‘Salem’s Lot by Stephen King

salems-lot-new-coverOh, the joys of audio books! This month’s audio theme has been Stephen King, an author I’ve read very little of ashamedly. But what better way to enjoy a King story than through audio and visual mediums! So I listened to the book and then watched the TNT made-for-tv miniseries starring Rob Lowe and I has opinions.

The story is really rather simple and embraces many of King’s common thematic structures. Writer Ben Mears is returning to his brief childhood home, Jerusalem’s Lot, where he had a frightening encounter as a boy. He plans to exorcise his personal demons by researching and writing a new book concerning the family that built and owned the creepy old mansion high upon the hill overlooking the town. On a dare, he entered that house as a child to discover a rather bleak murder-suicide situation and has never mentally recovered, try as he may. Nightmares still haunt him and the house represents All. The. Evil. Things. Upon his return, he discovers that someone has bought the old house and that they might be vampires.

A great little vampire story. Loved getting back to those fierce and bloody creatures that live…unlive?… to maim and kill. No sparkles here, folks, and that’s such a welcome relief. King manages to write superb moments of genuine terror and narrator Ron McLarty does a good job ramping up the thrills. I’m also happy to report that King goes beyond the simplicity of cheap scares and rounds out his story with a decently literary discussion on the secret evils of small towns. Having grown up in such a place, I enjoyed seeing the seedy underbelly of ‘Salem’s Lot instead of the oft idolized vision of picket fences and howdy-dos. Now granted, the in-your-face personification of small down ill-deeds as vampirism can be a bit heavy-handed at times, but the fun factor always dances back in just when you need it!

Some little things bothered me here and there. Too many characters fighting for my limited memory space. A rather odd group of heroes at the end that didn’t seem entirely plausible. Ben and Susan’s ridiculous insta-love. And…well…just the end in general. How did this vampire outbreak manage to stay relatively confined to this one particular town in Maine? I forgive King these slight irks because he was a new-ish author at the time and was still honing his craft. I’m excited to move on and read later works to see how his talent increased. So I recommend ‘Salem’s Lot when you need a good dirty vampire story! It will wash away all the Twilight unpleasantness.

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As for the miniseries, I’m not sure what to say! Such a mixed bag. The special effects were both the worst and best parts. Sometimes they were spot on and genuinely frightened me, but other times they made me giggle uncontrollably. I thought the casting was rather good and the changes to the story didn’t bother me so much – particularly Father Callahan’s ending. However, the acting left a lot to be desired. And it’s not something I blame the actors for, but the script was lacking and the direction as well. A fun little cheese-fest all the same and gets the point across efficiently enough. I love Donald Sutherland in all he does – especially when it involves vampires!

 

 

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