Stephen King Movie Review-Salem’s Lot (1979)

I had to watch these movies on my own this time but here is my review of Salem’s Lot (1979). Let’s see how my opinion is of the vampire story originally written by Stephen King. 

To start off this was not a movie released theatrically but it was actually a TV mini-series. This will also become a common occurrence when reviewing Stephen King movies is that a lot of them were TV mini-series. Sometimes this is ok but others times it is not. This movie is also directed by Tobe Hooper who directed the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Poltergeist. Both I thought were decent movies who had a good horror element and are very well known as classics in the horror field today. 

 The movie itself starts out similar to the book. It has Ben Mears (David Soul) returning to Jerusalem’s Lot (Salem’s Lot) to get inspiration for writing his new book. The subject is what he believes to be a beacon of evil in the town is the Marsten House. He feels that evil is drawn to it and those who stay there is evil. He finds out that two foreigners bought the house, Richard Straker (Jason Mason) and Kurt Barlow (Reggie Nalder). They are two strangers who plan to open a shop in town. Ben becomes romantically involved with a local girl Susan Norton (Bonnie Bedelia) which seems more sudden then in the book. He rekindles a relationship with his old high school teacher Jason Burke (Lew Ayres) who also has a name change from the book. It was Matt Burke in the book. Strange things start happening in town after the disappearance and death of the Glick boys. People start getting sick and dying and becoming vampires. Ben is joined by Mark Petrie (Lance Kerwin), Susan’s dad Dr. Bill Norton (Ed Flanders) and very briefly Father Callahan (Robert Lussier) as they fight the vampires and try to get Kurt Barlow. 

Salem’s Lot is an ok adaption of the novel by the same name. I feel it starts off decently building the tension but the payoff is not as great as I expected. David Soul plays the character of Ben Mears well. His acting is spot on what I would think Ben would act like as in the book. However, I feel his appearance does not match what was described in the book. That is only a minor gripe. I think Susan’s character was underdeveloped and was just there. The same underdevelopment happened with Jason Burke’s character. He didn’t have the same presence as Matt Burke had in the book. Sure he is still the first one to tell Ben that vampires are around but he did not have that extra development and leadership he possessed in the book. Dr. Norton is the movie became a hybrid of two characters, one being Susan’s dad and the other being Dr. Jim Cody. They probably did this to same on character space. He was ok and did a lot of actions as the doctor in the book but was not as relevant. Mark Petrie was done ok but I just think the actor did not do a good job. Father Callahan was barely in this movie at all and was a real waste. 

The character Straker was acted very well. He was ominous and threatening and had a certain charm to him in an evil way. While he did not have the same physical features as was in the book he still pulled it off well and was my favorite part of this movie. However, the biggest disappointment was the vampire Kurt Barlow. His design reminded me of the vampire from the old Nosferatu movie. He never spoke which was very disappointing because in the book he was very cunning and manipulative.  

The movie was of course condensed way down to fit the three hour runtime. This will be a common complaint in these reviews and I apologize and I completely understand we can’t have a twenty hour movie to fit everything in. The small town stories and life was really cut down. The good news they did try to incorporate a couple of stories albeit they were jumbled and different. Even with these short little stories it did show some snippet of small town life and was interesting. Events in the movie were also jumbled from what they were in the book. It even had a different ending to the book which like the Carrie 2002 movie I guess was trying to make this into a series. It watered down the heroics of Mark in the book which I won’t spoil but wish they had for the movie.  

Of course this is all nitpicking because I just read the novel. As a movie it is ok. The vampire makeup is pretty good. I especially liked the design of the kid vampire makeup. The music was well done and built tension as a horror movie should. The atmosphere in the small town was well done along with the design of the Marsten House. I did not like Kurt Barlow’s design as I alluded to earlier and the ending felt rushed. There was no gore or a real bloody moment in the movie which I will guess this is because when this was made. The gore isn’t necessary but I feel would of added to the horror. I give the movie two stars out of five. 

Has anyone watched this movie before? If so what did you think about it? Even if you haven’t read the book do you think Kurt Barlow was a big let down? If you read the book how do you think the adaption was? Like always here is the trailer for the movie. Check it out anyway if you like vampire movies. 


Like I said in the past I will have a tracker of the final ratings of each book or movie I reviewed to show what I liked or didn’t like. It is a rating based out of five stars. For previous reviews if you missed it you can click on the title and it will link to that review for you to read.

Books Reviewed:
Carrie ***
Salem’s Lot ***1/2

Movies Reviewed:
Carrie (1976) ****
The Rage: Carrie 2 ***
Carrie (2002) ½* (Yes a half of a star out of five) 

Salem’s Lot (1979) **

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