Book Talk: ‘Salem’s Lot

Stats 5413

Author: Stephen King
Original date released: 17 October 1975
Publisher: Doubleday
ISBN: 978-0-385-00751-1
Pages: 595
Ratingskull emojiskull emojiskull emojiskull emojiskull emojiskull emojiskull emojiskull emoji

Synopsis

Thousands of miles away from the small township of ‘Salem’s Lot, two terrified people, a man and a boy, still share the secrets of those clapboard houses and tree-lined streets. They must return to ‘Salem’s Lot for a final confrontation with the unspeakable evil that lives on in the town.

(via Goodreads)

&&&

I’ve had the reissue, illustrated edition of ‘Salem’s Lot sitting on my bookshelf for many years. I originally ordered it from one of those book club memberships where you’d get like three books free for just shipping, and then you’d get the catalog in the mail every season with new additions for a discount. I snatched up this copy, because it has about 100 pages of extra material at the end––a couple short stories based around ‘Salem’s Lot and “deleted scenes” from the main text. Like a lot of readers, I was waiting for “the right time to read it,” which turned out to be probably ten years after purchasing it. Whoops.

‘Salem’s Lot is the perfect summer read, which may sound unbelievable, but stay with me. Lot features certain elements that King does best: it’s a sprawling epic of a novel with a dozen recurring narrative voices in a small town where shit goes down. It’s the sort of novel you want when you’re sitting on your porch, drinking some iced tea, listening to the groan of cicadas. It’s atmospheric and haunting. The characters make stupid decisions, but they make stupid decisions that you’re somehow invested in. And, it’s quite a large book, and the summertime is the perfect time for large, devouring reads. I’d say the same thing about It––a King novel that I read last summer. Perhaps this will be a new tradition of mine: one huge King novel a summer.

Now, this is a horror blog, so you might be wondering if I found the novel scary or not. I do think there are creepy moments, particularly the scene with the school bus. That scene has stuck with me since finishing the novel, and might be that one moment I think back to fondly while discussing the book. It’s terrifying, and I loved it. At first, I was a bit unsure how the novel would juggle the haunted house trope along with the vampire trope, but King handled it well. Quite deliberately, the house felt like something out of a Shirley Jackson novel: it’s a sprawling, decaying spector to the quiet destruction of Jerusalem’s Lot.

And, if you’re a fan of vampires, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed by King’s take on the monster. The vampire, Kurt Barlow, is so sassy and witty; he stole the scenes he was in, and just like I root for Dracula, I wasn’t angry he was killing off a bunch of people in the town. He has a scene with the town pastor that is of particular delight to me, and one of the strongest, most compelling scenes in the novel. It centers around faith and belief and makes you question whether or not the town and its inhabitants want to be saved.

The one critique I have lies with the other characters in the novel. They don’t have a lot of personality (a lot of King’s characters tend to sound and act the same, I’ve found), and they don’t really develop throughout the book––but that sort of works in the novel. The one character I thought was pretty great was Mark Petrie. He’s a geeky twelve-year-old who loves universal monsters, and he’s arguably the smartest character in the novel. I would love a book that’s about him hunting vampires and nerdily talking about monsters as a grown up.

All in all, King’s writing and storytelling shines in ‘Salem’s Lot. It’s accessible and not too long or too weird if you’re new to Stephen King’s writing. I highly recommend!

Until next time, stay scary.

––E.

Advertisements

Book to Movie Comparison: The Ruin

Hey, everyone! I recently read the horror novel The Ruins by Scott Smith, and then watched the movie. I figured it would be fun to do a review/comparison of both. The general synopsis is the same for both the book and the movie:

A group of four friends (Jeff, Amy, Eric, and Stacy), comprised of two couples, go on a trip to Mexico. While enjoying their long days on the beach filled with too much alcohol and just the right amount of fun, they befriend some other tourists–a German named Mathias and a group of Greek men. Mathias tells Jeff that his brother Heinrich has left in search of a woman he met who is apparently helping with an archaeological dig of an old Mayan ruin. Armed with a map, the friends and Mathias head to find the ruins and Heinrich. What they find, however, is far more sinister.

Book 

Stats

Released: 18 July 2006
Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf
Word Count: 319 pages

The Ruins is a solid horror novel. The characters are pretty superficial–there’s not a lot of depth to them. This doesn’t stop the reader from sympathizing with them once the events start to unfold. I don’t want to give anything away, but what happens once the group gets to a hill (assumedly near the ruins) is that a swarm of Mayans force them up the hill and will not let them leave. If they attempt to, they will die. This, obviously, presents a problem to the friends, who only brought a certain amount of snacks/water with them for the trip.

Smith presents some pretty brutal imagery in this novel, from both what the group has to do to survive the elements, as well as their sinister foe. It’s tough to read sometimes; Smith definitely portrays the tension well. As the novel progresses, the characters get increasingly more upset and angry at themselves and their situation, and this tension comes off well on the page.

Overall: solid characters and plot, good horror elements, great tension and environment.

I wrote a couple of more things about the book on my book blog, if you’re interested.

&&&

Movie 

Stats

Released: 4 April 2008
Director: Carter Smith
Screenplay: Scott Smith,
Actors: Shawn Ashmore, Jena Malone, Jonathan Tucker

As I said before, the movie follows the exact same premise of the novel, with a few minor character changes. The main difference in the movie is that there is an actual Mayan ruin that the group of friends get stranded on. Some of the bigger changes are character roles and the way that the characters behave. They’re slightly different or ‘off’ from their novel counterparts, but I think there’s actually a pretty awesome reason for this. There’s a scene in the novel where Eric discusses the role each character would have if their situation was a movie. I think that the movie attempts to portray the characters the way that book Eric envisioned they would be, with some small (though still interesting) changes.

I enjoyed the way that the actors portrayed the characters. There still wasn’t a lot of character depth, but this is the type of horror movie where you don’t really expect super complex characters. I did really enjoy the way that they set up the ruin and portrayed what happened there. It felt a lot faster paced than the book did, but that’s just because of the form. I’m not sure if the pacing would have felt quick without having first read the book, but i do think they could have stretched the events over the course of a couple of days, rather than fitting everything into one day. It would have allowed for more of the tension that’s present in the book to come into the film. The tension felt a lot more palatable in novel form.

I do think that the ‘sinister element’ to the ruins comes across a bit more cheesy on film rather than in the book. I would argue it’s kind of hard to portray it in a super serious, actually terrifying way; it just reads scarier when you have to read it. I will say, this movie is pretty gory at times. There’s definitely some blood and some amputation. If you’re queasy or don’t like gore, it’s not the worst thing you’ll ever see, but it does have its moments. I gave The Ruins six out of ten skulls. It’s not the best ‘nature’ horror movie I’ve seen, but it’s good.

skull emojiskull emojiskull emojiskull emojiskull emojiskull emoji

So, I know this isn’t typically how I review my horror movies, but I hope you liked it. I ended up enjoying the movie and felt it was a faithful adaptation–which is helpful when you have the author working on the screenplay. I’d like to do more book to movie comparisons, especially with the ‘classic’ horror movies and books (Rosemary’s Baby, The Exorcist, etc).

If you haven’t checked out either the book or the movie, I’d check them out! It’s a decent horror read/watch. If you’ve seen it or read it, what did you think? Let me know!

Until next time, stay scary.

–E.