'Salem's vacant Lot

Discussion in 'Community' started by Thomas Veil, Jun 21, 2004.

  1. Thomas Veil macrumors 68020

    Thomas Veil

    Feb 14, 2004
    What IS it about Stephen King movies that makes almost all of them so...well...lackluster??

    For six months I've known that TNT was working on a new adaptation of King's "'Salem's Lot". Huzzah, I thought. While I enjoyed the 1979 version with David Soul and James Mason, I hardly considered it definitive. While the story was decent, I thought the camerawork and music were rather pedestrian. And though Tobe Hooper directed it from a script by Paul Monash, it didn't show the flare that Hooper would display a few years later in "Poltergeist". Overall, I gave it a "B+". For a movie created from one of King's greatest works, I expected better.

    So I was greatly predisposed to like a new and improved version.

    I saw the first half last night. Oh dear.

    Written by Peter Filardi (who?) and directed by Mikael Salomon (heretofore a cinematographer), this thing has nary a scare in it. The pacing is so flat-out even (anathema to a horror film) that even the first appearance of Barlow the vampire doesn't produce a shiver. As a for instance:

    As in the book, Barlow appears when he meets Dud Rogers at the town dump. It is clear from King's narrative that Dud is completely creeped out by the guy. Unlike the book, this movie shows them having what could be a casual conversation between any two strangers. Whoopee.

    Another: when Mike and Floyd deliver the mysterious box to the Marston House, in the book and movie they hear scuttling sounds that make their hair stand on end. They run out of the house, terrified, but here they notice Barlow's aide, Straker, in an upstairs window of the house. Why set up a scary situation and then de-fang it by presenting a natural explanation?

    Where's the sense of suspense, the foreboding that ran throughout King's great novel?

    And what's the point of making these meaningless changes? I'm not against changes when they improve the story, but why is Ben Mears all of a sudden a Pulitzer prize-winning author of an expose book about the war in Afghanistan? What was wrong with the way he was in King's novel? There was a theme there that I think the scriptwriter completely ignored: Ben Mears has been something of a failure all of his life. Yes, he's a writer, but his books don't sell very well. Yeah, he was married, but his wife got killed in an accident. Yes, he came to town to rent the Marston House, but he got there just a little too late. Sure, he's dating Susan Norton, but...well, that would be giving things away. The point is that all his life, Ben Mears has been a day late and a dollar short. The conclusion of the book gives him one last chance to redeem himself. The movie, by making him quite successful, waters down that point.

    I guess if you've never read the book or seen the '79 movie, you might be entertained by this thing, but I am so disappointed. It might improve in the second half, but with this writer and director, I doubt it.

    Another good Stephen King story, shot to hell. :(
  2. Awimoway macrumors 65816

    Sep 13, 2002
    at the edge
    I hope you feel better getting that off your chest. I confess I merely skimmed most of your rant. But I mostly agree. TV versions of King's stories suck ass. And even "It" wasn't all bad. But some of his movies have been damn good. "The Shining" (although the TV version wasn't good), "The Shawshank Redemption," "The Green Mile" were all pretty good. "Carrie" was decent. "Misery" was good.
  3. Wyvernspirit macrumors 6502a


    Jul 23, 2002
    Part of the problem

    is that movies and novels are two different mediums. I don't think a book turned movie or a movie turned book can do the other completely right. I do believe something good can be done from one to the other but not to the same extent.

    Unfortunately some "directors" should not be allowed to ruin perfectly good books.
  4. Thomas Veil thread starter macrumors 68020

    Thomas Veil

    Feb 14, 2004
    The thing about "'Salem's Lot" is that it's such a big book, with such a complicated story, that it seems a natural for the TV medium, where you can tell a story over four or more hours. (Trying to condense the book into a two-hour theatrical film would be a fool's errand.)

    I saw part two last night, and while it did show a few sparks of life, the ending was dumb. With the exception of the CG effects, I really didn't see any improvement over the '79 version.

    I tend to think the biggest problem here is that they had a first-time director and a relatively unknown writer.

    Just think of what somebody with Tim Burton's kind of vision, for example, could have done with it.
  5. MacDawg macrumors P6


    Mar 20, 2004
    "Between the Hedges"
    I wanted to like it... I wanted to watch it...
    I couldn't get interested at all... period

    Maybe I'll get the book
    I always like the book better anyway :)
  6. rainman::|:| macrumors 603


    Feb 2, 2002
    This is exactly the problem with *all* stephen king movies. He puts a great deal of character development and tension into his stories, literary techniques that he's refined for years. Movies just can't reproduce that, on this scale.

    The biggest thing pissing me off right now is that none of the recent King movies have had any dark tower ties-- they've gone out of their way to cut them out of any larger story. Hearts in Atlantis, for instance, depends entirely on the Dark Tower story, yet it was only hinted at, then explained away as some government conspiracy. I mean, obviously they couldn't make the Dark Tower itself into a movie-- it'd be like 60 hours long. To come anywhere close to how cool the books are. But almost all SK books tie to it, and i feel dumber for having watched the movies.

    Storm of the Century, Dolores Claiborne, and to a lesser extent Misery are three movies that are OK, if you see them as only movies, and not a book adaptation-- once you've read the books, you'll probably hate the movies. But they self-contain pretty well.

    Of course, since Dolores Claiborne is the sister book to Gerald's Game, and they'll never make a Gerald's Game movie (those that have read it know why), they cut out the interesting ties between the books (the stories of which happen simultaneously on opposite shores of the same lake).

    To put it short and sweet... I don't watch most SK movies. I did see Salem's Lot, and i was disappointed. I echo the above complaints, lack of tension, bad actors (some, not all by any means), and very poor special effects. The only thing I got out of the new SL is that Rob Lowe doesn't have much of a career anymore.


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