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MatchFlick Member Reviews
Sometimes They Come Back
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Movie Details

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Directed By
Tom McLoughlin

Written By:
Stephen King, Lawrence Konner

Cast:
Tim Matheson, Brooke Adams, Robert Rusler, Robert Hy Gorman, William Sanderson, Nicholas Sadler, Bentley Mitchum, Tasia Valenza, Chris Demetral, Chadd Nyerges, Matt Nolan, Matt Nolan

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Sometimes They Come Back (1991)
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Movie Review by Jarrod
September 22nd, 2010

'Sometimes They Come Back' is much better than the story it is based on, from Stephen King's Night Shift collection, which contains some of his worst fiction, including Trucks, the source of Maximum Overdrive. This was a made-for-TV production from the director of Friday the 13th, Part VI, Tom McLoughlin, That is not necessarily a reflection of its quality, since adaptations of both IT and The Stand aired as miniseries and met with acclaim, and are still rerun every so often, along with Needful Things and Storm of the Century. One could classify this as a rather generic horror film, with nothing truly scary or original about it. However, it makes several smart decisions, and turns out to be more involving than expected.

Jim Norman (Tim Matheson) returns to his hometown to take a teaching position at the local school; he and his wife Sally (Brooke Adams) and son Scott have moved from Chicago, where an unspecified incident has given Jim a reputation for violent outbursts. He is literally haunted by his past, with vivid nightmares, and memories of the event that killed his brother, Wayne. While Wayne's death was an accident, it was triggered by a group of Greaser bullies, Richard Lawson (Robert Rusler), Vinnie Vincent (Nicholas Sadler), David North (Bentley Mitchum), and Carl Mueller (William Sanderson).

With the exception of Mueller, who escapes at the last minute, the others are killed when their car is hit by a train, the very same thing that really kills Wayne, I would imagine, rather than the stab wound, Jimmy runs away, because that is what Wayne tells him to do. 27 years later, he is back, revisiting his old home, hearing train whistles everywhere, and dealing with a bunch of jock students who demand preferential treatment, and a principal who dislikes him on sight, and grows very suspicious, as do the police, when Jim's students start to die.

Indeed, Jim is being framed for these murders. There is a mysterious black car that belches fire from its exhaust pipe, invisible to everyone but Jim, and the various victims. Does that car look familiar? Turns out that, as the title says, the spirits of Lawson, Vincent, and North DO come back, and they want revenge, they want to punish and torment Jim.

Whether ghosts or demons, it is hard to say, but they do take on a physical form, showing up as students in Jim's class, and this is one of those unexpectedly wise decisions I mentioned earlier. It helps that Rusler and Sadler so enthusiastically throw themselves into their roles as smirking sadists. They are, on the one hand, the epitome of 50s cool, with their leather jackets, jeans, boots, and cigarettes, and have a certain allure to them that attracts the defiant Chip (Chadd Nyerges), who hates Norman for giving him an F and getting him suspended from the football team.

However, in all seriousness, would modern high schoolers even dress like Lawson and his pals. This makes them stand out, as obvious relics. And would the principal accept transfer students without checking transcripts or records of some other kind? These gaps in logic are not insurmountable, and they serve as a convenient way to set up the developments in the second half, when Lawson challenges Jim to relive the night of Wayne's death, and threatens his family, while encouraging him to track down Mueller, who has spent most of his life in a state of fear and remorse.

The climax is exciting, but perhaps a bit overdone. Matheson's performance is compelling, and he very much has the haggard appearance of a man who hasn't been getting much sleep. Special effects are, in some cases, laughably atrocious, and gore is kept to a minimum. Followed by TWO extremely stupid sequels, the second of which is set in Antarctica.

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