

    Stephen King’s “The Shining” was one of the scariest novels I have EVER read, if not THE scariest. It’s a brilliant novel. So when Kubrick’s film version was released in theaters, it left me scratching my head at first. I slept very little the night after I saw it, NOT because it necessarily scared me awake, but because I was digesting the film and mulling all the liberties Kubrick took with the source material. But after seeing the film again many times over the years, I realized that staying faithful to King’s novel was NOT what Kubrick was interested in. Just as he wanted to make “the proverbial GOOD science fiction movie” in the 1960s, so did he with to make a great-looking, atmospheric, GOOD horror film with “The Shining.” So TRUE, as an adaption of the novel it may have been a failure, but as a horror show in its own right, it’s one of the best ever made.

  2. Your mom? says:

    So you think Kubrick’s The Shining sucked? You are a tasteless idiot who has no business reviewing anything, let alone movies.

  3. Robert says:

    Ridiculous review by someone with no understanding of film making.

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