Salem's Lot (2004)

Genres - Horror  |   Sub-Genres - Supernatural Horror  |   Run Time - 240 min.  |   Countries - United States  |   MPAA Rating - NR
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Review by Brian J. Dillard

Although it's more expensive and more faithful to the Stephen King novel than Tobe Hooper's 1979 network TV adaptation, this two-part made-for-cable Salem's Lot suffers in comparison. Peter Filardi's script spends so much time establishing its premise, its large cast of characters, and its psychobabble subtext that boredom sets in before the first big scare. Once the would-be thrills and special effects kick in, they prove pedestrian and anticlimactic -- especially given the script's needlessly complicated structure. Cinematographer-turned-director Mikael Salomon is good enough with the choppy, MTV-style flashbacks, but his idea of creepy ambiance is to pan to the sinister Marsten house (which seems to be visible from every corner of Jerusalem's Lot) whenever the pacing lags. As for the actors, well, King veteran Rob Lowe doesn't wrest much depth from the part of Ben Mears, who remains a rather static protagonist despite an updated backstory that includes muckraking journalism in Afghanistan. Andre Braugher does what he can with the supporting role of closeted high-school teacher Matt Burke, but ultimately he can't overcome the wise black patriarch clich├ęs with which he's saddled. Samantha Mathis isn't much of a presence as the putative love interest, while villains Donald Sutherland and Rutger Hauer can't even seem to muster enough enthusiasm to ham it up satisfactorily. Glossy when it should be gloomy and earnest when it should be subtle, Salem's Lot completely misses the essence of horror.