So once again we have survived.

A Return to Salem’s Lot

tn_artslA RETURN TO SALEM’S LOT is Larry Cohen’s weirdo theatrically-released sort-of-sequel to Tobe Hooper’s TV mini-series of the Stephen King book. But really it just takes the location – the tiny town of Jerusalem’s Lot, Maine – and the idea of doing a vampire story there. It’s not the same vampire or the same type of vampire. It doesn’t connect, from what I remember. But I like that.

Joe Weber (Cohen’s muse Michael Moriarty) is an anthropologist working on a CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST type documentary when he finds he has to come home to look after his troublemaking teenage son Jeremy (one-time actor Ricky Addison Reed, who IMDb claims was cast to play Robin in Tim Burton’s BATMAN in scenes that were never filmed). Joe brings his son to the old, recently-inherited fixer-upper in his birth-town of Salem’s Lot (as some but not all abbreviate it).

The kid is that ’80s archetype of the smug cool kid who’s supposed to be real smooth and savvy – think Mackenzie Astin on The Facts of Life or Dennis Dugan in TOUGHEST MAN IN THE WORLD. He wears what Joe refers to as “designer clothes” (in other words, tries to dress like Miami Vice), helps outslime a used car salesman, un-self-consciously smokes and curses in front of his dad and drives him around even though he’s too young to do it legally. And now he has to live in this backwards Mike Pence of a town where everybody seems one generation out from the Pilgrims. Trying to act streetwise in a place with dirt roads.

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In the first one there was a guy who was a vampire. This time it’s almost the whole town. All but the familiars (they call them “drones,” but some consider that an offensive term) who protect their coffins during daylight. This comes out in a popular ’80s horror movie way: a group of punk rocker types get pulled over driving through town, then attacked. This movie often plays with the image of harmless looking old folks swarming on people and biting them – and the extras seem to be having a great time. Later there’s a scene where we see a grandma re-applying lipstick after sucking blood. But that first scene with them is taken to the next level because there’s also a big blue bat monster watching from the bushes. He’s like the Kareem Abdul Jabbar of vampires ’cause his hands are so big he can palm two human heads at a time.

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And it’s not only the elderly swarming on motherfuckers in this town. There’s also a scene with these two itinerant drunks at a campfire who get approached by some little girls. Disturbingly, they are happy to see the kids until some little boys show up. The situation quickly escalates into a killer kid movie, so we have a full cradle-to-the-grave range of vampirism on display here.

mp_artslAnyway, one of the punks, Cathy (Katja Crosby, IT’S ALIVE III), gets away and runs to hide in the church, where Joe finds her and decides to help by bringing her to the Judge Axel (Andrew Duggan, LBJ in Cohen’s THE PRIVATE FILES OF J. EDGAR HOOVER, Eisenhower in a different one called J. EDGAR HOOVER). It’s pretty late but it seems like half the town is over at the judge’s house, and they all get lured into the weird Salem’s Lot town activities. Like, there’s a little girl named Amanda (Tara Reid [JOSIE AND THE PUSSYCATS] in her first role) who Jeremy is immediately smitten with, and he goes with her to a wedding – between two other kids.

Meanwhile, Joe gets a tour. They’re pretty open about their lifestyle, showing him that they have cows that they raise for blood because “now a days it’s not good for you what with drugs, alcohol, hepatitis and this AIDS virus going around.” They know about his work as an anthropologist, and they try to recruit him to write their Bible. After all, he did the movie about cannibals and he didn’t try to interfere with what they were doing. And I mean, it’s a pretty interesting gig, so he doesn’t turn it down outright.

Also, you know, some of them seem like nice enough people. They wear pajamas and everything.

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And there’s this other thing. It turns out his teenage crush Sherry (Jill Gatsby, IT LIVES AGAIN, MANIAC COP, VAMPIRE’S KISS, CLASS OF 1999) is still here and also is still 17 because she got bit at that age. So, you know, she, uh, welcomes him. I think there’s a hypnotic seduction type thing going on, but maybe he’s just exhibiting the male weakness. Later he forbids Jeremy from going to the vampire classroom, but then leaves him behind to go have outdoor sex with his teen girlfriend.

It’s weird seeing kids in a classroom at night, and also running around playing. But maybe you get used to it if you live there.

The movie gets real exciting when the great director Sam Fuller drives into town. He’s lost, and Jeremy seems to think he’s a pretty cool old man, and he invites him to stay at his house. He’s actually in town to kill the judge, who he thinks is a Nazi. But when he finds out what’s going on here he’s pretty open to switching from Nazi hunter to vampire hunter. Before long there is a great sequence where the two of them run around in the daylight, going from house to house to pound stakes into the coffins.

When a drone cop catches them in the act and points a gun at them, Fuller suddenly screams and is pulled into coffin. But then it turns out he’s faking it to set up this trick shot:

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Most action heroes would have too much pride to do a silly fake out trick like that. Not the director of WHITE DOG. I love it.

There is some escalation. There are some good fire stunts. The judge turns into the bat monster and they have to fight it. Jeremy finds a pretty good weapon to use against him:

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The vampire pulls the flag to his face as he shrivels up, catches fire, turns to ash and explodes. (SPOILER.)

In the end, our heroes drive away in a school bus, a swarm of vampires failing to stop them because of the sunrise. It’s one of those nice moments where some characters smile in a way you can only smile if you have bonded by making it through some horrible monster or action related ordeal together. There had been some business I didn’t mention with the son being tempted to become one of the vampires and stay a Don-Johnson-idolizing kid for all eternity. But now that he’s met Samuel Fuller he knows it’s cool to become an old man.

There’s an odd little touch as they drive away – we see the bus pass a field of cows, and it honks. Like, “Hey guys, you don’t have to have your blood sucked anymore.” Or something.

For the most part it’s a fairly standard, unremarkable looking movie, but there are a few really nice shots, like this one:

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and especially this one:

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…that make alot of sense when you see the credit for director of photography Daniel Pearl, famous for the original TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE (and also the remake).

I recommend this goofy, little-known, hard-to-believe-it-happened sequel. Hat tip to the Shock Waves podcast, which convinced me to watch it on the episode where they interview Larry Cohen. He explains how he ended up making the movie and how he got Fuller to be in it, among other great stories. An absolute must listen episode if you enjoy Cohen.

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.
This entry was posted on Thursday, March 30th, 2017 at 10:48 am and is filed under Horror, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

88 Responses to “A Return to Salem’s Lot”

  1. Hot take – this is way better than the original Salem’s Lot TV Miniseries, which was so dull and tedious that a) the only thing I can remember is that Bonnie Bedelia looked superhot in it and b) it further solidifies that Tobe Hooper could not have possibly directed Poltergeist.

    This movie is at least lots of fun, does some cool vampire world-building, and yes, once Fuller shows up the movie goes from entertainingly watchable to legit awesome. The Rob Lowe Salem’s Lot remake is pretty good as well but this is a close second in the franchise.

  2. I don’t know who directed the majority of POLTERGEIST. I’ve heard rumours in Hollywood that Spielberg did, and it certainly looks like a Spielberg film, but I also don’t feel it’s right to discredit Hooper for it entirely when we don’t know what went down. He has made some good movies, and my guess is that Spielberg actually chose him for the film based on THE FUNHOUSE, with which it shares a much closer horror aesthetic than TCSM.

    I haven’t seen A RETURN TO SALEM’S LOT, but you guys wave me wanting to.

  3. wave = have. I’m new at words.

  4. Forget the other details I just want to see it on account of it being directed by Larry Cohen.

  5. There was never the slightest ounce of bullshit in Sam Fuller. I saw an interview where he was asked “What makes a good story?” He replied, cigar in mouth – “A good story.”

  6. Not to nitpick, but doesn’t Salem’s Lot take place originally in Maine, not Massachusetts? Or did the movies change the location? (I read the book a long time ago, but I’ve never seen any of the adaptations). Or maybe all of us New England states are all the same to you folks in the rest of the country.

  7. Is there a scene where a bus of people get pulled over and this old guy’s like “we just need you to step out for a moment and get something sorted out” only for everyone to get ambushed by vampires? Because I saw a movie like that as a kid and it scared me, but I never knew what it was and this sounds like it might be it.

  8. Nah, RBatty, that was just me being stupid. Maybe my brain was thinking of Salem, Massachusetts.

  9. Well, if you go back far enough, Maine and Massachusetts were the same state, so it’s an honest mistake.

  10. Grimgrinningchris

    March 31st, 2017 at 8:32 am

    Was it just the podcast that prompted this or are we leading into another string o’ King (and/or King-related) with all the hype around the new IT teaser?

  11. As a huge King fan it’s really exciting to me that the IT trailer is not only getting so many views but that it looks like it’ll be a good movie.

  12. Hoping for the best with IT but also getting prepared to accept the worse if it ends up that way. King is my favorite novelist outside of James Ellroy but considering how many adaptations of his tale get botchd on the reg I’ll stay as reserved as possible about both IT and THE DARK TOWER.

    Especially considering the denseness and quality of the source literature and how today’s mainstream filmmaking landscape may not allow for adaptations with great fidelity. At least in TDT’s case. Cosmic turtle and macroverse shit aside IT could be a bit more doable when it comes to those 2.

  13. I don’t know if it’s that King adaptations often get botched, meaning “adapted incorrectly.” He’s had some very, very faithful adaptations that weren’t very good either. It’s just that King’s talents lie in description and psychology, the way he puts you right there in the middle of a setting and a mindset with the hypnotic power of his words. It’s usually not WHAT he’s writing about that’s interesting, it’s HOW he writes about it. (In fact, most of his plots are too fuckin’ loopy to even summarize properly, let alone convert to a three-act structure.) You can take the exact same thing that worked like gangbusters on the page and it’ll fall flat on the screen, because you don’t have Uncle Steve giving you the guided tour and letting you see it through his eyes. His best adaptations were made by great filmatists who bring the material to life with their own skill set that is unique to film. So while the SHINING miniseries might be much, much closer to King’s vision than Kubrick’s film, no one will ever confuse Mick Garris for a master filmatist, so it just doesn’t work. The particulars are there but the poetry is missing.

    IT has been one of my favorite books for damn near 30 years now, so I’m a little concerned about the decision to completely separate the timeframes of the story into two movies. Part of what gave the book its power, both in terms of horror and heart, was how the past and the present ran on parallel tracks, each of them informing the other. I think we’ll lose a lot of the connection to the characters by splitting up their child and adult versions like this.

  14. Also, I’m with Broddie: Larry Cohen’s name on this made it a must-see. Larry’s the only guy who would get handed the premise of “Vampires take over a small town in Maine” and say, “I’ll do it, but obviously we’re gonna need to start in the Amazon and then do some location shooting in New York. Oh, and call Sam Fuller, he owes me a favor.”

  15. Grimgrinningchris

    March 31st, 2017 at 6:40 pm

    Honestly I think the Shining miniseries was probably the best thing Garris has done. I know that isn’t saying a lot, but still… If it hadn’t been for that kid being so fucking awful, I think it was otherwise a pretty worthwhile endeavor and that Weber and Demornay both did solid solid work in it.

    As for IT, there’s an uphill battle with the second one… the adult story is just never going to work as well as the kids story. Spider and turtle aside.
    But as far as the first movie- if the kids work, the movie works. Period. It lives or dies on the kids, not the clown. And based on that teaser…these kids might actually really fucking work.

  16. I agree. The kids are what make the story work, so separating the adults from them seems like a great way to distance viewers from their half of the story.

  17. Grimgrinningchris

    March 31st, 2017 at 7:15 pm

    I’m curious exactly what they’re doing. Obviously they’re taking the miniseries route of having one movie focus on the kids and one on the adults…

    But being as they haven’t even announced any of the adult casting, are they TOTALLY separating the two and not jumping around in the timeline at all???

    If that’s the case then I don’t see how the second movie is going to work at ALL without major major changes from the novel.

    Oh yeah… Return To Salems Lot.
    I’ve never seen it. Always assumed it was garbage and didn’t even realize Cohen had made it.
    So yeah, definitely on the list now.

    Think I’ll have to watch and/or rewatch a lot of King (and King related) joints leading up to IT’s release now.
    Including that Lawnmower Man sequel now that I know it’s a bugnuts shit show and not just a boring, even lower budget retread.

  18. Majestyk’s right about his auteur adaptation theory. De Palma’s CARRIE and Kubrick’s THE SHINING are indelibly stamped by their directors. I heard King didn’t much like Kubrick’s version, though…

    But I’m not above enjoying low to mid range directors doing their thing, either. I’ve enjoyed repeat viewings of DREAMCATCHER and THE MIST, and thought Garris’s BAG OF BONES was pretty good too. I think the mid range directors like Kasdan make the craziest versions, because they throw everything they can at it to make sense of Kings ideas. Psychic friends, childhood secrets, ass-busting aliens and military conspiracies are some of my favorite cinematic themes.

  19. Regarding De Palma’s CARRIE, I wonder what Stephen King thought of seeing his name in the opening credits right next to some girl’s 70s bush.

    Mr. Majestyk – You’ve hit the nail on the head to the secret of King’s success and why so many adaptions fail, the guy is simply a damn good writer, he knows how to write a scene that really makes you feel like you are THERE, in a way only the human imagination can that gets lost in translation when it comes to a movie adaption.

    Film is a visual and audio medium, books use the medium of the human mind to paint it’s pictures and King is a master of that.

    So, in other words it takes someone who is a uniquely talented filmmaker to translate King into a movie that works, with Kubrick’s THE SHINING being the best example.

  20. I’d say he’d be grateful it wasn’t next to a cluster of air-borne tampons.

  21. Have any of you cats read Fukanaga’s IT script? If so, verdict?

  22. Grimgrinningchris

    April 1st, 2017 at 4:59 am

    I wouldn’t put a ton of credence into any script uncovered. Even if it’s listed as his- unless it’s labeled as the actual shooting draft. And even then, who knows. I know it’s been rewritten about 20 times- even just over the last two or three years.

  23. Grimgrinningchris

    April 1st, 2017 at 5:06 am

    …and special “appearance” by Morgan Freeman as: The Turtle.

  24. Many thanks, GGChris.

  25. Can we all just agree that the best and most unfiltered King adaptation is MAXIMUM OVERDRIVE?

  26. I don’t know, I think cocaine might have to get a co-director’s credit on that one.

  27. Grimgrinningchris

    April 3rd, 2017 at 5:44 pm

    I watched Maximum Overdrive this morning for the first time in ages.

    Sundance seems to be marathoning most of the lower rent King movies.

    And yeah, I think cocaine should’ve gotten an above the title credit.

  28. “Janus Films and The Criterion Collection is proud to announce our latest Director-Approved Special Edition: MAXIMUM OVERDRIVE (suck it Shout!) which features a transfer and audio commentary by un-credited director Cocain. We here at the Collection couldn’t be more excited to finally reveal how cocain made its movie about the ever growing scary world of technology and how we relate to it. Available by itself or in a boxed set also featuring SLEEPWALKERS and GRAVEYARD SHIFT.”

  29. MAXIMUM OVERDRIVE is good fun, an underrated little movie.

    I love just how “redneck” the movie feels (it was shot in North Carolina) despite being written and directed by the ultimate Maine’ah.

  30. Lovecraft In Brooklyn

    April 4th, 2017 at 2:25 am

    PET CEMETERY is the best non-SHINING King movie. Lots of scares, bit of humor, kickass Ramones theme song. What else do you want in a movie?

  31. The only three King adaptations that in my opinion legitimately work as films, rather than as milquetoast cliff notes versions of the books or trashy cash-ins (trash-ins?) aree CARRIE, THE SHINING, and MISERY – everything else is somewhere on the alright-but-who-gives-a-shit to garbage spectrum. With that in mind, I much prefer the low-rent exploitation stuff – MAXIMUM OVERDRIVE, the first half of SILVER BULLET that’s all about a werewolf doing gory slasher murders, GRAVEYARD SHIFT, SLEEPWALKERS, THE MANGLER, etc, to any of that Mick Garris/Frank Darabont stuff that approximates tone and the cadence of King’s dialogue but doesn’t bother doing anything else of value for people who like movies to be, uh, good or interesting.

    Hot take: CREEPSHOW is a disappointment. Romero less than half a decade off from MARTIN and DAWN and King at the height of his war on nostril cartilage and the best they can come up with is an unscary, mostly unfunny, bloated EC comics “tribute” that indulges all of their worst instincts as artists – damn. The cockroach story is alright and the John Harrison score is a banger but there’s a reason horror nerds were massively let down by this at the time. Easily the least interesting thing either Romero or King had done up to that point and yeah I’m including THERE’S ALWAYS VANILLA.

    New IT looks like James Wan doing STRANGER THINGS nerdstalgia – fuck off.

  32. I’m okay on CREEPSHOW but apparently it is controversial for me to like CREEPSHOW 2 much more.

    I’m glad someone else noticed how “James Wan” that IT trailer was (I mean I really dig James Wan’s filmatism so if whoever it is making can harness that I’ll be good maybe). The trailer didn’t blow me away like it did everyone else. I love how the marketing is playing up the creepy clown aspect even though in the damned book he’s just supposed to look like a regular damned clown.

  33. This review made revisit the flick. Last time I watched it, I saw it back to back with the first one, and was mostly confused by how little the two have in common (love the “Based on characters created by Stehpen King”-credit…which of these characters came from King?). Having now seen the Cohen again, it certainly plays much better without the Hooper fresh in memory. It’s much more fun than I remember. Thanks for the podcast tip, that was a good one!

    Hope you do some more Larry Cohen reviews in the near future, Vern.

  34. Geoffrey – I’ll back you up on that – I like Creepshow 2 way better than Creepshow 1, and I don’t think it’s just an issue of part 1 aging poorly – it’s just kinda dull and boring – there’s too many stories and they all go on several minutes too long, and seem both underwritten (the zombie father one, the Stephen King/space moss one) and overwritten (the Hal Holbrook one). I have no idea why anyone would prefer 1 over the lean and mean 2, other than 1 has some pretty disgusting gore and 2 is relatively PG-13 with the exception of a few shots.

  35. Look out, there is a highpreobabliity for a shitstorm of butthurt fanboys coming a-floodin after the release of THE DARK TOWER trailer. I´ve read and enjoyed the books, and unlike most of the delusionial readers I´ve already accepted that there is no way in hell it is going to be faithful to the story. It´s too big and too weird. But I am always game for a timetraveling gunslinger-movie especially if a bad mo-fo like Idris Elba is in it. I like the trailer a lot.

  36. You mean the story fanboys have already been butthurt about for a decade at least?

    I hope they’re only faithful to the books that the nerds hate and completely change the ones they love. Turn DRAWING OF THE THREE into a wacky comedy of errors where Roland has to go undercover wearing a dress but play King’s cameo as himself and the much-despised coda word for word.

  37. Not crossressing butmaking Roland transgender would probably make people even madder than making him black. I would approve that kind of trolling.

  38. I was not aware that the coda ending was despised. I blame it on my ignorance of Internet Communities. I like to stay the fuck away from stuff like that. I thought the ending was great. And it wasn´t like Stephen King did not warn the reader. You either take the red or the blue pill and that is an active choice. Don´t come crying about it afterwards.

  39. Didn’t like the trailer but I’ll see the shit on cable. I liked the series but objectively speaking those books weren’t really worth a fuck after the 4th one anyway. So it’s not like the book series itself didn’t jump over a few sharks.

  40. Hmmm..”objectively”. Still, I kind of agree that the last three was not that great. There was a tedious amount of spiritual journeys and that kind of nonsense that seem to be a fantasy staple. But they still carried some great horror moments (a newly born baby eats his mom…nomnom) and a nice MAGNIFICENT SEVEN setup in part 5.

  41. Really even King himself will tell you the last few books were unfocused & phoned in compared to the first 4. They did have their moments though and I still do like them but honestly it’s not like they’re a sacred cow or anything. This movie’s source material was already flawed even before it’s end.

    I think the negative reaction to the trailer is more of the I AM LEGEND sort. People had built up an idea of what a DARK TOWER movie would and should look like for so long that when they see a trailer for the “seeking mass appeal/made for your girlfriend” version it could be pretty jarring. But like I AM LEGEND they’ll all forget it anyway after a couple of years.

  42. I think the backlash against the last few books shows that most fans of the series never really understood it. The whole thing was always closer to KILL BILL than LORD OF THE RINGS. It was a post-modern hodgepodge of cultural detritus, some high (epic poetry, Arthurian legend), some low (spaghetti westerns, post-apocalyptic sci-fi), none taken 100% at face value. This was never a “real” world: It’s an epic-length Tale of Tales, a story about stories meant to explore both the form and function of storytelling. That’s the point of the whole affair, not “And then Roland the Gunslinger shot the bad guy and he fell off the Dark Tower like a Disney villain and peace reigned in the land for a thousand years.” I found it exciting and bold that King was willing to come right out with metafictional intentions in the last few books, but fanboys do not like being reminded that the fantasy worlds they like to pretend they live in are really just complex imaginary mechanisms created by mere mortals. King had to let them see the strings behind the puppet show to make the points he wanted to make, but fanboys don’t care about that. They are incurious as to the intentions of the things they love. They just care about continuity and cosplay opportunities. Fuck ’em.

  43. But that’s forgetting the fact that WOLVES OF THE CALLA is really boring and tedious, SONG OF SUSANNAH is simply the bridge between the 5th and 7th books with nothing really standout on it’s own (I barely remember what happens in that one, other than Stephen King himself showing up) and while the final book is decent, there’s no defending the showdown with The Crimson King, that shit was just plain lame, “Meta” or not, I mean The Crimson King is hyped up as being the ultimate big bad of the King multiverse and he turns out to be just an old guy throwing Snitches from Harry Potter and yelling “EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!”? Come one now, he could have come up with something more exciting than that.

    But as to the actual ending, I liked it a lot, no problem there, but while the final 3 novels may not be quite as bad as people say there’s no denying there’s a downturn in quality after the 4th book, which is too bad.

  44. CrustaceanLove

    May 3rd, 2017 at 9:32 pm

    I wish I loved anything half as much as Majestyk loves drinking fanboy tears.

  45. I’ve heard people rave about those books for years and never once caught on that it was one of those stories about a bland kid who befriends a magic dude from fantasyland and they teach each other stuff. Great cast but man does that look like a movie not to watch.

    (I’m sure I will anyway.)

  46. There is an element of that, Vern, but it plays out, um, kind of differently.

  47. zero-mentality

    May 4th, 2017 at 9:00 am

    I’m with Vern on this. The wisdom of making a movie about Idris Elba as the Blondie of a high-fantasy wasteland and then saddling him with a white, movie-autistic bowl cut is, uh, questionable.

  48. Are you suggesting that the writer/producer of LOST IN SPACE, JONAH HEX, and BATMAN & ROBIN might have had his hand in some bad creative choices?

  49. “A MAN , HIS GUN AND A BOY- an intimate story of tender companionship and how they learn from each other through their common interest of firearms and murder in a fictional multiverse inspired by the works of Riichard Bachman”

  50. There’s something distinctly 80s about that Dark Tower movie. Boy goes to magical realm or magical realm comes to Earth were pretty common tropes back then.

    I always meant to read The Dark Tower books, and I was thinking about getting through the first one before the movie comes out. I have a bunch of books on my list before I get to The Gunslinger, but fortunately that trailer looks so bad that I’ll wait until I can rent it, so that buys me some time.

  51. RBatty- the first book I found to be confusing and disjointed as hell. I didn´t know what to make of it. It wasn´t until I read THE DRAWING OF THE THREE that I started to get involved in this crazy shit. But then I was onboard for the whole ride. Quite a reading experience, immensely ambitious, quirky, gory postmodern potpourri mashup of genres and ideas that somehow even to the end actually made sense. I couldn´t believe what I was reading, I never read fantasy stuff and if you would scale off a lot of it, sure, it is a basic LORD OF THE RINGS setup. But as Majestyk already elaborated on, perfectly I might add, it is more than that. Much more.

    Apparently King went back and Geaorge Lucas-ed the first book and made it more coherent, but I can´t be sure of that.

  52. The first book is probably the artsiest thing King ever wrote. It’s got “student writer who just discovered post-modernism” written all over it. The iconography is strong but it feels more like a dreamy prologue. You’re right, Shoot, it doesn’t really feel like an actual quote unquote story and not just a weird, violent tone poem until the second one, which is also probably the best one. Those fuckin’ lobstrosities really kick the whole thing up a notch in my opinion.

  53. Jesus, those lobstrosities. And the name of them is just a beautifully constructed word for what is basically a bunch of asshole crabs

  54. Also, Bachman would never write anything as fancypants as THE DARK TOWER. The man spent ten years in the merchant marines. He ain’t got time for that fantasy crap.

  55. Bachman is a thinner version of King taking a long walk of the literary world trying to be a running man as a regulator paving the roadwork with a lot of rage.

  56. Asshole crabs? Damn, I hope this Roland is also a penicillin slinger!

    On a more serious note: Never read any of the DARK TOWER things, but I will totally check the movie out once it hits Pay TV or streaming. I just started listening to the audiobook version of THE STAND, though, but only because I realized it’s on Spotify. That’s all.

  57. Disregarding my recent desperate string of Bachman hit/miss jokes, I have a confession to make. I just recently (starting last year) discovered King as a writer.

    The funny thing is that people who claim that King can´t write, he uses literary devices that most popular writers would not even touch. King is not afraid to let the proceedings grind to a halt. His plots seem less important and as a result he manages to be more modernist than most modernists but the difference is that he grounds it in actual emotions and story rather than just be stylistically experimental and is letting his audience understand why he uses them to get closer to the characters, rather than take them out of the story.

    King manages to be both experimental and a highly proficient storyteller at the same time. When he do takes the audience out of the story, like THE DARK TOWER, it is for a very specific reason. He has many times brought up how obsessive people get with his stories, painting creepy portraits like Annie Wilkes and Morris Bellamy to emphasize how much storytelling means to people because they serve a purpose to people just like the quest to the Tower fuels motivation for Roland. Therefore THE DARK TOWER is a very Stephen King kind of journey

    I don´t know man, I am drunk. Fuck it.

  58. Why did I use all those words when I could have just called him a post-modernist?

  59. CJ Holden – Thanks for info. Lost my complete edition of THE STAND many moons ago. Been wanting to re-read it and I do have a spotify subscription. Now I know what to during my daily train rides.

  60. People who say King can’t write don’t know what writing is. Any writer alive would kill to have the power at their fingertips that this motherfucker commands. He can take a gibberish plot about killer ass-weasels from outer space and turn it into an obsessive page-turner through the sheer power of his goddamn prose. He has every tool in the writer’s toolkit: great description, immersive scene-setting, distinctive (not the same as good, necessarily) dialogue, fully lived-in characters, an amazing command of setting, a bold and freewheeling use of conceit and motif, humor, tragedy, passion, pathos, and just good ol’ fashioned horror and action. You might not respect a King story when you finish it (he’s a very instinctive writer so he often paints himself into corners he can’t find his way out of without a deus ex machina [sometimes literally]), but you’ll only say that after your eyes have dried out from reading like 200 more pages today than you intended to. It might not be a good book, but it was full of good writing.

    Can’t write. CAN’T WRITE. M-O-O-N spells get the fuck outta here with that shit.

  61. I don’t have a dog in the Stephen King’s THE DARK TOWER fight. I saw that trailer and thought “Idris Elba is a gunslinger and it’s directed by the guy that adapted my favourite dragon-tattooed-girl-related movie. This I want to see.” I’m kind of, wishfully maybe, picking up a LAST ACTION HERO vibe too. Post-modernist you say, Shoot?

    Actually, I really only remembered Nikolaj Arcel wrote the Swedish version of THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO because he did such a good job adapting Jussi Adler-Olsen’s Department Q novels. The books are nasty, but the movies are clever and have heart, much helped by charismatic leads.

    I will live in hope for THE DARK TOWER.

  62. The moment I knew King was the GOAT was when I read THE GIRL WHO LOVED TOM GORDON back in 10th grade and could not believe how much substance he squeezed out of the tired stranded in the woods tropes while avoiding all cliches. The man is a walking national treasure thanks to his prose. Him and Ellroy are the modern day kings of being straight up boss with that shit.

  63. Majesyk-case in point being TOMMYKNOCKERS. That is some 900 pages nonsense that nobody could have cooked up unless they were on coke. King admitted it. But reading that book is just pure fucking fun. The first part with Gardner is the best, you can´t be alive if you do not hear the crumbling blocks around the dude as he devastate his own life fucking it up one piece at the time.

    It is so painful to read through and experience not to mention the whole stupid machinery in this BODY SNATCHERS-faux paux fuck uppery in which you experience even more stupid aliens tring to grasp this earth in which they have inhabted.. The book is a weird read but man what a read.

  64. What I meant was that even as a cokehead ( which King was at the time) he could put together an entertaining a novel as TOMMYKNOCKERS which is a phenomenal piece of nonsense. Now that shows craftmanship if anything.

  65. Broddie, I hope it is on your country’s Spotify. And I hope they won’t randomly remove it, like they do on those streaming services all the time. (One of the reason why I will never pay for any of them, although I admit the commercial breaks, which I usually don’t mind most of the time, kill some of the atmosphere in audio books.)

  66. CJ – American spotify does have it but not in English :(

  67. I’ve made it my mission to give Stephen King another try this year. I read Salem’s Lot in high school, and I thought it was a serviceable page turner but mediocre vampire story, and then over the years I’ve read a handful of short stories by him, but none of them really clicked with me.

    I recently picked up Misery, and it’s absolutely fantastic. It’s really impressive what King can do with just two characters. I’m not surprised that The Dark Tower series gets meta towards the end because there are moments in Misery where King yells in the reader’s face: YOU’RE READING A WORK OF FICTION ABOUT WRITING FICTION! It’s not subtle, but I still like it.

  68. You should read THE SHINING and PET CEMETARY. Make them your next priority. I personally love SALEM´S LOT. It is a good old fashioned gothic horror story in the Bram Stoker mould. It is moody, ominous and forebodingly atmospheric as the town slowly transforms. I find it creepy and enjoyable.

    THE SHINING is however Kings ultimate modern day gothic horror novel. Unlike the Kubrick film which relies more heavily on symbolism and mood than psychology , the book is a tremendous and tragic look on how a man slowly succumbs to his inner demons. In the film we get nothing of that. The film and the book are scary for different reasons. The film is scary as nothing makes sense, it is more dreamy nightmarish. And the book it is scary because of you slowly descends into madness and psychologically makes perfect sense.

    PET CEMETARY might be his scariest book in my opinion. Nuff said.

  69. I’ll put those on the list. I’m waiting to get It from the library, but that might take some time.

  70. IT is an amazing book. Both as a piece of writing and also as a weapon. The hardcover version could kill a person if thrown.

  71. SALEM’S LOT has a pacing problem but is otherwise done good, strong high-test horror. It’s also the prototypical King novel, being the first time he created an entire town of characters to be menaced by supernatural terror. Nobody is better at creating a setting and peopling it with fully believable weirdos than King, and it all started in SALEM’S LOT.

    PET SEMATARY might be his scariest book, but I also recommend CUJO on that front. An absolutely savage, hopeless book that lacks even the most rudimentary sense of a balance between good and evil that King would insert into most of his later work. There is a great conspiracy of existential evil pulling the strings, with no corresponding ka-tet of goodness to fight it. A truly chilling work once you see how all the parts fit together. The banality of it all is devastating and something the more traditionally thrillerized movie doesn’t really approach.

    It’s interesting that King swears he has no memory of writing it, as he was deep into his addictions at the time. It’s as if he let his demons completely take the reins on that one while the better angels of his nature slept off a three-day binge.

  72. The common image of an addict is some layabout who’s too drugged out to go to work, but people forget that drugs can make you incredibly productive, at least for a while. I knew this guy who was a manager at a grocery butcher shop, and he took a ton of uppers. The dude was so productive that no one else could keep up with him. In fact, he was so well regarded as a manager that there was a bidding war among different grocery chains for his employment. Although, I don’t think things worked out for him in the end.

    I read Salem’s lot nearly twenty years ago, so maybe I’d have a different appreciation of it today. I plan to get deeper into King because Misery is much better than I expected. And aside from his fiction, I appreciate that he’s speaking out against the Trump administration.

  73. You guys ever read ON WRITING? I’m turning 34 this summer and my personsl resolution is to stop procrastinating on my creative ambitions that I’ve had since childhood (writing and music production) and actually go all out and try and COMPLETE projects for a change.

    Not start them and abandon them because I’m fearful. Especially now that I have seen too many ideas and stuff I once thought of decades ago become real via other writers or musicians. Like ok maybe I have something in me. Some stuff in the basement like Rocky Balboa.

    I’m wondering if that book could be a great reference guide and motivator that will give me more clarity about tackling the writing craft to help me finally get there.

  74. Yeah, King actually gives more helpful advice than any creative writing classes I have attended. Several of them has really helped me because they involve how to develop craftmanship something the writing class I took never gave two shits about. King is way more pragmatic and less abstract when it comes to talk about the process. I enjoyed the book. I did not quite finsihed it until I had to return it, but it was time well spent.

  75. ON WRITING is great. It’s less about the nuts and bolts and literariness of the writing process (like some stridently discouraging but well regarded works on the subject like John Gardner’s unhelpful scold of a writing guide, FORMS OF FICTION) and more about the writing mindset. I re-read it earlier this year and found it as rewarding and encouraging as I did when it first came out.

    A similarly upbeat and morale-building book on the subject would be Anne Lamott’s BIRD BY BIRD. It’s a great book about shaking off the stultification that can come from the burning need to write THE GREAT AMERICAN NOVEL right now all at once and without revision. Writing is a way of life, and I find that the best writing guides recognize that the end product is less important than making the process a part of who you are.

    King’s writing about writing, such as in the introductions to his short story collections, were my very first insight into the writing mind. I’ve known I was meant to be a writer since I was six, but this was the first time I understood what that meant. The way King described how his brain worked when he was writing and the way he made it work for him in life was the first time I saw an example of how a personality like mine could function in the world. I was a sensitive, small child surrounded by meatheads and tough guys, and I always assumed I was in some way defective because I was not like them and never would be. King showed me a different kind of man, a kind I could see myself coming.

    I’m still working on it. But I will never forget what this man’s words meant to me back then. He opened the door to a secret club and made me feel like I belonged there. In most tangible ways he was more father to me than the real one I never met.

    As for MISERY, that was my first King book and the first grownup book I ever read. I got it for Christmas 1989, which was also one of only three times I’ve ever gotten the flu and had to remain in bed for days. So here I was, 12 years old, already fancying myself a novelist, with the worst fever of his life and hepped up on cold meds, reading this intense-as-fuck book about a bedridden writer hepped up on cold meds. I can say with all honesty that the combination of the fever and King’s hypnotic prose burned off all vestiges of the old me and left the embryo of a different, stronger creature in his place.

  76. *the writer in MISERY was hepped up on pain meds, not cold meds

  77. Nevertheless. Broddie, I´ll think you´ll find it an inspiring read.

  78. Majestyk, I gotta ask about your issues surrounding the pacing with SALEM´S LOT. I thought it was pretty spot on. It moved on ominously slow but never dragged. And it never seemed to skip a beat in which everything moved too fast either.

  79. You know, it’s been a long time since I read that one so I can’t be specific. I just remember it having a lengthy Part Where It Drags In The Middle, but maybe I’d feel differently now. I make it a point to re-read at least one King classic a year so maybe I’ll bump that one to the top of the list.

  80. For those curious on King´s later works, I recently read REVIVAL. And the ending scared the shit out of me. The dude still got it when he puts his mind to it.

  81. REVIVAL is good, I also highly recommend his latest short story collection THE BAZAAR OF BAD DREAMS.

    Now I’m embarrassed that I’ve never read PET CEMETERY, I’ve read most of the really famous ones save for that.

  82. BAZAAR OF BAD DREAMS has a few really good ones. I still think more highly of SKELETON CREW or NIGHT SHIFT. But I can´t say anything really bad about that one. My favourite story in that one is UR. Imagine accessing a library of a dead writers works from different dimensions. Sure, Elmore Leonard is dead. But you´d have access to many, many more different works he´d published in other dimensions. That shit is insane if you think about it. I love it!

  83. The final story in BAZAAR OF BAD DREAMS is also a little on the prescient side in lieu of current events.

  84. Do most people in America want to suicidally drive a motorcycle off the road these days? I guess I wouldn´t blame them.

  85. Let’s be cautious about spoilers, ok?

    And to be exact I was referring to *SPOILERS* the fact that it’s a story about the aftermath of a nuclear war, which considering North Korea, Russia, China and Donald fucking Trump, should be clear what I mean to anyone who’s read the story, said story was originally published in 2013 by the way, so King was a little ahead of the curve.

  86. A a nuclear war ha not happened, King is still ahead of his time. And so is every other writer writing stories of the end of days.

  87. Shoot and Majestyk thanks a lot for the insight. It’s much appreciated. Will definitely look into BIRD BY BIRD in addition to ON WRITING.

  88. I just finished THE WIND THROUGH THE KEYHOLE. The literature equivalent of DLC. It is a very sort of redundant story that you don´t have to read. But it deepens Roland´s story a bit and also the idea of what certain stories appeal to us as individuals. Roland is telling a tale of tales and at the same time acknolwedges parts of his past. I found it deeply moving even as a complete and not-aquiered reading of THE DARK TOWER.

    Like THE WIZARD AND GLASS, it is very Homer-esque like how Odysseus tells his tale through several days (if I remember correctly) or it seems like it so it has that epic poem about it. It is quite beautiful, but it is recommended mostly to people who have read the entire series as it might seem as an unnecessary deviant passage on the way to the Tower. But as a side note it is quite moving and poetic.

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