Salem’s Lot was only the second novel that Stephen King got published, hitting bookstore shelves in 1975, but nearly half-a-century later it remains one of the most beloved books by the author. Because of this, there is a great deal of excitement surrounding the release of writer/director Gary Dauberman’s upcoming adaptation, and everything that we’ve heard about it has only served to enhance our anticipation.
Amidst that excitement about what we know, however, there is also a great deal of curiosity regarding what we don’t know – and it’s in an effort to expound upon that curiosity that I’ve put together this feature. You can read our Salem’s Lot cast list to find out who is in the movie, and learn details about the production via our Quick Things guide, but below are five burning questions we have about the upcoming remake.
What Will Be The Impact Of The Previous Two Adaptations?
To date, Carrie is the only Stephen King book that has been adapted three separate times for film and television, but Gary Dauberman’s Salem’s Lot will see the vampire novel source material join that terrifically exclusive club. Tobe Hooper directed the classic two-part TV movie that debuted in 1979, and Mikael Salomon’s small-screen remake aired on TNT in 2004. Both have their own approaches to the book, and one wonders how those approaches will influence the 2022 version of the story.
Gary Dauberman’s Salem’s Lot won’t have the same 180 minute-plus runtime real estate as the television adaptations (more on that in a second), and it will be inherently different than them because of that fact, but still one wonders how the prior live-action efforts will affect the remake. Will the film hone closer to the book specifically in places where the previous versions didn’t? Conversely, will “been there, done that” moments get changed to feel fresher? Either or both seem entirely possible, but it’s not something we presently know about the film.
What Will Be Cut To Make The Story Fit Movie Length?
At just under 440 pages, Salem’s Lot is not one of Stephen King’s longest novels (The Stand, IT, and Under The Dome are all well over 1,000 pages), but that says more about the general scale of King’s storytelling than anything else. The novel is an epic in its own right – chronicling a vampire infestation that starts slow but grows exponentially until the entire titular town is overrun. Because of the scope of the story, the TV miniseries route has been the preferred approach for adaptation – and thus one wonders what will have to change about the source material to make it all fit into standard feature length.
Even if Gary Dauberman’s Salem’s Lot clocks in at two-and-a-half hours, that’s still more than 30 minutes shorter than both of the previous adaptations, and those TV movies each had to cut and condense quite a lot of material themselves in translating Stephen King’s book. Based on the cast list, it looks like all of the major characters in the novel will be represented – we’ll just have to wait and see how their arcs are manipulated and changed to fit the new medium.
Who Is Playing Kurt Barlow?
When casting got underway for Gary Dauberman’s Salem’s Lot in fall 2021, it was an exciting time to be a Stephen King fan. Each of the actor announcements came with the news of who they were playing in the adaptation, so we all got to immediately start imagining Lewis Pullman as Ben Mears, Bill Camp as Matthew Burke, and Pilou Asbæk as Richard Straker. What’s particularly curious, however, is that while we know who is playing just about all of the principal roles in the film, we don’t yet know who is starring as the central villain: the head vampire, Kurt Barlow.
Right now, the smart money says that Barlow will be played by William Sadler, as he was the only actor revealed as part of the Salem’s Lot cast who wasn’t specifically identified with a role when his involvement with the production was announced (though admittedly he revealed the news himself instead of it coming out via the trades). Given his extensive history in Stephen King movies – having starred in The Shawshank Redemption, The Green Mile, and The Mist – it would be totally appropriate, but there is still no official confirmation.
How Will Kurt Barlow Be Presented?
In depicting vampires in live-action, there are two directions in which filmmakers typically go. Sometimes they look like normal humans, but with massive fangs and strange eyes – and other times they appear as hideous, demon-like monsters. Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot describes Kurt Barlow as being in the former camp, but that has famously been changed in previous adaptations, leaving the approach to not be an obvious one for Gary Dauberman’s upcoming movie.
Rutger Hauer’s version of Kurt Barlow in the 2004 adaptation sticks closer to what Stephen King describes in the book, but the far more iconic version is the blue-skinned creature portrayed by Reggie Nalder in the 1979 TV movie. Given this history, it’s unlikely that going either route would earn any great deal of animosity or backlash from fans, so it will just be a matter of Dauberman’s preferences that determines the choice. We don’t know what his preference is presently, so how Barlow will be presented remains a mystery.
Will It At Least Hint At Connections To The Dark Tower Series?
While Stephen King has never written a direct sequel to Salem’s Lot, he did find a way to return to the story in 2003 with the publication of The Dark Tower V: Wolves of the Calla. Not only does the book partially recount the events that transpire in King’s second published novel, but it features the return of Father Donald Callahan and reveals what happened to him following his shameful showdown with Kurt Barlow. Gary Dauberman’s movie will be the first adaptation of Salem’s Lot made in the aftermath of this development, so all Constant Readers have to wonder: will the new film possibly hint at his fate?
John Benjamin Hickey is playing the role of Father Callahan in Gary Dauberman’s Salem’s Lot, so at the very least we know that he’ll be featured in the movie – but unfortunately that’s all that we presently know. Unlike some of the other questions presented in this feature, this is one that we might not have an answer for until the movie is actually out in theaters.
Salem’s Lot, starring Lewis Pullman, Makenzie Leigh, Bill Camp, Alfre Woodard, William Sadler, Pilou Asbæk, Spencer Treat Clark, and John Benjamin Hickey will be in theaters this fall, on September 9, 2022. For deep dives into the long history of Stephen King movies and TV, check out my Adapting Stephen King column, and to learn about all of the other live-action King projects in the works head on over to the Upcoming Stephen King guide.