Friday, March 25, 2011


After a long holiday-inspired hiatus, the Horror Dads are back on the beat at TCM's Movie Morlocks and we've cooked up a good 'un this time. If you were a young horror fan in the '70s one of the holy texts was certainly Stephen King's follow-up to Carrie, a much more ambitious (and much better) novel by the name of 'Salem's Lot, whose pages people began obsessively turning back in 1975. It was only a year later that saw the release of Brian De Palma's film version of Carrie in 1976, which was a smash hit and effectively launched the Stephen King film adaptation cottage industry that survives and thrives to this day. Perhaps because of its length and relatively large cast of characters, it was determined that Salem's Lot (no apostrophe indicating that the "'Salem's" was short for Jerusalem's) would be better suited to become a TV movie which could be stretched out over two nights, ostensibly in part to give the book's narrative room to breathe.

The TV movie of Salem's Lot which was directed by Tobe Hooper aired in November 1979, beating Stanley Kubrick's adaptation of The Shining into existence by about seven months, and it too was a huge hit. Most people who saw it and loved the book were pleased by the TV movie and its fealty to most of King's constructs and his tone. Others (like me) felt the book was compromised by the homogenized quality of TV production and the prevailing standards and practices of network TV at the time. But today it is largely thought of as one of the more successful King adaptations in a long list that truthfully probably contains more misses than hits, a TV movie that can stand alongside other TV horror landmarks like The Night Stalker and Dan Curtis' adaptation of Bram Stoker's Dracula starring Jack Palance.

The Horror Dads are largely positive in our collective assessment both of our original experiences with the film and the reaction to it upon more recent viewings. The discussion takes the usual larger overview, but we wouldn't be the Horror Dads if we didn't talk about the elements of the film that relate directly to our own experience bringing up kids and trying to pass along our appreciation of the genre. So a lot of time is spent discussing a central character who is obsessed with monster movies, as well as the potentially disturbing development, carried over from King's novel, of two young boys falling victim to the evil enveloping the town of 'Salem's Lot early on. We also spend a goodly portion of time talking about Salem's Lot's place in the pantheon of the great vampire movies of all time. Best of all, Greg Ferrara even had the opportunity to watch the movie with his daughter, a nascent horror aficionado, and reports on what she thought of it.

Kudos must go once again to Richard Harland Smith, who did his usual excellent job pruning 12,000 words of wild e-mail exchanges into a coherent, readable piece that you hopefully will enjoy as much as we did our original discussion. And all of the participants have wonderful moments of observation and expression as usual-- it's a real honor to be counted among the company of eloquent and funny horror dads such as Richard, Greg, Nicholas McCarthy, Paul Gaita and Jeff Allard. No one knows just yet what the next project for the Horror Dads will be, and we'll have plenty of time to figure that out. For now it's time to enjoy the back and forth and continue the discussion. To paraphrase Mel Brooks, it's good to be a Horror Dad.



blaaagh said...

James Mason: "You can do nothing against the master!"
Bill Helwig, to TV: "Oh, yeah? Take that, Baldy!" (kicks him in the balls).

bill r. said...

I'll get right on over there, but I don't believe there was a more terrifying image from my childhood than that kid floating outside the window, asking to be let in. Jesus Christ, did that imprint itself on me.

Erich Kuersten said...

Thanks for posting this - Salem's Lot was a big event back when it aired, as I recall. I'd already read the book and was all blah-blah I'm so cool for a 10 year old cuz I read the book and wont be scared - but I was scared all right.

A perfect thing for horror dads since it manages to be scary without being traumatizing, a 'good' scary - how often does that ever happen? That alone makes it almost worth putting up with David Soul.