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Review: Salem's Lot

Decided to belatedly pay my respects to the late, great Tobe Hooper by popping in my recently-purchaed Blu-ray copy of Salem’s Lot. While this early Stephen King adaptation lacks the unrelentingly bleak atmosphere of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (which made me feel physically unclean the first time I saw it, as though I was complicit in an actual series of murders), it still has its fair share of creepy moments. The numerous vampire attacks are particularly chilling, thanks to some simple-yet-clever visual trickery (footage of the actors performing their blocking backwards was reversed in postproduction, lending the scenes an eerie, otherworldly quality). Hooper also does an admirable job of juxtaposing the supernatural with the more mundane, everyday horrors of alcoholism, domestic abuse, and petty jealousy (one of King’s favorite storytelling techniques)—though I must admit that I was mildly disappointed that several of these subplots were seemingly forgotten once the undead invasion began in earnest.

Still, the fact that Salem’s Lot remains consistently entertaining throughout its three-hour running time is a testament to Hooper’s immense talent as a director. Hopefully, his passing will lead to a reevaluation of his career, proving once and for all that his reputation as “the guy who probably didn’t direct Poltergeist” was totally undeserved.

[Originally written September 3, 2017.]

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