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  Return to Salem's Lot, A The Bloodline EliteBuy this film here.
Year: 1987
Director: Larry Cohen
Stars: Michael Moriarty, Ricky Addison Reed, Samuel Fuller, Andrew Duggan, Evelyn Keyes, Jill Gatsby, June Havoc, Ronee Blakley, James Dixon, David Holbrook, Katja Crosby, Tara Reid, Brad Rijn, Janelle Webb, Robert Burr, Jaqueline Britton, Gordon Ramsey
Genre: Horror
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: Joe Weber (Michael Moriarty) is an anthropologist with an interest in recording his work through documentary film, which he was doing in South America, witnessing a tribal human sacrifice though his cameraman was horrified at what he was being asked to capture. Just as the ceremony was reaching its height, gunshots rang out and the natives scattered in terror, infuriating Joe, especially when the culprits, officials from the nearest city, informed him he had to return home to the United States to see about his son, some kind of family crisis apparently. The boy, Jeremy (Ricky Addison Reed), turns out to be more of a delinquent than an emergency, but his father knows exactly how to deal with him...

Stephen King's novel Salen's Lot consolidated his place at the forefront of the horror fiction boom of the nineteen-seventies, not that the genre ever became respectable but sure did become popular, and was originally supposed to be made into a big screen production. That didn't work out, and a television miniseries was the result with many a small child having difficulty sleeping when they saw the vampire boy knocking on the window asking to be let in. Doesn't sound much today, but it terrified a generation, as did the sight of a heavily made-up Reggie Nalder as Barlow, the lead vampire. You might expect variations on those elements to feature heavily in the sequel, but it didn't pan out that way.

That was down to the presence behind the camera, Larry Cohen whose cheap and cheerful, not to mention subversive, horrors had earned him a cult following down the years. King penned a sort of follow on himself some years later as part of his Dark Tower series, but here was no way Cohen was going to deliver a conventional sequel when he could use the King premise of a smalltown overrun by vampires to his own ends, those being a commentary on how smalltown life in the eighties was not only the embodiment of President Ronald Reagan's values, but also a twisted take on conservatism that hid its own perversity and damage to a nation that really should have been moving forward rather than heading back to a puritanism doing those who were not benefiting so well out of the Reagan administration no favours whatsoever.

Quite a lot on his plate, then, and the overall impression was Cohen developed this world with more enthusiasm than he was displaying when it came to telling a story, that plot being your basic rout the bloodsuckers (cows' blood in this case) yarn when you got down to it, and less interesting than simply watching newcomers Joe and Jeremy explore the town of Jerusalem's Lot at their (and our) leisure. Once they've shown up, Joe planning to ground his son in the sort of homespun advice tellingly he doesn't appear to have taken any heed of himself, when night falls a terrified teenage girl barges into their half-finished house on the outskirts (left to them by a recently deceased aunt) and they both find themsleves drawn inexorably into the social life of the region.

All very well if they were just attending church coffee mornings or joining a book club, but the town leader Judge Axel (Andrew Duggan in his final Cohen movie, and indeed his final movie full stop) tells them he wants Joe to pen a history, a Bible if you like, of the vampire's culture and invites Jeremy to join the ranks of the creepy children who roam the place at night, chief among them a young Tara Reid making her film debut. At first the kid likes the idea better than returning to his tedious old life, but as the bloodsuckers get their claws in he suffers with his father endeavouring to win him back, well aware his sensible advice doesn't sound anywhere near as exciting to his boy as the temptation offered by the locals. There was a "lot" going on here, and when cult director in his own right Samuel Fuller shows up as a vampire hunter you think, hell, why not? If, however, you wanted a conventional horror yarn with strong links to King outside of the setting, you would be let down by what could appear a cheap cash-in, but isn't (OK, granted it was cheap). Music by Michael Minard.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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Larry Cohen  (1938 - )

Talented American writer/director who often combines exploitation subject matter with philosophical/social concepts. Began working in TV in the 1960s, where he created popular sci-fi series The Invaders, before directing his first film, Bone (aka Dial Rat), in 1972. A pair of blaxploitation thrillers - Black Caesar and Hell Up In Harlem - followed, while 1974's horror favourite It's Alive! was a commercial hit that led to two sequels.

God Told Me To and Special Effects were dark, satirical thrillers, while Q: The Winged Serpent and The Stuff were witty modern monster movies. Cohen directed Bette Davis in her last film, Wicked Stepmother, and reunited Blaxploitation stars Pam Grier, Fred Williamson and Richard Roundtree for Original Gangstas in 1996. Cohen has also had considerable success as a scriptwriter, turning in deft screenplays for the Maniac Cop films and mainstream pictures like Best Seller, Sidney Lumet's Guilty As Sin and most recently Joel Schumacher's Phone Booth.

 
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