Vampires on Bluff Street: Salem’s Lot


For me, the fear started with a hissing, grunting, snaggletoothed vampire.

Based on Stephen King’s 1975 horror novel, which he’d written in the laundry room of a rented trailer, the story follows a young writer named Ben Mears who returns to the town of Jerusalem’s Lot in Maine, where he lived in his childhood, only to discover that the citizens are becoming vampires.

Combining the elements of the vampire and haunted-house subgenres of horror, the film takes the dark-gothic plots of the classic 1930s silent films and places them in a quiet New England town in the late seventies. This juxtaposition only adds to the feeling of uncertainty and suspense, recreating the anxiousness that one gets reading King’s novels. Since it’s a Gothic-style horror film, rather than a slasher, it’s more about atmosphere and fear of the unknown instead of jumping out of your seat via scares and gore. Apart from the scenes involving Barlow (a Nosferatu-esque vampire), I didn’t get any serious sense of fear or unsettledness. It’s pretty tame compared to films these days and, as I said, quite campy.

Each and every shot felt like watching a moving Edward Hopper painting. The dramatic angles of tombstones and shingles mixed with the sense of slight imbalance in every scene cause an anxious feeling in one’s stomach. The plot was amazing, and the characters were even better. For every single character, even one that may only be in the film for minutes, there was a back story, explaining exactly how they became who they are now. 

Honestly, the subplots were much more interesting than the vampire-hunt scenes which made up the main plot. One of the subplots was an affair between a secretary and her boss, another one being the experiences of an old gravedigger. Although these scenes did not hold much on their own, viewing the film as a whole really shows how much these scenes helped the smoothness of the movie. The affair was a favorite of mine because of the emphasis on comedy. Even though the secretary’s husband, the police chief, knows what’s going on with the two of them, he leads the boss to believe that he could actually have a secret relationship with his receptionist. Eventually, the chief catches them and tricks the two of them into being afraid of him.

All the locals in the film acted strangely towards Mears, but because of this, we get to see how they usually act with outsiders. I think that the scenes on the main street are cool because you see how the citizens of ‘Salem’s Lot actually live. When the vampire’s familiar, the blood-lustful servant of the vampire, arrives in the quaint town, he opens up an antique store that is immediately popular. The townspeople are fooled into believing that he is a gentleman from London and that all the things he is selling to them are authentic. This is much like how he tries to fool them into giving themselves up for the vampire to feed upon.

I believe that the funniest part of the movie is when a young boy, Danny, is being possessed by the vampire and is scratching at a window. The whole scene has a very cheesy feel to it, with Danny’s high-pitched, breathy voice as the cherry on top. From what I’ve heard, many people have been afraid during this scene, but to me, it is just so hilarious because of the horrendous special effects.

I’d recommend this movie to anyone not just because of the aesthetic appeal or because of the hilarious possessed kids, but because it really shows an authentic, classic horror movie that is achieved without any jump scares or gory visuals. Sure, if you have three hours set aside, you could watch it, but you should watch it because it can hold you in suspense without freaking you out. 

Overall, the film was very entertaining and aesthetically pleasing, while also keeping me on the edge of my seat. Though the vampires weren’t absolutely terrifying, they were still well thought out characters whom I enjoyed watching.