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Wednesday 27 February 2013

Burl reviews A Return to 'Salem's Lot! (1987)

Ha ha, bluh bluh! It’s Burl here with a review of a vampire picture! This one is A Return to ‘Salem’s Lot, Larry Cohen’s name-only sequel to the Tobe Hooper adaptation of the Stephen King book! You probably recall that TV movie – it was spooky, especially when the kid shows up at the window! So it’s pretty strange that Larry Cohen got the job of making the sequel, because his movies are a lot of things, but they’re not spooky!

He makes idea movies, I guess you might say! There’s always one or two ideas in there that make you go “Ha ha, that’s pretty cool!” But then he usually forgets about the meat and potatoes of making a genre movie, which is to say the actual writing and directing parts! He does those things, technically speaking, but he just doesn’t do them very well!

But perhaps I’m being unfair! A better way to say it is that he doesn’t make movies the way we’re all used to movies being made! That’s just his way, and it’s not intrinsically bad – it’s just that the decisions he makes usually don’t work as well as if he’d gone a more conventional route, or if, better yet, he’d chosen another, better iconoclastic direction!

All this is by way of saying that I’m a Larry Cohen fan, but am heavily prejudiced against his movies! I guess that’s why I never bothered seeing this particular movie until the other day! It’s strange – I’ve seen most of his pictures, and have even seen It’s Alive III: Island of the Alive more than once, but I always steered clear of this one! Turns out it’s a pretty enjoyable little snapparoo!

Michael Moriarty (of course!) plays some kind of anthropologist, or what Larry Cohen imagines an anthropologist to be, and through subterfuge he is lured to the vampire-ridden down of ‘Salem’s Lot and enlisted by the local hemogobblers to write the history of their race! Therein lies the notion that is the true heart of the picture: the idea that the vampires have their own history in parallel to that of humans, and that they see themselves as essentially harmless (they feed off cows, ha ha!) and unfairly maligned!

But Moriarty’s incredibly foul-mouthed son, who’s along for the ride, becomes enamored of bloodsucking ways, and he starts looking a little pale and swearing more than usual when the sun hits his eyes! Ha ha, he truly lays a salty tongue on everyone! In the meantime a gobblety-faced creature is lurking in the woods and munching on stray teenagers! Pretty soon none other than Sam Fuller shows up to help battle the fiends!

Sam Fuller turns out to be exactly what the picture needs, and he helps shore up Michael Moriarty’s typically fine performance! Andrew Duggan is really good as the lead vampire, Judge Axel, who is also, I believe, meant to be the gobblety-faced vampire who lurks in the woods; and there are a number of other veterans performers who do a fine job! But all the under-thirty thespians are just wretched, ha ha, and it really hurts the picture!

This is the sort of thing that gives Larry Cohen movies their amateurish, community-theater reputation! It’s too bad! I sure wish old Lar would take a little extra time casting his pictures and working with the actors! It’s like he said, okay, I’ve got Moriarty, no need to bother with actors any more! Well, I could go on, but there comes a point when, as a Larry Cohen fan, you just go okay, God Told Me To, okay, The Stuff, okay, It Lives Again, okay Q, okay fine! And you leave it at that! In the meantime, I give A Return to ‘Salem’s Lot two and a half vanloads of punk rock victims!

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