Sometimes They Come Back
Tagline: From the master of horror.
Director: Tom McLoughlin
Cast: Tim Matheson, Brooke Adams and Robert Rusler
Distributor: Second Sight
Release date: 9th April 2012
Sometimes They Get Re-Released
The secret to Stephen King’s massive success in horror fiction could – broadly – be considered to be down to one factor; regular, everyday folk accidentally stumbling into fantastical situations. Or, to put it another way, someone to root for meeting something fantastical. Potentially then, King’s stories should adapt seamlessly into the core experience of watching films.
Although King’s stories have been re-worked for the Silver Screen since he was first published, the 1980’s and 1990’s saw a particular split of King’s work along two, separate paths. One path focused on the importance of his slow burning, character pieces, such as Carrie, Misery and Apt Pupil. On the other hand were adaptations that focused on more schlocky, visceral thrills with the emphasis put upon shock effects and trashy stories. These cheaper adaptations were distinguished by often being based on King’s novellas and churned out with little dignity, budgets or effort. Oh sure, we can all look for the positives in any one of these adaptations if we look hard enough. Have you ever laughed heartily at the ‘death via corn on the cob’ scene in Sleepwalkers? Or gone giddy at the realisation that The Mangler was a straight-up film about a demonically possessed Laundry Press? Or made it through Thinner by keeping one eye on a business plan to somehow patent Richard Burke’s stunning weight loss program?
And then, underneath both the characterisation of the bigger studio films, and the OTT supernatural B-movies, lay the Stephen King TV films. Ideally these versions allow for all the silly fun of his supernatural horrors mixed with the enhanced characterisation that TV often allows extra time for. When this works you get It or Salem’s Lot. When this doesn’t work you get Sometimes They Come Back….
This made for TV adaptation concerns Jim (Tim Matheson), a middle-aged husband and father returning to the small town where he and his brother were attacked as children by Greasers. Imagine if the Fonz had a tendency to stab children and you get the idea. Whilst escaping his attackers, Jim was left the sole survivor of the entire incident. Jim and his parents promptly leave town quicker than the King could cash his cheque from the studio responsible for this film. Adult Jim then returns to the town as a teacher so desperate for employment that he is willing to return home. But as he begins to teach his new class, he finds his own pupils keep dying in terrible accidents, only to be replaced by the dead-Greasers appearing in his class as ‘new transfers’. The dead want their revenge on Jim since, well, sometimes they come back… Of course Jim’s first clue that something was wrong with these transfer student-zombie-ghost-demons probably should have been that the actors playing them are a clear 10 years older than all the other students that he teaches!
The acting itself is one of the only saving graces of this film- and by ‘saving graces’, what I mean is ‘not too bad, really’ aspects. Nobody embarrasses themselves. Tim Matheson – playing the lead of Jim – does a fair enough job of being an average guy. So average in fact that I still keep thinking of him as the bad guy from Fletch rather than a real actor. The Greasers are led by Robert Rusler, who at least looks the part. Incidentally, Rusler was the best friend in A Nightmare On Elm Street 2 which I highly recommend for a different type of horror film altogether! There is an appearance by well known character actor William Sanderson, but even he seems non-plussed to be in Sometimes… and Sanderson is usually great in anything.
The plotting is pretty poor. Most of the ‘horror’ scenes take place in daylight, limiting their impact quite a bit. The effects are naturally dated, but the lack of even blood when anyone is stabbed or dismembered means that they are also neutered. There is a pointless Voice Over that pretty much sums up whatever is happening. I can only assume it was there for American TV audiences who were too mentally lazy to try and follow what was happening in-between advert breaks. And the ending is so saccharine I had to check it hadn’t turned me diabetic. And yet given it has no stand out moments or noteworthy aspects the film is still presents an intriguing concept; can the trauma, aka demons, of bullying ever be shaken off without confronting their origin?
For all its flaws this is a perfectly reasonable film for a TV adaptation from two decades ago. There is nothing particularly worthy about it, but it is not atrocious either. If it were on TV and you were bored I could possibly give it 3/5. As this is instead a DVD designed for people to buy via actual pound sterling, it gets 2/5.
Rating: 2 stars