Saturday, 2 January 2010

Salem's Lot

One of my abiding memories of the 80s is the video shop. I loved the whole experience of going to choose tapes, not least of which because I was fascinated by all the box covers. My sister and I would spend ages gazing at them and would point to boxes like Jim Henson's Labyrinth and ask, "Mum, is that a man or a woman?" to which she would reply, "That's David Bowie, dear".

The 18-rated films, of course, held a special fascination with their gloriously graphic artwork and airbrushed logos. One that always attracted me was Tobe Hooper's version of Stephen King's Salem's Lot (with the silhouette of the Nosferatu-like vampire above an old house). I have just watched the film (re-cut from the original TV series) and can highly recommend it. It's a slow-burner but builds very well. The art direction really comes into its own near the end when the protagonists enter the vampire's house, the set for which is reputed to have cost $70, 000 with a further $100,000 for a full-size exterior. The interior displays the same twisted decay as the famous house in Hooper's earlier Texas Chainsaw Massacre. The Barlow vampire makeup is a bit ropey by today's standards, but it's sufficiently graphic to still shock. There are some truly terrifying scenes with children floating outside windows and, in particular, the most ghastly piece of cloth since the BBC's version of Whistle and I'll Come to You. The title sequence (with the stenciled font you see in the images below) won Best Graphic Design and Title Sequence at the 1980 Emmy's.

And it's got James Mason in it!

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