This week's flick is Larry Cohen's 1987 vampire flick A Return to Salem's Lot.
An anthropologist (Michael Moriarty) and his son (Ricky Reed) visit an quiet Maine town not realizing it is populated by vampires.
I've been watching a lot of old Stephen King movie adaptations lately in preparation for a podcast I'm sitting in on this weekend. I'd never seen the Tobe Hooper-helmed teleplay either so I had to seek that out, as well. That's almost five hours of Salem's Lot and I was pretty happy with the ride.
|Michael Moriarty in A Return to Salem's Lot.|
As one might expect, the differences between the two iterations are vast. Hooper's take was a TV miniseries and though it would've been revolutionary in 1979, it's pretty tame by today's standards. I did chuckle at the nods to Texas Chainsaw and that scene where Danny (Brad Savage) was floating outside his brother's window was creepy as hell. There's so much of it that oozed into the vampire films of the next decade like The Lost Boys and Fright Night. I also couldn't help but think of Evil Dead while watching that aforementioned scene, as well.
Anyway, moving onto A Return to Salem's Lot, it was Cohen through and through, especially due to the presence of regular collaborator Michael Moriarty. Some things just go together. Peanut butter and jam. Rye and ginger. And Cohen and Moriarty. Apparently, this was shot back-to-back with It's Alive III so everything worked out well, didn't it?
Anchored by Moriarty, Return has everything else you would expect from a Cohen joint, including foul-mouthed children, quirky characters (including a Nazi hunter played by famed director Sam Fuller) and random creature effects. It also didn't hurt Cohen had the immeasurable talents of cinematographer Daniel Pearl – who coincidentally also shot Hooper's 1974 masterpiece – at his disposal.
Return's script was written by Cohen himself and though it has no real connection to King's work whatsoever – Barlow does not even appear in the movie despite the cover box – it did present some interesting story threads, most intriguingly the idea of the vampires wanting their existence to be documented by Moriarty's character. It also took me a few scenes to recognize a super young Tara Reid in her first role.
|Tara Reid in A Return to Salem's Lot.|
I still regard Cohen's New York stories to be his best works, but A Return to Salem's Lot was still an entertaining venture made just before he shifted his focus to screenwriting.