Thursday, 8 October 2020

31 Days of Horror Remakes: Salem's Lot 1979 vs 2004

 Me: Wow. Salem's Lot. There's a lot to unpack here. Where do you want to start?

Jay: Where do you want me to start? 

Me: Um... first things first, which one's better? 

Jay: You know, I can't call that, arguing for each version for different reasons. Both the 1979 and 2004 versions are very good.

Firstly, the vampire is so much scarier in the first one. I love the Barlow vampire. That's not to say that the rest of the vampires were bad, it's just that the original had that Nosferatu thing going for it. 

Me: Hah. I was going to say the Nosferatu thing as well - but that's why I give it to Rutger Hauer's Barlow. 

Jay: Eh...

Me: Hear me out. It's like when you watch Dawn of the Dead and you know they're dead because they're blue. I don't like that. I like that Rutger Hauer could walk about in society and you'd never know. The rest of the vampires can, why not Barlow? Remake Barlow for me.

Jay: Original Barlow for me. Original vampires for me. They had those yellow eyes and it was far more effective.

Me: I have a feeling we're not going to agree on much here. I prefer the remake eyes. They had that sort of lit from inside quality. Also, it was almost kind of frosted over. You know, like frosted glass. 

Jay: Well, that's what happens to your eyes when you die, the frosted look, so that makes sense. Except Susan Norton, whose eyes turned red. 

Me: Yeah, and Marjorie Glick. Her eyes turned black, like a demon's. So there was some inconsistency there. 

Jay: This one really is hard for me to call. I mean, Salem's Lot will always have a place in my heart because of watching it as like a nine or ten-year-old. I was so excited to be allowed to stay up late to watch it - and it absolutely terrified me.

Me: Wait. I thought your Mom hated vampire films? 

Jay: Hah. She did - but it was love/hate. Kind of like the way I love zombie films but they're the only ones that still jump me. Or the way you love ghost stories, even though they make you cry. 

Me: That was one time.

Jay: I told you when it was going to be scary!

Me: Right, getting back to Salem's Lot...

Jay: We could talk about the level of stars involved, although that's pretty close too. I mean, David Soul was the hot property of 1978. 

Me: Him and his flares...

Jay: Mother will haunt you. 

Me: Sorry, sorry! Great pants. 

Jay: Like I was saying... a lot of the actors in the original Salem's Lot went on to have successful careers - but a lot of the actors in the remake did too. Remember that Salem's Lot was part of Rob Lowe's comback. But you also have Samantha Mathis, James Cromwell, Andre Braugher, and Rutger Hauer. That's not a small cast.

But it's more than just calibre of actor. Like the soundtrack, which was excellent in the first one. You also have to look at the story, which I think may have been slightly better in the remake.

Me: It felt like a fuller story, more rounded. 

Jay: Right. And it was closer to the book - like the priest, who was sort of an afterthought in the original but played a much larger role in the remake. 

Me: Here's the thing I love about the priest... at the very beginning, you've got Rob Lowe attacking him so you instantly mistrust him. All the way through, you're watching him, wondering what the hell he's up to - and he did look shifty as fuck.

Jay: You don't know if you can trust him but turns out, he's just another fallen priest, a drunk. I know I said I preferred the priest's role in the remake but, at the same time, I prefer the scene with the priest in the original.

Me: Yeah, we're we're definitely gonna have to talk about that. 

Jay: Well, in the original Salem's Lot, you've got James Mason and Barlow turning up. The master vampire turns up and smashes Mark's parents heads together, which was cool, then grabs the boy. Straker's very intense there. He's asking what the priest would do for the life of the boy. It's very powerful, that challenge to his faith.

Me: There were a couple of things happening in that scene that I liked. Okay. So, in the original I like the fact that they're sitting around talking in the lights flicker and it's that foreshadowing. Very cool. 

You don't get that in the remake, but I prefer the remake because rather than it going through his proxy, Barlow is issuing the challenge. That's the problem with the original vampire. He wasn't eloquent, couldn't because of those stupid teeth. He couldn't stand there and have the conversation himself. He had to have a proxy to do it for him. 

Jay: Here's my problem with that scene, you've got Rutger Hauer bumbling about on the ceiling. How is that scary? It makes him look stupid. That's the problem with the CGI in the remake. In places like that, it failed. I hated the way the vampires climb around on the ceilings and walls. 

Me: It struck me as being heavily influenced by things like Bram Stoker's Dracula and even Dracula 2000, same kind of movements. 

I still prefer Rutger Hauer, though, because he's not just a monster, not just this thing with fangs. He's also a person. 

Jay: I don't agree but I see where you're coming from. You know, you're talking with somebody that has probably got centuries of experience. You see that in the other faces he has when he starts to die. I like the way he challenges Mears. He says I'm not the vampire, you are.

Me: Hah. Well, as a writer, I can tell you that that's a little bit true. You take so much of everything that's happening around you and you feed it into your stories. And I think if the people around you knew half of what you took and put into your stories, they would not want to know you. 

Honestly, though? I was a little bi thrown by the ending in the remake when they kill Barlow because he starts flicking through all of the different faces that, like you said, that probably were his other lives. Then the ring falls out and... it's been like 20 years since I've read the book. So I don't remember the details, which frustrated me there. 

Anyway, so I know the remake fits the book more and I'm really glad that Rob Lowe narrates it from the book. You can hear Stephen King in it. (And I would love to have Rob Lowe narrate all of King's books.) They really needed to explain that particular scene a little, though, for those of us who've forgotten or never read it.

What about the extra bit with Susan?

Jay: What about it? 

Me: Which way did you prefer her story ending? 

Jay: The original. It makes more sense. In the remake, they just can't kill her and that's such bullshit. At least in the original they never find her. He says sorry to her as he lights the house on fire because he thinks she's there. He thinks he's killing her.  

Me: I have to agree with you there. It was dumb that they killed everyone else, including kids, but there was a chance to save her. That's lazy. 

I still give it to the remake, though, because of the hunting thing. In the original, you get the feeling that they're running. Not in the remake. In the remake, they're hunting. I like that. I also love that the orderly is stunned at this point. He stares Mark in the face and says he doesn't believe them - but he still opens that door.

Jay: Oh, he believes them. He just can't say that he does, can't admit it. It would change everything he thinks he knows about the world. 

Me: One of the biggest things that I found different between the two versions is in the original, David Soul a hundred percent believes that they're vampires and he's trying to convince everybody else in the remake. Rob Lowe's like oh come on get real and it takes a long time for him to get on board with a Vampire thing. 

Jay: No, I disagree. I think with David Soul he knows something's going on. He knows, but he's trying to keep Burke from ending up in the looney bin. He warns him to let the machinery take over to protect his image and career. That's smart. 

Me: I think this is where we have to talk about the Glick boys.

Jay: Well, for starters, they're all friends in the original. I mean, they were rehearsing at Mark's place and looking at his toys. I mean you still sees it was models in a big way in the remake. The only time they're really together in the remake is that bit in the beginning where they get kicked off the bus together, and later, when they're causing trouble. They don't seem that close, though. 

Me: What about after they become vampires?

Jay: Oh, definitely the original. They're actually scary. The way he withdraws and the fog moves with him. Very cool, very slick. 

Me: I love when he goes to his brother in the hospital, in the remake. The way he moves around the plastic curtain is very effective. Very spooky.

Jay: Why, though? I mean, it's not his property. He can just go through it! I didn't understand that. 

Me: I guess it makes sense. Typically, it doesn't have to be a house, it's any place that human sleeps. 

Jay: Ugh. The mythology of the whole entry thing with vampires always gets changed to suit whoever's writing the story. 

Me: True. That's vampires for ya. At least they don't sparkle.

Jay: Eww. Right.

Me: We've been at it for awhile. Still refuse to pick one?

Jay: I do. I can't choose. I think they both have merits and that's why I won't say I prefer one to the other. There are parts of both that I liked. I like the original Barlow best, is all I'll say.

Me: I have to take a minute here to talk about Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Jay: Buffy? Why?

Me: Yeah. Here's why... In the Buffy movie, Rutger Hauer is the vampire and Donald Sutherland is her Watcher, right? And in the remake of Salem's Lot, Rutger Hauer is the vampire and Donald Sutherland is his minder. How perfect is that? Don't look at me like that, it's brilliant. 

Plus, I love the bit in Buffy after Benny becomes a vampire and he's at Pike's window scratching in such a fun parody of the same scene from the original Salem's Lot

Jay: Have I ever told you that I worry about you?

Me: Every day.

There was a bit in Salem's Lot that we were talking about earlier. The bit with the rocking chair?

Jay: It's one of my favourite scenes. It's so sinister. So dark and twisted. That voice when he orders the teacher to look at him. I love it.

Me: I think I prefer the remake and here's why... in the remake, he's not sinister and dark. He's confused and afraid. That hits my feels harder.

Oh, I almost forgot about Larry Crockett...

Jay: You mean about whether or not that wig needed its own acting credit?

Me: Omg, that wig. Shudder.

No, I mean how much more twisted and wrong he is in the remake. There was no need to go for the paedophilia angle. Eww. 

Jay: Agreed. It was unnecessary. You already know he's a selfish bastard because he sells the town out, when he invites the vampires in. There was no need to take it that step further. 

Me: What I do like, though, is that scene at the end when he looks over the edge of the dump and you see the vampires scavenging.

Jay: It was really clever, because they would. Eventually, they would run out of humans and turn on whatever was available, even if that meant rats. I wonder how long it took to turn on their pets? That's a disturbing thought.

Me: With Ruth Crockett, though... can I just say how much I want that necklace? 

Jay: Hah. Well, you would

I liked Dud Rogers, especially when he became a vampire. Honestly, he kind of deserved it. And which one of us wouldn't jump at the chance to have all our illnesses cured and become extremely attractive? No, don't answer. You wouldn't give the vampire a chance to offer!

Me: Cheeky. But, yeah. 

I loved Duds as a vampire! He was so cool! One of my favourite vampires in the movie.

Oh, I almost forgot Straker! Pick one!

Jay: I don't know if I can. I mean... James Mason's voice sets him apart. On the other hand, Donald Sutherland's character really relishes the evil he's getting into. They're both tremendous actors and both brought something different to the role.

Me: I thought the same thing. James Mason was a little too shifty and nervous looking for me. I loved how much fun Donald Sutherland was having. If you're gonna be evil, so big or go home, right?

Jay: Hah. Right. Plus, he's very expressive. I liked the way they ended his character, too. The fact that they found him dead and hanging suggests that Barlow punished him for screwing everything up. That's a more fitting ending.

Me: It was a nice touch. Can't argue with that.

I won't say which movie is better, because I think it's took close to call but I know which one I enjoy watching more, and that's the remake.


Jay: No! I won't be drawn into which I think is better! They both stand alone perfectly. 

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