Sometimes They Come Back

Sometimes They Come Back

Static Mass Rating: 2/5
CBS / Second Sight

Original release: May 7th, 1991
DVD release (UK): April 9th, 2012
Certificate (UK): 15
Running time: 97 minutes

Director: Tom McLoughlin
Writers: Lawrence Konner, Mark Rosenthal
Composer: Terry Plumeri

Cast: Tim Matheson, Chris Demetral

When watching a Stephen King adaptation, I find myself separating them into three categories; the good, the bad and the ‘so cheesy’. Call me insane, but for reasons unknown to me, I feel compelled to watch them all.

King’s 1978 collection of short stories, Night Shift, has been the inspiration behind many of the adaptations. Films such as Children of the Corn (1984), Graveyard Shift (1990), and The Mangler (1995), all fall into the latter category. Directed by Tom McLoughlin, the 1991 TV movie Sometimes They Come Back has left me on the fence – I just can’t make my mind up.

Sometimes They Come Back

Jim Norman (Tim Matheson) is a teacher who returns to his hometown with his family to take up a job at the local school, almost 30 years after he left. Bad memories cause him to have a number of flashbacks regarding the death of his brother, Wayne (Chris Demetral), who was killed by a local rebel gang in the 1960’s.

Those responsible for his death died in a fiery car wreck. As Jim starts his job, his students begin to die and the dead gang members take their seats in the classroom. Not only will he have to literally confront the ghosts of his past, but also protect his family. Sometimes the dead aren’t ready to venture into the afterlife and instead roam the earth to take care of unfinished business.

In print, Sometimes They Come Back has the winning formula of a chilling ghost story; the thirty-page story kept me intrigued when my mum read it to me as a child. The film however just doesn’t have the same effect. This wasn’t the first time I’d seen it but in all honesty, I didn’t watch it till the end the first time, maybe because it didn’t have the traits I often watched horror films for. As an adult watching it again (to completion), I understand why.

Sometimes They Come Back

Originally planned to be featured as a segment in the 1985 film Cats Eye, producer Dino De Laurentiis felt it would be better as a full-length feature. I couldn’t disagree more, it barley keep us interested for the 90-minute duration. The problem seems to stem from the impression that it’s highly padded out; scenes seem to drag on for longer than they should.

King has the ability to captivate his readers with emotionally driven dialogue, and at the same time provide a substantial amount of cheese when dealing with melodrama, but it seems the film was a mix-matched attempt, its dialogue failed to capture the emotions reflected in the original story.

McLoughlin, who had previously directed the 1986 classic, Jason Lives: Friday the 13th Part VI does provide us with some entertaining deaths. One boy is forced off the road and over a bridge by the ghost-gangs fiery car, one is found hanged and another is dismembered with their body parts being thrown out of the window. But overall the horror moments appear to be forced to remind the audience that this is indeed a horror film.

I understand that for a early 1990’s TV movie, the violence and horror are borderline to the required constraints expected by television networks, but Salem’s Lot (1978) and IT (1990) were both made for TV and had the ability to scare us through intelligent, eerie methods without the use of extreme blood and violence.

Sometimes They Come Back

This was because they played with our childhood fears. Sometimes They Come Back at times seems to try and capture the essence of the haunted house sub-genre but this becomes muddled in its attempt to establish itself as a film. It has far too many elements, which dumb down the potential good moments.

The film when aired received mixed reviews and although not entirely a king adaptation classic was followed by two sequels. Sometimes They Come Back Again (1997), which starred Hilary Swank and was an improvement on the previous film, and Sometimes They Come Back For More (1999), which, the less said about it, would be in the best interests for everyone.

This brings me back to my earlier predicament. Part of me would rate it as another so-cheesy-it’s-acceptable film. After all, it does offer some entertaining elements. The other part wants me to condemn it to the fiery depths of DVD hell. I’ll let you be the judge, jury and executioners on this one. It seems sometimes they do come back, but on this occasion I’d much prefer it if they didn’t.

About Jamie Suckley

Jamie Suckley

Jamie, editor for Cult Movies at Static Mass, is a 24 year old media studies graduate from Sheffield, who likes nothing better than watching films. If he was to star in a horror film he’d like to be the first one killed (think Drew Barrymore in Scream).

He has a keen interest in horror which started when he was a child. Due to his hyperactive behaviour his cousins made him watch films they thought would calm him down- They were wrong! It was watching Hellraiser and Killer Klowns from Outer Space that his passion for horror began. Over the years this developed into a passion for zombies, madmen, mutated animals and all things gore.

When he’s not working, in his dream world, worrying about zombie epidemics or watching films, he can be found on Twitter sharing his thoughts and bringing his dream world into reality.

You can follow Jamie on Twitter @JamieSuckley.