Talk about a creepy novel. I read “’Salem’s Lot” for the first time four years ago. At the time, it was my 4th King novel. I am on #64 (“Rose Madder”) now, so yeah, it was time to reread King’s classic Vampire tale and wow, am I glad I did.
“’Salem’s Lot” was the second novel King ever published. Released in 1975, this chilling 439 page novel tells the story of writer Ben Mears returning to his childhood hometown, Jerusalem’s Lot, looking for inspiration for his next novel.
While there, he learns two strangers have purchased the haunted Marsten House overlooking the town. Strange things start to happen around the Lot; dogs hang from funeral fences, people get sick and others go missing.
Ben falls in love with Susan Norton, befriends a Doctor: Jimmy Cody, a teacher: Matt Burke, a priest: Father Donald Callahan, and a young boy: Mark Petrie. Together they witness the destruction of their little Maine town and decide to fight back.
As usual, King’s characters are superb. Ben Mears is an excellent protagonist, and the amazing antagonist combo of Barlow and Straker are cunning and chilling.
Susan is a strong character although if King rewrote this book today, I’m sure he would do a better job making readers feel attached to her.
Matt Burke is possibly one of the most underrated and underappreciated characters King has ever written.
Dr. Jimmy Cody turns into a very likable and strong character, but King waited until over halfway through to bring Cody to the novel’s center.
Callahan is awesome. He’s a priest at the local Catholic Church in the Lot, and he ends up being a very brave and awesome character. *Spoiler* Callahan also makes an appearance in another King series. *End Spoiler*
Mark Petrie is a great character too. King has shown an uncanny ability to write strong younger characters, and Mark was truly the first of many.
King wrote an excellent Vampire tale here, and the slow burn he applies to readers throughout the novel’s entirety is incredible.
This is probably one of King’s scariest novels to date just by pure creepiness and suspense. You’ll be rocking goosebumps the whole time reading it.
The way King makes his constant readers feel like they are citizens of the town is amazing. He writes from the perspective of the entire Lot at times, giving quick glimpses into everyone’s lives; the good, the bad, the ugly, the innocent, and the sinister.
“’Salem’s Lot” has been adapted into two, three-hour TV movies. One in 1979 and another in 2004. Neither do the book justice (as expected), but they are both worth watching for different reasons.
The 1979 “’Salem’s Lot” was a very creepy film, a great horror movie itself, but overall a poor adaptation of the novel. The movie eliminated a lot of the characters and changed Matt’s name to Jason *(this pisses me off a lot more than it should, but COME ON why do that?? What is the reasoning for that??)*… sorry, rant over.
Anyway, the movie also turned Barlow into some weird, bald, blue creature which is just… wrong… creepy… but wrong. This movie gave us an awful Callahan which was lame too.
Overall the 1979 movie was creepy and definitely captured the atmosphere of the book, but the changes left me disappointed, so I give it a 6 out of 10.
The 2004 “’Salem’s Lot” stuck to the book a lot better than the original. Rob Lowe was an excellent Ben Mears in appearance only, and this movie actually kept Matt’s name (hallelujah). They did, however, change the beginning and ending which both weren’t great in the movie but were in the book (surprise surprise), so why change it you know?
We got a much better, more true Barlow and Callahan in the 2004 movie, but it was actually pretty boring at times and I never felt bored reading the novel, so there was definitely a disconnect somewhere. Overall it was a decent adaptation but a cheesy and boring film so I gave it a 6 out of 10 also.
Anyway, back to the important matter here; the incredible novel:
I absolutely loved King’s take on vampires and the slow burn was the perfect way to write it. He even wrote prequel and sequel short stories to “’Salem’s Lot” in his 1977 collection of short stories, “Night Shift.” “Jerusalem’s Lot” tells the tale of the Lot’s haunted past while “One for the Road” tells readers a story only a few months after the events of “’Salem’s Lot.”
I have “’Salem’s Lot” ranked 7th in my Stephen King rankings, and the reread only solidified that position. This is truly a masterpiece and I highly recommend everyone check it out.