Salem's Lot (1979) - Rotten Tomatoes

Salem's Lot (1979)




Critic Consensus: Director Tobe Hooper and a devilishly charismatic James Mason elevate this television adaptation of the Stephen King novel, injecting the vampiric tradition with fresh blood and lingering scares.

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Movie Info

When Ben (David Soul) returns to his hometown to work on his novel, he discovers a series of strange events that lead him to suspect that a vampire is stalking the community. It's something to do with the mysterious antique dealer, Mr. Straker (James Mason). This two-part, TV movie is one of the better adaptations of a Steven King story, and Marie Windsor admirers will like seeing her again in a good role. But King or Windsor fans should be sure to rent the three-hour, 2-tape version, rather than the butchered 112-minute digest.

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David Soul
as Ben Mears
James Mason
as Richard Straker
Lance Kerwin
as Mark Petrie
Lew Ayres
as Jason Burke
Reggie Nalder
as Kurt Barlow
Barbara Babcock
as June Petrie
Joshua Bryant
as Ted Petrie
James Gallery
as Father Donald Callahan
Robert Lussier
as Nolly Gardner
Brad Savage
as Danny Glick
Ronnie Scribner
as Ralphie Glick
Ned Wilson
as Henry Glick
Bonnie Bartlett
as Ann Norton
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Critic Reviews for Salem's Lot

All Critics (17) | Top Critics (1)

It places the emphasis on Hooper's fluid camerawork, creepy atmospherics, and skilful handling of the gripping climax.

June 24, 2006 | Full Review…
Top Critic

Hooper comes close to creating a modern-day Hammer horror film, punctuating a steady, stately dread with moments of shocking power.

February 7, 2019 | Full Review…

Undoubtedly one of the best Stephen King adaptations, and still manages to be scary years after it premiered in homes across the nation.

February 7, 2019 | Full Review…

Hooper's low key approach suits the material and he's aided at all times by some terrific production design work.

February 7, 2019 | Full Review…

Small-screen restrictions require the bloodletting be kept to a minimum, but director Tobe Hooper and scripter Paul Monash nevertheless manage to construct a first-rate chiller out of King's fertile source material.

October 2, 2016 | Rating: 3.5/4 | Full Review…

A masterful vampire film barely aged that will keep you up nights, and away from your window during the midnight hours.

October 1, 2013 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for Salem's Lot


I wish Mr. Barlow weren't such a one-dimensional character, but although its three hours may feel a bit too long for the kind of story it wants to tell, this is a decent TV movie that relies on an engaging mystery and takes a careful time to develop it in a satisfying way.

Carlos Magalhães
Carlos Magalhães

Super Reviewer

Now a pretty ancient vampire film and it certainly looks its age these days, made one year after I was born and I've only just got round to seeing it. Adaptation of a well known King novel of which I saw the film version which is simply all the episodes of the mini TV series stuck together into one movie. As said this was originally a TV series and you can see how it has been put together for this film version but that doesn't detract really, it kinda adds a little charm to the proceedings. Its not terribly scary by today's standards but there is a nice spooky atmosphere throughout which feels good on a cold dark rainy night. Its a slow slow burner that's for sure, I must admit I was getting really quite bored in places as the film is three hours long and there's a lot of dialog all the way through, not much vampire action to be honest. What action there is is now quite quaint and harmless really, not much blood on show and some pretty amusing melodramatic acting as people fall foul of 'Kurt Barlow', but the makeup is still very good, especially the eyes of the vampires. The film is well made and a good adaptation I think as it does seem encompass a lot from the original source, I haven't read the novel but there is a heck of a lot of info packed into the plot with good back stories and character development. Must mention the legend James Mason here as his calm gentlemanly demeanor accompanied by his smooth, eloquent, perfectly pronounced voice works wonders for the evil vampires right hand man, Hopkins and Price eat your heart out hehe. A curious addition to vampire lore which is slightly dull but altogether well crafted, the look of the main vampire obviously has been designed after the classic 'Nosferatu' look but in turn you can see how many future vampire films have also used this style and look.

Phil Hubbs
Phil Hubbs

Super Reviewer

As a TV movie, Salem's Lot is a stunning film that generates effective chills. Directed by horror master Tobe Hooper, Salem's Lot adapted from Stephen King's novel of the same name is a terrific tale of vampires. This is among the classic vampire films and is a must see for fans of the genre. Well acted and directed, this is a powerful and terrifying horror film that is quite impressive because it was made for TV and it has the chilling, eerie tone of a big budget theatrical release. This was Tobe Hooper at his peak. It among one of his strongest films and it remains an essential film for vampire lovers everywhere. This is a stunning film that relies on old school horror trick to create its tension. The result is an effective, creepy film that generates genuine terror for the viewer. Salem's Lot remains one of the best vampire films ever made and some scenes in the film are truly terrifying and one of a kind. A brilliant, well acted film, this is a must see for horror fans and is sure to appeal to Stephen King fans and Hooper fans alike. This is an atmospheric film that will certainly terrify you. As far as the vampire genre is concerned, this is among the best the genre has seen. Not only that, but as Stephen King adaptation, it ranks among the best. Salem's Lot is a standout horror film, and is a classic of horror. The story is engaging and creepy and the directing is effective and the cast are terrific as well. A must see for genre fans. .

Alex roy
Alex roy

Super Reviewer

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