Salem's Lot (2004 miniseries)

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Salem's Lot
Based on 'Salem's Lot 
by Stephen King
Screenplay by Peter Filardi
Directed by Mikael Salomon
Starring Rob Lowe
Andre Braugher
Donald Sutherland
Samantha Mathis
Rutger Hauer
James Cromwell
Robert Mammone
Dan Byrd
Theme music composer Christopher Gordon
Lisa Gerrard
Original language(s) English
No. of episodes 2
Producer(s) Jeffrey M. Hayes
Brett Popplewell
Marc van Buuren
Mark Wolper
Running time 181 minutes
Original channel TNT
Original release
  • June 20, 2004 (2004-06-20)

Salem's Lot is a 2004 American 2 part tv mini-series which first aired on TNT from June 20–21, 2004. It is the second television adaptation of Stephen King's 1975 vampire novel of the same name (the first version was made in 1979).

Although the novel and original miniseries were both set in the 1970s, this version updates the story to take place in the 2000s. Though the story is still set in a small Maine town, the mini-series was actually shot on location at Creswick and Woodend, in Central Victoria, Australia.

Plot summary[edit]

The story opens with Ben Mears attacking the priest Donald Callahan in a homeless shelter in a big city. They fall together from a high window into the street. In the hospital, Ben Mears tells his story and the reasons behind his fight with the priest to an orderly.

Ben, a successful writer, returns to his hometown, Jerusalem's Lot (also known as 'Salem's Lot), intending to write a novel while he deals with the demons of his past. He tells Susan Norton (a waitress and former art student whom he has befriended), that as a child he accepted a dare to enter the house of Hubie Marsten. Local legend said that there was something wrong with the house and/or its owner, suggesting that he tortured and murdered children. The night he went into the house, Ben overheard something horrible — including Hubie begging for his life before committing suicide. Ben believes that he also heard Hubie Marsten's last victim crying for help, but Ben was too afraid to find or help him. Ben plans to rent the house to bring catharsis to himself and to gather material for his novel, but he discovers that it has recently been sold by Larry Crockett to a pair of antique dealers, Richard Straker and Kurt Barlow.

Shortly thereafter, the dark secrets of the town's residents begin to emerge. Crockett is sexually abusing his teenage daughter Ruth. When she spends time with a cripple named Dud Rodgers whom Crockett employs, Crockett fires him. Eva Prunier, who runs the boarding house where Ben stays, played evil games with Hubie Marsten when they were teenagers. Charlie Rhodes, the school bus driver, is a bully who loves to torment the children he transports, forcing those he doesn't like to walk home. Soon after newcomers Richard Straker and his little-seen partner Kurt Barlow arrive, a local child named Ralphie Glick vanishes. His brother Danny then sickens and dies after being visited by Ralphie, who has now been turned into a vampire. Barlow meets Dud Rodgers one night and offers him a chance to be free of his physical disability, which he accepts. Barlow then vampirizes him. Laborer Mike Ryerson buries Danny, then also gets sick and dies. He returns from the grave (complete with autopsy scars) to tempt high school teacher Matt Burke, who repels him but suffers a heart attack. Ben's blossoming relationship with Susan causes jealousy with her old boyfriend Floyd Tibbits. However, Floyd is bitten by Dud Rodgers and slowly becomes a vampire himself. After starting a fight with Ben, Floyd and Ben spend the night in jail for causing an affray, and Floyd uses his new supernatural abilities to crawl through the ventilation shaft to Ben's cell to taunt him. Ben is persuaded by the mounting evidence that the town is plagued by vampirism. He and his allies, Dr. Jimmy Cody, Father Donald Callahan, and schoolboy Mark Petrie begin acting as vampire hunters, although they are horrified to discover that Susan Norton has now become a victim. Ben insists upon targeting Barlow in the hopes that Barlow's victims might be restored upon his destruction.

The characters face their own psychological demons as the physical demons surround them. After Barlow kills Mark's mother, Father Callahan tries to save Mark by confronting Barlow by himself, but finds his faith is not strong enough. Callahan is forced to drink Barlow's blood, turning Callahan into Barlow's servant. Larry Crockett, who invited the vampire to the town in the first place, sees his daughter willingly join the vampiric Dud Rodgers in the night. Most of all, Ben still wrestles with his own guilt and personal failures.

In the course of the hunt, Cody and Burke are killed. Crockett, who abandons Ben and Mark to find his daughter, is killed and devoured by Dud and the other vampires instead of being turned into one of them. Ben and Mark finally manage to destroy Barlow, but not before he taunts Ben, likening Ben to himself as another parasite who preys on the tragedies of others. To Ben's dismay, destroying Barlow has not saved Susan who is still a vampire. She tells him that the boy he failed to rescue all those years ago was already dead when Marsten died, and Ben was never to blame. But when Susan turns to attack Mark, Ben is forced to destroy her. In the end, Ben and Mark set the Marsten House alight, and during a chase with the school bus driver, who was turned into a vampire by the children in the town, a gas station is damaged and goes up in flames. As the fires begin to spread throughout the town, Callahan vows revenge against Ben as the town's now vampirized population flocks to him.

As Ben concludes his story, the orderly is deeply moved and frightened by the story, then realizes that Ben wasn't acting alone. The orderly looks in on Father Callahan, but finds him dead, suffocated with a pillow. While he is absent, Mark slips into Ben's room and tells him that the vampire hunt is now over. Ben suffers a cardiac arrest. The orderly finds Mark at a locked exit to the hospital but decides to let him go. Ben passes away, finally at peace.




King casting connections[edit]

Samantha Mathis, Christopher Morris and Martin Vaughan also appeared in Nightmares and Dreamscapes: From the Stories of Stephen King, written by Peter Filardi.

Rob Lowe played Nick Andros in the TV adaptation of Stephen King's The Stand.

Andre Braugher appeared as Brent Norton in the film adaptation of Stephen King's The Mist.

James Cromwell played Warden Hal Moores in The Green Mile.

Dan Byrd played Paul in the Stephen King sequel Firestarter 2: Rekindled.

Differences from the book[edit]

  • In the novel, Ben Mears is a writer of fiction who tells the story of Jerusalem's Lot to a priest in Mexico. Mears does not die in the novel. In this adaptation, he is a war correspondent/journalist who writes non-fiction, tells his story to a doctor in a hospital and dies at the end.
  • In the novel, Hubie Marsten was a Satan-worshipping gangster from Boston who committed unnamed atrocities in his house in the 1930s. Ben Mears saw a vision of the undead Marsten when he went inside the Marsten house as a boy. In this adaptation, Marsden is alive when Mears is a youth, and Mears overhears Marsden committing a murder and then committing suicide.
  • In the novel, Susan Norton is a college graduate with an art degree and a budding artist living at home, and is not employed. In this adaptation, she only alludes to an interest in art, and is working as a waitress in her mother's cafe.
  • In the novel, Mark Petrie is 12 years old and still in the sixth grade. He is a nice, studious boy who just moved to 'Salem's Lot. In this adaptation, he is in his mid-teens and is a troubled delinquent.
  • In the novel, Straker is bald, physically slight but immensely powerful, and courtly. In this adaptation, he is white-haired, heavily bearded and stockily built.
  • In the novel, Eva Miller is a widow who has no relationship to Hubie Marsten. In this adaptation, she is called Eva Prunier who inadvertently assisted Marsten when she was younger.
  • In the novel, Larry Crockett is a loving father to Ruthie, and the hunchbacked Dud Rogers secretly lusts for her. In this adaptation, it is implied that Crockett commits incest with his daughter and Dud Rogers is Ruthie's gentle-souled friend.
  • In the novel, Father Callahan is a kind-hearted, alcoholic priest struggling with his faith. When Mark Petrie is captured by Barlow, Father Callahan challenges the vampire to a test of faith. Barlow lets Mark go, Callahan loses the battle of wills, and Callahan is forced to drink Barlow's blood. His faith broken and his body now "unclean" so that he cannot enter a church, he then just leaves town a broken man (knowing that everyone else is likely to die). In this adaptation, Callahan becomes Barlow's living servant and stays in 'Salem's Lot to rally the vampires after Ben and Mark flee the town. Ben hunts him down and the story opens with their final struggle.
  • In the novel, Matt Burke is a white male who dies in the hospital of a heart attack and never joins the vampire hunt. In this adaptation, he is an African American (and implied that he is gay) who joins the hunt in the town, suffers a heart attack but is killed by Father Callahan in his hospital bed.
  • In the novel, Susan Norton dies late in the story, and only Mark encounters her (she appears at his window one night). Ben Mears kills her while she sleeps during the day in the basement of the Marsten House. In this adaptation, Susan becomes a vampire slightly earlier, and Ben kills her outside Eva's boarding house as she is about to attack Mark.
  • In the novel, Larry Crockett never realizes there are vampires in 'Salem's Lot. He dies near the end of the story in his office, apparently having been repeatedly bitten by his vampiric daughter, Ruthie. In this adaptation, Crockett tries to commit suicide but is saved by Ben and Dr Cody, but is killed at the end by the whole town of vampires when they consume his flesh.
  • In the novel, Ben's vision of Hubie Marsten is never explained (it is explained in a later Stephen King short story titled "Jerusalem's Lot", in which the reader learns of the extensive Satanic rites conducted in Salem's Lot in the 1800s and other people's experiences with similar ghouls). In this adaptation, a vampiric Susan explains the truth about the incident to Ben and oddly absolves him of guilt over the death of one of Marsten's child victims.
  • In the novel, Ben and Mark drive away after killing Barlow, and go to live in Mexico. It is a year before they go back to the town, after reading in a Maine newspaper about strange disappearances in the 'Salem's Lot area. Ben and Mark then set fire to the woods, knowing the fire will spread and destroy the town. Knowing that, without their leader Barlow, the remaining vampires will be more vulnerable and Ben and Mark intend to hunt the rest of the vampires over the coming months and years. In this adaptation, Ben sets fire to the Marsten house (with the wind blowing the fire towards town) before he and Mark depart, ensuring that the vampires will have no place to hide when the sun comes up. They never return to the town.
  • In the novel, Dr. James Cody is a likeable doctor with no backstory. In this adaptation, he is being blackmailed because he is sleeping with another man's wife.
  • In the novel, Parkins Gillespie is the town constable, and Homer McCaslin is the county sheriff. In this adaptation, Parkins is the county sheriff and there is no constable.

See also[edit]

External links[edit]