Directed by Larry Cohen
Expectations: Moderate. I’m interested, but I hear it’s dumb.
On the general scale:
On the B-movie scale:
A Return to Salem’s Lot is like the much trashier stepchild of Salem’s Lot, as the two stories are definitely not of the same lineage. This “sequel” to Salem’s Lot bears no resemblance in any way to the novel or the Tobe Hooper-directed TV adaptation, other than the name of the town and the fact that there are vampires around. No one mentions any of the previous film’s events or characters; even the foreboding representation of evil in the town, the Marsten House, is oddly missing. This would lead a viewer to believe that the companies behind A Return to Salem’s Lot didn’t own the rights to the novel or something, but in the end none of this really matters if you’re a B-Movie fan.
A Return to Salem’s Lot was directed by B-Movie legend Larry Cohen. My knowledge of his films is still rather sparse at best, but I can attest to the fact that what I have seen has been pure gold. His script for William Lustig’s classic Maniac Cop is superb, and his film The Stuff is the best film you’ll ever see about killer yogurt. A Return to Salem’s Lot is definitely not in that upper echelon of B-Movies, but I found more than enough to be intrigued and entertained by.
This is a great classic horror setup, but A Return to Salem’s Lot does not play out in such a manner. In a way, it’s similar to The Wicker Man, where our “normal” characters are thrust into a small town situation and forced into figuring out what’s going on around them. But in A Return to Salem’s Lot we know what’s going on immediately (because we’re an informed public) and the characters know pretty quickly as well. So what’s a mysterious horror film without the mystery? A horror comedy, that’s what! The comedy here isn’t nearly as pronounced as it is in Cohen’s The Stuff, but it’s there and it’s good. It is subtle enough for people to just think the movie is a poor attempt at horror, but it all seemed intentional and purposeful so I’m siding with “subtle horror comedy.”
A Return to Salem’s Lot isn’t that great when taken as a sequel to Salem’s Lot, but on its own it’s a fun vampire B-movie that offers a different take on the genre. But it does feel like a movie that is only going to resonate with a select group of people, so if you’re unsure I’d say you’re probably better off selecting something else. But fans of Larry Cohen, Michael Moriarty, Sam Fuller and B-Movies should find a lot to enjoy.