Day 23 - Your favorite made for TV horror film –
“Open the window. Open the window, Mark. Open the window, Mark. Please! Let me in! It's OK, Mark, I'm your friend. *He* commands it!”
The first time I watched Tobe Hooper’s Salem’s Lot I fell in love. It was shown as a two part miniseries. This was not the original air date in the late 70’s, but sometime in the mid 80’s. I was less than ten years old, a horror fanatic and somewhat well versed in popular horror. I didn’t know what Nosferatu was or that Mr. Barlow bared a close resemblance to this horror icon. I knew the masks and models and magic in Mark Petrie’s room. They didn’t scare me nor did the model cemetery that ends up saving him from his first vamp encounter.
Hell, I’d dare say my life is at least in part modeled after Mark Petrie. I loved collecting creepy toys, comics… you name it, I had it when I was little and boy would I love to get that all back. He was born (fictionally) in a great time in the spooky world where Famous Monsters still had something to say (and I’m sure it still does) and where modeling was an art. Boy was he good. I still think he’s a real guy sometimes, ya know? That’s why I love this picture. No one’s going to tell you that David Soul doesn’t melodramatically wander through this picture aimlessly. He’s not that best actor for most basic dialogue based scenes, but he comes to life when it counts. I had (have?) a crush on Bonnie Bedelia. Let us not forget an early performance by none other than Fred Willard. Those red silky boxers really tie the room together don’t they?
This puppy scared the shit out of me the first couple of times. Then I got used to it. Most of it. There were always a few scenes that would always get me. The scene where Mr. Barlow appears alongside James Mason in the Petrie’s kitchen… I still tinkle in my pantalones. The scene in the back of the moving truck where the crate keeps getting closer and closer and closer… as if it’s moving. The fact that it gets sooo cold. The house itself staring down at the town of Salem’s Lot baring strong resemblance to the house that Bates built. Very close. A purely manufactured house you come to find out via some old literature, but it looks like the terror of ages.
Two scenes really rocked my little world when I was a youngen.The first scene was where Mike Ryerson first gets bit digging the Glick boy’s grave. That’s where the first half of the miniseries ended for the night. Guess who didn’t sleep well. I’m surprised I can sleep at all with those damn reflective contact lenses being so fucking effective. By the time Ryerson knew he was getting attacked my head was under the covers. The Second was Ben Miers vs. Mr.Vamp till you Drop Barlow in a battle it out coffin match. Ben stakes ‘em and then the fun begins. The seething and writing and hissing and grasping. I kept waiting for Barlow to open that mouth and bite and bite and bite. It’s the makeup job of my nightmares. The jaw drop on the skull post-Barlow death is not comical. We’re not talking Young Frankenstein with Baron Von Frankenstein’s dead corpses holding onto his last will and testament even in death. We’re talking about actual vampire death.
So we taped it off television (same silver VCR as before, same brown set with the pull out knob). One summer my buddies and I were playing hide and seek. A couple of us managed to find the perfect spot to hide. No one found us. We were untouchable all night. It almost felt as though the game was truly becoming a bore, but hey, we were winning right? No sir. All of us got the worst case of poison ivy in our collective memory. All of our mother’s tried to save us from its deadly wrath. Using bleach, Benadryl, oatmeal baths, fucking cortisone shots… I stayed awake for three days straight, lying on the couch delirious. My head full of Benadryl. The heat of the summer pressing me into the hot wool couch. Oozing. Ooze crystallization. Truly horrifying. I watched Salem’s Lot for three days straight and it helped me get through one of the painful memories a kid can have. Finding poison ivy on your Johnson is… well… when they tell you not to itch and you see “the boy”s in pain (you know the boys right?) it’s something wholly other. Something indescribable. Something only Mr. Barlow can cure for three days straight.
This movie was Chicken Soup for the Wounded Horror Fan’s Soul. There’s truth in that. Hooper’s Penicillin as they call it. If you think I’m fibbing ask my mother. She’ll tell you how I couldn’t bend my neck because of the hardened ooze. When the music starts and the blairing orchestra hits over and over again followed by Iron Maiden-ish syncopated beats as the man on the moon shows its eerie side and the daylight peaks out from behind the Marsten house… One can really take comfort in that. Barlow abides.
Cully from the Deer Hunter sticks a shot gun up to Fred Willard’s head while Freddy’s got his silky drawers on and Cully’s wife is making up some story about Freddy rappin’ her. It’s surreal. Here comes big bad… slap! :woman screams: I think they actually get out of town alive because of the infidelity. Fates got a funny way of organizing things eh?
Oh and that creepy skull-over moon trick at the end… you peed right? Just a little.