One of the first books by Stephen King to find its way on celluloid was the made-for-TV flick “Salem’s Lot,” starring David Soul of “Starsky and Hutch” fame. (Don’t even ask me which he was because not only do I not remember, I don’t think I even knew back then.)
Now, when you think 70s and made-for-TV, one usually isn’t too optimistic about the result. But this was the exception, with good acting, nice makeup and yes, vampires that were scary and not emo. Not that should be surprising under the direction of Tobe Hooper.
The plot synopsis: Writer Ben Mears (a thinly-veiled King) returns to his hometown to explore some childhood trauma for a new book. He meets a girl, played by Bonnie Bedelia, and befriends the young teen Mark Petrie (Lance Kerwin) who is obsessed with the macabre (a thinly-veiled teenage King) and they join forces when the townsfolk start falling ill and dying unexpectedly. It’s no coincidence this starts shortly after a stranger arrives and occupies the spooky Marsten house, getting it ready for its new mysterious owner who no one has seen.
Or at least no one who lives to tell the tale.
James Mason is supreme as the evil caretaker for one seriously fugly vampire, and this was the first time I had seen a Nosferatu-inspired vampire. Between him, and the vampires tapping on the windows, this one has some genuine creeps. Geoffrey Lewis (Juliette’s dad) also has a great scene, featured below.
Grab this while you can: It’s out of print and you may have to go VHS to stay in budget.
Salem’s Lot (1979)Cast David Soul … Ben Mears
James Mason … Richard K. Straker
Lance Kerwin … Mark Petrie
Bonnie Bedelia … Susan Norton
Lew Ayres … Jason Burke
Julie Cobb … Bonnie Sawyer
Elisha Cook … Gordon ‘Weasel’ Phillips
George Dzundza … Cully Sawyer
Ed Flanders … Dr. Bill Norton
Clarissa Kaye … Majorie Glick
Geoffrey Lewis … Mike Ryerson
Barney McFadden … Ned Tibbets
Kenneth McMillan … Constable Parkins Gillespie
Fred Willard … Larry Crockett
Marie Windsor … Eva Miller Barbara Babcock … June Petrie
Bonnie Bartlett … Ann Norton
Joshua Bryant … Ted Petrie
James Gallery … Father Donald Callahan
Robert Lussier … Deputy Constable Nolly Gardner
Brad Savage … Danny Glick
Ronnie Scribner … Ralphie Glick
Ned Wilson … Henry Glick
I’m really wish people would stop ruining vampires for me. You know what movies I’m talking about, without me even uttering the dreaded “T” word. And some of the lame, wimpy, effeminate vampires that have paraded around screen and in books in recent years. So I admit, I almost didn’t even bother to watch Dracula Untold. I figured it would be yet another disappointment.
Fortunately, I figured wrong, at least to a certain extent.
I could nitpick some flaws in this movie, but I’m going to give it a pass on a few things. Maybe my standards have dropped a little too low with some of the poor vampire movies out there, but I actually thought this was pretty damn good.
Dracula Untold tells the story of the origin of the great vampire legend, with an ancient vampire who has been cursed and dwells in a cave. And much like a Marvel superhero, he and his protégé he passes his curse along to can command bats. And let me tell you, they can make these bats do some bitchin’ things, as Ve Neill would say.
They can create storms and huge whirlwinds like tornadoes that the newly crowned Dracula uses as a cover to plow through entire armies by himself, trying to save his kingdom from being taken in a bloody war.
You see, this spin on the Dracula legend has him willingly taking the blood of the cursed vampire in the cave to take on superpowers, which will all go away and he’ll return to human if he can resist feeding for 72 hours. As you can imagine, this can sort of complicate date night with the wife, among other things.
All kidding aside, this movie has beautiful cinematography, fairly nice special effects — and yes, of course they use CGI for the bats (boo, hiss) — but overall this is a very solid entry into the annals of vampire movies.
It’s sort of like 300 with vampires and without the abs. Check out the trailer…
Long before The Midnight Meat Train, subways and the London underground have been the setting for horror, like the famous scene in American Werewolf in London. But 2004’s Creep stays down in the dark, with poor Franka Potente finding herself locked in after falling asleep and missing the last train home.
Yeah, I know, who would really sleep through the last train, but just roll with it on this one. Because this little sleeper is definitely one of the better examples of subterranean monsters run amok. Where is Jason Bourne when you need him?
After leaving a party, Potente finds herself wishing she had stuck with cocktails and boring small talk. She encounters an acquaintance who tries to take advantage of them being alone, and a homeless couple who she tries to help by paying the young man to help her find the next security guard station.
Emphasis on tries to help, because as you can imagine, this does not end well. Especially for the young woman in the couple, who is an integral part of a particularly gruesome scene for the women watching. Like we don’t hate going to the doctor enough already, thank you.
Instead of just going with a deranged serial killer, Creep twists its monster into some kind of lost boy lost boy born into the London underground tunnel system as a nocturnal creature who has never seen the light of day. And who tries to mimic the adults who “took care” of him with disastrous results.
Creep is definitely not a film for the squeamish, but is well worth seeking out despite being fairly rare and a bit hard to find. But isn’t that the fun in discovering those of secure films that none of your friends know about? Then scaring the shift out of them because they have no idea what they’re getting into. That’s what friends are for.
Haunted mirrors with evil spirits can be very creepy, as can watching someone break down into mental illness and violence. If presented in a simple, straightforward way, it’s effective, but some of the great disturbing moments of “Oculus” get muddied up in whiplash-causing cuts between past and present in rapid succession. It’s hard to stay in the moment when you’re trying to figure what the hell is going on.
Now that I think about it, “Insidious 2” also falls into the same trap of mixing past and present and confusing viewers, or least some of us. Dear filmmakers, this does not create suspense. I kept finding myself getting frustrated with the inability to just get a straightforward timeline and story of what was going on. It’s almost as if some films don’t have enough confidence to just rely on their story without the gimmicks of intercutting between past and present to try to make the story more complex.
Sometimes simple is better. Sometimes simple is actually great.
There’s no shortage of scary moments in this movie, particularly the mirror effect of the eyes. Although it did strike me as being very similar to that first “Salem’s Lot” movie with David Soul, where the vampires had that same glint in their eye. add to that , having mommy dearest chained up like a dog in the bedroom because she’s losing her mind, and you’ve got some pretty damn scary stuff, indeed.
But then if you mix in some plot holes — which to be fair, almost any horror movie has to some extent — you start to water-down the fear factor and that, combined with confusing elements takes you out of the story while you’re lagging behind asking yourself basic questions. Why didn’t the mirror effect the kids when they were younger like it affected mom and dad? Why did it wait till the present to have an effect on them? Why did it seem to create the need for violence in mom and dad, but just cause confusion about time and place for the kids in the present?
I’m still so perplexed by what the plot was that I can barely put the confusion I felt into words. I just know that if I was in a cartoon, there would have been a big “WTF?” floating over my head for most of the second half of the movie.
Also, recognize the difference between foreshadowing and giving away your ending. Now I admit, as someone who has dabbled in creative writing, I’m pretty good at seeing foreshadowing that other people miss. But this movie went way beyond foreshadowing, completely giving away the ending to me. I won’t say exactly how in case you actually haven’t seen this movie yet, but it doesn’t take a genius to see where one of the main character’s fate lies.
There are a lot of great positive things I can say about the film in terms of atmosphere, mood, creepiness, but when all is said and done, I just feel like I’m caught up in one big creepy ball of confusion. And that’s not a satisfying ending, even for a gal who hates happy endings like me.
Ten years ago, tragedy struck the Russell family, leaving the lives of teenage siblings Tim and Kaylie forever changed when Tim was convicted of the brutal murder of their parents. Now in his 20s, Tim is newly released from protective custody and only wants to move on with his life; but Kaylie, still haunted by that fateful night, is convinced her parents’ deaths were caused by something else altogether: a malevolent supernatural force—unleashed through the Lasser Glass, an antique mirror in their childhood home. Determined to prove Tim’s innocence, Kaylie tracks down the mirror, only to learn similar deaths have befallen previous owners over the past century. With the mysterious entity now back in their hands, Tim and Kaylie soon find their hold on reality shattered by terrifying hallucinations, and realize, too late, that their childhood nightmare is beginning again…
Written and directed by Mike Flanagan, “Oculus” first premiered at the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival and stars Karen Gillan, Brenton Thwaites, Rory Cochrane and Katee Sackhoff. The film hits theaters nationwide on April 11th.
Visit SeeYourEvil.com on your mobile browser, where you’ll be prompted to take a photo to receive a terrifying “Oculus” mirror output version of yourself. The scary selfie can be uploaded directly to Facebook, Twitter or Tumblr right from your phone.