by Del Harvey
Blood-curdling terror comes to small-town America in a horrifying TNT original miniseries starring Rob Lowe, Andre Braugher, Donald Sutherland, Samantha Mathis, Rutger Hauer and James Cromwell.
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Ben Mears is now a Pullitzer Prize winning writer, but the return to his old hometown of Jerusalem’s Lot is anything but welcoming. A small New England enclave the locals don’t warm up to newcomers for at least 20 years, as Ben so aptly narrates, no matter whether you grew up there or not. But he’s returned to his hometown with a purpose, and he is not about to be swayed, even when the local real estate mogul has sold off the old Marsten House in spite of a verbal agreement with Ben.
Undaunted, Ben moves in to the only boarding house in town. The Marsten House holds special meaning to Ben, as old man Marsten’s ghost is reportedly haunting the place, situated on a hill looking down on the town, and Ben saw Marsten kill himself one grim night when he was only 8 years old.
As Ben returns to Salem’s Lot, another odd duo has also arrived in the small town. The eclectic and offbeat antiques dealer, Strayker, and his partner, Barlow. Barlow has not been seen, but Strayker is happily setting up shop both at the Marsten House as well as in town. He hires a few of the local laborers to pick up a shipment from the docks late at night, with the special request that one of the boxes, the largest, be delivered to the Marsten House.
Over the next few days a subtle change occurs throughout the Lot, as people seem to be dying from an acute form of anemia, and the small town’s streets become more and more deserted as the body count rises. Feeling way out of their depth, the local sheriff leaves it up to a ragtag group of vigilantes, comprised of Ben, the local 8th grade English teacher, a waitress from the town diner, and a 12 year old boy, who decide to take on the plague of vampires that has infested the Lot, and whose center of activity seems to be the old Marsten House itself.
Salem’s Lot features a number of wonderful shocks and shivers, thanks in large part to the cast, ably led by Rob Lowe (Lyon’s Den, The West Wing). Andre Braugher (Homicide: Life on the Street) is the 8th grade teacher, Donald Sutherland (The Italian Job) is Strayker, Samantha Mathis (The Punisher) is the waitress and Lowe’s love interest, Rutger Hauer (Blade Runner) is the vampire leader Barlow, and James Cromwell (Babe) is the local alcoholic priest.
Looking for all the world like a New England fishing village, Salem’s Lot was actually shot on location in Melbourne, Australia. The film, adapted from the best-selling novel by Stephen King, was written by Peter Filardi (Flatliners, The Craft), and directed by Mikael Salomon (Band of Brothers). Executive producers were the highly accomplished Mark M. Wolper (TNT’s The Mists of Avalon, The Thornbirds) and Jeffrey Hayes (On the Beach, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea). The quite excellent cinematography is by Ben Nott, a.c.s. (Code Red).
Finally, a horror film with some real thrills and surprises, Salem’s Lot will premiere on TNT Sunday, June 20 at 8 p.m. (ET/PT) and conclude Monday, June 21 at 8 p.m (ET/PT).
Del Harvey is the founder of Film Monthly. He teaches screenwriting at Columbia College Chicago.
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