Sunday, November 27, 2016

Night Bleeds October Continued

Okay, so this is the very overly long awaited second part of last month's book/movie club. Sorry guys, I really had no idea how long the book was when I added it.

Salem's Lot  by Stephen King:  plot - Ben returns to his childhood hometown in order to write a book based on some tragic events that happened when he was younger. That, and to get over some long held fears about the place. His arrival is tainted by the deaths of a few local kids, as well as the untimely arrival of a pair of strange business men. The town soon begins to express their fear and distrust with good reason. One of the high school teachers, Matt; befriends Ben, as does the young local doctor, Jimmy. The three find themselves in the middle of a murder mystery, which quickly elevates, when they realize they are in fact dealing with a group of vampires. Ben's new girlfriend Susan, and one of the children in town Mark, have witnessed the horrors newly plaguing the town, and agree to help the others fight off the vampires before the whole town becomes infected. Armed with only their fear and some folklore, they turn to the only priest who still believes in the supernatural, Father Callahan; to help them defeat the vampires.

I have to say, for me this book didn't even get interesting until around page 550. You're more than half way into the book before there are any vampires. The first half is literally just setting up the cannon fodder. Normally, I can get lost in a King book with ease, hanging off of every word, but this book was like trying to walk through mud for the first half. After reading the details of how the young teenaged mother beats her newborn, you're routing for the vampires to kill her brutally and slow.

I did, however love the fact the house is as much a vampire as the vampires are. The house itself weighs down on the town, it's every shadowy presence stretching over the town for decades causing hearts to skip a beat and grown men to sweat buckets at the mention of it. The fact that as each character finds themselves on the doorstep of the place, they feel the literal weight of the building baring down on their chests. And I did like the metaphor of towns that no longer thrive as undead pockets filled with revenants, unnoticed by "the actual living" as they drive through. The metaphor of ghost towns plays a prominent role in the story.

Dracula is referenced a lot as well, comparing the group -Ben, Matt, Jimmy, Callahan, Susan and Mark to Harker, Van Helsing, Seward, Holmwood, Mina/Lucy, - as well as Barlow and Straker to Dracula and Renfield.   The depiction of Barlow is also extremely like Vlad Tepes, which is contrary to the movie version I remember seeing as a kid (in which he looks more like Count Orlock from Nosferatu)

So for me, the first half of the book which picks apart the sleepy town and plays with the fears of a satanic cult, was not interesting. But I understand why it's used. This story was originally written when the whole cult paranoia was spreading rapidly through the news.

As you might remember the other half of the combo was the 1985 movie Fright Night.  The reason I picked this as a combo and not going for the obvious of the book and one of the tv movie adaptions was simply because I had a difficult time locating a dvd copy of it.  But, if you got around to watching the movie Fright Night, and reading Salem's Lot, then you will see the similarities.
You've got a guy who obsessed by terror stories, becomes fixated on the neighbour's house believing there is a vampire living there. His girlfriend becomes a victim being turned. you've got the young sidekick (Evil Ed in the movie; Mark in the book) who is the horror genre expert. You've got the older father figure type (Peter Vincent in the movie, Matt the school teacher in the book) who is acting as the Van Helsing character and therefore the backbone of the team (this in the book is actually split between first Matt then later Callahan) and of course the house. Both the movie Fright Night and the book Salem's Lot, center around the neighbour's house as much as it does the vampires.   Given the fact the book came out a decade before the movie, you can't help but suspect the film was influenced as much by it as it was the old Hammer films of the 60's.

Okay, this is where I am ending the chat on this for now.  I will be back later in the day with the November Night Bleeds combo which is Frankenstein and the 1994 movie version Mary Shelley's Frankenstein.

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