SOMETIMES THEY COME BACK
Reviewed by: Dave Murray
What's it about
Plagued by the memories of his brother's murder 30 years before, Jim Norman (Matheson) moves back home to take a teaching position at the local high school. But as the ghosts of his brother's killers return to pick off his students one by one, Jim must face his own demons if he is going to stop the dead teens from having their bloody revenge.
Is it good movie?
Movies based on King's stories and novels are usually hit or miss. In fact, it would seem that movies adapting his non-horror work are much more successful than those based on his tales of blood and terror. While this DVD would have you believe that this is King's scariest story ever, I can think of a couple dozen that are scarier. But if you are looking for some standard, by-the-numbers horror fare, this is an entertaining, well made movie. As long as you don't expect too much from it. I mean, face it, this is not The Stand or The Dark Tower, but it is an okay tale of haunting and revenge, if a little safe and tame.
Three things that King does best, and often, are dead teens, vengeful ghosts, and adults haunted by their childhoods. Here we have all three, and you'd expect it to be scary as hell right? Um, no. Aside from a few boo moments, and some short but sweet scenes where we get to see the rotting faces of the dead kids as the cackle over their latest victim, this is a pretty bloodless and tensionless ride. Sure it's a well told story, and the production values themselves are good for what this flick needs to be, but the whole thing strikes me as watered down, made for tv horror-lite. The story itself was a springboard for more ambitious King work, and as such it doesn't have the depth of some of his longer material, but if more of the horror from the story had found its way onto film, this would have been a much better movie.
The lead character, Jim (played by veteran Tim Matheson) was passable enough, but the motivation he had for conveying horror was weak at best. The four malevolent teens were hardly even that. In fact, they were more annoying than menacing. Like Jim, I would have stolen their keys and let the train rip their car to shreds with them in it just to make them shut up and stop giggling like little kids who had just pissed in mommy's ficus. Call me crazy, but why Jim just didn't grab the whiny punks and bootstomp their undead brains into raspberry pulp I'll never know. Where's a bloody Ghostbuster with a rocket launcher when you need one?
But seriously, it was an okay movie, if you are looking for standardly tame network television horror. There wasn't very much being done in 1991 on tv or in the horror genre, so it's no surprise this isn't groundbreaking work. But most of the King stories adapted for tv have been alright, with some even being downright graphic and intense, especially the some of the more recent mini-series'. I mean sure, there were some sweet makeup jobs, but on the whole it felt a little watered down on the horror front, completely devoid of atmosphere and not what a great Stephen King story should be. While King at his less extreme and more introspective is just as fascinating as when he is roaring full bore on the terror train, I guess it depends on the director, screenwriter and cast to pull off a translation of the depth and psychological terror present in all of his work, no matter how short or how weak. Sadly, all of those elements didn't combine here.
Video / Audio
Video: Widescreen - 2.35:1.
Audio: English (Dolby Digital Stereo), Spanish (Mono) and subtitles in English, French and Spanish.
As a semi-lame and not very scary tv movie, this one works quite well. As an adaptation of Stephen King, even for a lesser known short story, it's a flop. A couple of good performances, some decent makeup for a few minutes, and competent direction were not enough to salvage what was ruined by a dragged out and ham heavy script and some seriously annoying casting choices for the "supposed to be scary" dead kids. My recommendation: go read the story instead. And then read some more of them.