'Salem's Lot is a 1975 horror novel written by Stephen King. It was King's second published novel, following Carrie.The plot focuses on the Maine town of Jerusalem's Lot, which is slowly taken over by vampires, and a small band of survivors, including protagonist Ben Mears, who decide to fight back.The eponymous town is also featured in King's short stories "Jerusalem's Lot" and "One for the Road". (The former, written several years earlier, is set in 1850 and has little if anything to do with the novel's plot; the latter is set three years after the events of the novel). These stories are included in Night Shift, and also in the illustrated edition of 'Salem's Lot. Said illustrated edition was released in 2005, and also contains several deleted and alternate scenes.The novel has been adapted into two television Mini Series. The first, directed by Tobe Hooper, aired on CBS in 1979 and was later released theatrically (in edited form) overseas, while the second aired on TNT cable in 2004. There was also a 1987 theatrical sequel, Return to Salem's Lot, and a 1995 Radio Drama adaptation.
The novel and 1979 miniseries contain examples of:
Abusive Parents: The McDougall baby Randy is subjected to assorted beatings from his mother Sandy (although she regrets it every time, and completely freaks out when the baby dies).
Adaptation Distillation: The 1979 miniseries takes out several minor characters and condenses the story considerably.
If Father Callahan isn't one to begin with, he's well on his way to becoming one by the time he leaves town.
This is proven out by the events of The Dark Tower series. Callahan once again makes an appearance, and talks about past events including drowning out the memories of 'Salem's Lot with drink. He gets better at the end.
The Bad Guy Wins: Sure, Barlow is destroyed, but he succeeds in making Jerusalem's Lot a hotbed for the undead.
Asshole Victim: Straker, Barlow, The McDougalls, Reggie Sawyer, Charlie Rhodes.
Bittersweet Ending: Barlow is destroyed, but it's far too late for Jerusalem's Lot as the whole town has become overun with vampires, and it's uncertain that Ben and Mark will be successful in eradicating them.
Indeed, the "One for the Road" story pretty much reveals that they weren't, and in fact the numbers keep increasing as the now-undead townspeople feed on any travelers who pass through the area.
Breaking and Bloodsucking: This is the standard operating procedure for the vampires. While they require a Vampire Invitation before they can enter, they quickly overrun the small town by making nightly visits. In particular:
Matt invites an ill Mike Ryerson to spend a few nights recovering in his guest room. That night, he listens in horror as Mike invites Danny Glick in. When Matt works up the courage to investigate, Mike is dead. Later, Mike returns to the same room waiting for Matt, but is driven away by a crucifix and revoking the invitation.
A delirious Mrs. Glick explains to her husband about her dreams of the last few nights: Danny returning home so she can breastfeed him again.
After Susan becomes a vampire, she visits Mark's bedroom that same night, offering to 'kiss' him.
Bring My Brown Pants: Corey Bryant literally craps his pants when Reggie Sawyer performs a mock execution.
The Bully: Richie Boddin, although he quickly loses that status after he makes the mistake of picking on Mark Petrie (who promptly engages a Curb-Stomp Battle).
Buried Alive: Avoided with Danny Glick (who is not dead but in fact a vampire), since Mike Ryerson stops filling his grave with soil, jumps down onto his coffin and opens it, to find a life-like Danny (who presumably bites him and turns him into a vampire also — this is shown explicitly in the 1979 miniseries but implied in the novel).
"I am not the serpent, but the father of serpents."
Clap Your Hands If You Believe: It's faith that makes religious symbols an effective weapon against vampires. When Callahan starts doubting his faith, his cross no longer has an effect on Barlow. Barlow tells him: "Without faith, the cross is only wood, the bread baked wheat, the wine sour grapes."
Dwindling Party: Although some do (permanently/fully) die, most in fact get converted to vampires.
Executive Meddling: The original novel had Jimmy Cody get eaten alive by rats controlled by Barlow, but Doubleday refused to publish it and King had to rewrite it so that he was instead impaled by knives.
Fate Worse than Death: Poor Father Callahan. Not only does he have his entire faith mocked and ripped apart by the Big Bad, but he also is forced to drink the main vampire's blood and forever be marked as an Untouchable to the rest of humanity.
Ghost Town: Salem's Lot is reduced to being a ghost town after the vampires take over. The novel's prologue has a newspaper article about a reporter trying to find out why it became one. Another ghost town, Momson, is mentioned in the same article.
Hate at First Sight: By the end of his first meeting with Susan's parents, her father thinks Ben is a great guy. Her mother, on the other hand, begins hating him at just about the same moment as his dad decides he's okay, which causes a big fight between her and her daughter.
Hope Spot: Sandy McDougall thinks that her dead baby Randy (having been killed/turned into a vampire the night before by Danny Glick) is simply 'playing dead' with her to punish her for beating him. She proceeds to spoon-feed the lifeless baby some chocolate custard but her hope is dashed (and she starts screaming in realization) when she tries to make him smile and the custard she had fed him plops out onto the table below him.
How We Got Here: The novel's prologue takes place after the main events of the novel (but before the epilogue). The prologue's unnamed characters eventually turn out to be Ben and Mark.
Human Resources: Implied. Mark picks up a book written in Latin with a picture of a disemboweled child but quickly puts it back down because the binding feels 'uncomfortably familiar'.
Earlier in the novel, Win Purinton's dog Doc is found impaled on the cemetery gate by Mike Ryerson.
Infant Immortality: Both averted and played straight — several children die, only to return as vampires; but Mark Petrie survives the novel.
The whole situation starts with the death of the Glick brothers — Ralphie is made as a sacrifice to allow free reign for Barlow to take over and his brother Danny becomes the first turned resident and begins the undead infestation.
Heck, at one point the heroes head into a house to stake a family of vampire only to find a vampire baby (presumably Randy McDougall) among them.
It's Personal: It gets really personal for Ben when Barlow turns Susan into a vampire, and for Mark, when Barlow kills his parents.
Jerkass: Sandy McDougall, who often hits her ten month old baby son Randy. Even Fr. Callahan would like to strangle her every time he hears about it in confession.
Roy McDougall, her husband, who spends all his time drinking at the bar.
Charlie Rhodes, a school bus driver who throws kids off the bus for such infractions as talking too loud and passing notes, once forced the school principal to suspend a couple of boys for letting the air out of his tires (though he hadn't actually seen them do it, and it turned out that another kid was the culprit), and forced yet another kid into confessing (falsely, it's implied) to having left a cow pie on his driver's seat. He, too, gets his comeuppance after the kids turn.
Callahan also mentions in The Dark Tower that Ben died as well, as he visited his funeral in Mexico.
Kill It with Fire: In the book's ending, Ben and Mark return to the town with the purpose of burning it down and most of the vampires with it.
Limited Special Collector's Ultimate Edition: A huge (and hugely expensive) version of the book with deleted scenes was released by Centipede Press. Fortunately a trade version with the deleted scenes was later published.
Naked Apron: How Bonnie Sawyer surprises her secret lover Corey right before her husband surprises them.
No Ontological Inertia: Subverted, Barlow, the head vampire, is killed. But all those that fell under his curse stay vampires.
Our Vampires Are Different: They're actually quite similar to Bram Stoker's version of vampires, as Stephen King acknowledges in one version of the book. They also differ in a few ways, and The Dark Tower goes on to explain the vampires in greater detail. For one thing, sunlight doesn't kill them, but it's certainly uncomfortable. They have their own religion. And according to Barlow's dialogue, they're Hungarian, not Romanian (Stephen King mistakenly refers to Magyar and Hungarian as two different things).
Pedophile Priest: A rare non-Catholic example, Reverend John Groggins. In the chapter where King tells us about the town's secrets, it's revealed that he often has 'horrible dreams' in which he is preaching to the Little Misses' Bible Class 'naked and slick'.
Please Wake Up: Randy McDougall's mother when she finds him dead in his bedroom, and Danny Glick's father at his burial service.
Police Are Useless: Even after figuring out what's going on in his town, Constable Gillespie refuses to aid Ben and Mark in fighting Barlow, opting to hit the road instead. And his Clueless Deputy ends up as one of the vampires.
Present Day: Literally; the novel was published in October 1975, and the main part of the narrative spans September and October of that year.
Really 700 Years Old: Barlow claims to be older than Christianity, which means he's at least 2000 years old.
Scrapbook Story: Not the whole thing, but it does begin and end with newspaper accounts of the strange goings-on in the Lot.
Stupid Evil: A curious version. King makes it a point to allude that the worst kind of evil isn't the Dark Lord and his Army Of Evil, but the near-endless rabble of not-too-bright humanity going about their daily lives, fornicating and lighting firecrackers inside cats.
When Mike Ryerson (who was bitten by Danny Glick and is becoming a vampire, but doesn't know it yet) is talking with Matt in the bar, he makes reference to being "just like a little kid afraid of the Allamagoosalum".note A bogeyman or evil spirit referenced in several King works.
It's even lampshaded, as she thinks that when in the horror movies she saw, the heroine went up to the cellar, she thought "What a silly bitch ... I'd never do that!" And yet, she's doing exactly that.
Hubie Marsten was in correspondence with Kurt Barlow years before he came to 'Salem's Lot.
Coretta Simons has stashed $30,000 behind the wallpaper of her house but she has terminal cancer and has forgotten about it.
The 1951 fire in the Lot was set by a (roughly) 16 year old boy who graduated well and won a fortune on the stock exchange. The compulsion to set the fire ate away at him for the next twenty years and he died of a brain embolism in his 40s.
Reverend John Groggins has paedophilic dreams about the Little Misses Bible Reading Class.
Hal Griffen masturbates over six pornographic magazines at every opportunity.
George Middleton crossdresses and (again) masturbates behind closed doors.
Mike Ryerson came to life on the autopsy table and killed/converted Carl Foreman.
Danny Glick bit Randy McDougall and converted the baby into a vampire.
It's implied part of the reason Barlow picked 'Salem's Lot to start his colony was because, in addition to its remote and isolated location, there are enough skeletons in the closets of the townspeople that it's a perfect place for his evil to take root.
Vampire Invitation: Matt is almost killed by a vampire because he let the man in his home after he was bitten, but before he died. Matt manages to get the vampire to leave by saying he's revoked his invitation.
What Could Have Been: King played with the idea of writing a sequel to 'Salem's Lot for years, at one point mentioning a possible opening with Callahan working at a soup shelter and a vagrant coming in telling him that it's not over at "the Lot". In the end, there was no sequel (apart from the short story "One For The Road" mentioned above) and King ended up continuing Callahan's story in The Dark Tower.
There's also the almost literal use of the trope in the slowly gathering rats suddenly just...dropping out of the story. In the original plan they were going to devour the guy who fell down the trick staircase. Instead King just had him be impaled.
Adaptational Villainy: Father Callahan. In the book he leaves the down disgraced, whereas here he becomes the new Renfield for Barlow. Ironically the miniseries coincided with the final three novels of The Dark Tower in which Callahan returned and redeemed himself.
Ascended Extra: Ruthie Crockett, a very minor character in the novel is made into a major supporting character in the miniseries.
Abusive Parents: It's subtly implied that her father is sexually abusing her.
Rich Bitch: She has quite a bad attitude and is callous and cruel towards Dud.
Bittersweet Ending: A bit better then the novel at least. Ben dies but he and Mark manage to hunt down near all the vampires in the town with Callahan being their final target.
How We Got Here: The movie begins with Ben chasing down and putting Callahan into a coma before being taken to the hospital for treatment. He then tells an orderly about the events which lead up to the present.