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.