When you really love a given work it becomes difficult to render an appropriate review. This issue becomes even more burdensome when this work is, by most movie-quality-barometers, a complete and utter stink bomb. A Return to Salem’s Lot, a sequel in name only, to Stephen King’s heralded original work, Salem’s Lot, is quite possibly the most absurdly underrated “crappy in-name only” sequel in history. This film is truly up there with the likes of Halloween III and Zombi IV in the “would be a classic under a different name” category.
The soundtrack is memorably creepy, harpsichord-ridden, and begging for a techno remix; allowing for the film’s atmosphere to set in without any defense. Those of you with lifetime experiences in the American Northeast will have no difficulty attaching your receptors to this setting. Bovine country indeed.
Donning Hollywood starlets, horror cheese mainstays, and decorated actors from the golden age of cinema; this film has the cast alone to separate itself from the pack of oft-forgetten straight-to-video sequels. Famed Charles Grodin lookalike Michael Moriarty (The Stuff, The Stand) turns in a tour-de-force performance as the only character he knows how to play; a hard-as-nails, woman-ravaging, manly-man in the body of a shoe store manager from Seattle. Andrew Duggan and June Havoc also chime in as the undead Aunt Clara and Judge Axel, the latter of which is the “king of the vampires” type, who eerily resembles my grandfather.
Speaking of star power, A Return to Salem’s Lot features former Hollywood slam-piece Tara Reid (American Pie, recipient of botched boob job, seen here with melted face) in her first performance, as a lovable pre-teen vampire who tries to seduce Michael Moriarty’s smart-ass son, Jeremy; an unforgettably ginger badass with a mouth like a trucker and a filmography that could fit on a fortune cookie paper.
These casting accolades are a clear second place to the involvement of screenwriting, acting, and low-budget film legend, Samuel Fuller. This self-described “nazi killer, not nazi hunter” is a breath of fresh air, as he is halfhazardly thrust into a plot involving vampires for NO DICERNABLE REASON WHATSOEVER. This is the beauty of cheese-cinema. If you can’t have an elderly nazi hunter in a vintage Studebaker randomly plop himself into a script about vampires, then you just aren’t living; screenwriting-wise.
Ensemble cast aside, A Return to Salem’s Lot makes it’s bacon on being an extremely well-balanced horror film; engorging the viewer in appropriate doses of eerie music, scares, good movie makeup, and a quickly developing plot. Director Larry Cohen is far from gunshy, racking up a healthy body count of vampires, humans, and drones (see the film) alike.At one point, a plethora of doped up cyber-punks (Think Bill Paxton in Terminator) are viciously murdered by seemingly elderly townsfolk. At another juncture, Andrew Duggan rips a vagrant’s face off! Look mom, one hand!
Another aspect of A Return to Salem’s Lot that garners my respect is a homage to the time-tested tradition of writing stock footage of the wilderness into a given horror plot. This goal is handily achieved through the creative writing of Michael Moriarty’s character as an anthropologist; Allowing for not only gratuitous scenes of tribal sacrifice, but also ample shots of the rainforest and wildlife, even if grossly overused. Hey, anything to add some gore and tribal mamories, right?
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, this film would have been an 80’s horror-cheese smash hit if it were released under a different name. Maybe, “writer of the vampire bible” or “nazi killer vs. the geriatric vampire horde.” Literally anything would have sufficed. Maybe we would be giving this film the respect it deserves today, instead of taking the Stephen King route and filing suit to ensure that his name will never be associated with this work. Apples to Oranges.After all, A Return to Salem’s Lot has very little to do with its alleged predecessor. No character’s transcend the works, nor do the antagonists share any similarities, absent a slight resemblance, and vampirism. Maybe they are second cousins? Regardless of the title or classification, this film is very enjoyable; seek it out!
There. I did it. I Reviewed a horrible film that I love more than most Oscar nominees. *exhales*
WTF = 21
WTF = 21
W - 6 (not all that witty, but still disturbing at times)
T - 7 (great post-CGI effects when employed)
F - 8 (thoroughly enjoyable)