Sometimes They Come Back, 1991.
Directed by Tom McLoughlin.
Starring Tim Matheson, Brooke Adams, Matt Nolan, Chad Nyerges, Nicholas Sadler, William Sanderson and Robert Rusler.
A teacher with a troubled past returns to his hometown with his family to start a new beginning. However, his past soon comes back to haunt him as he remembers the traumatic event of his older brother’s death.
Based on a Stephen King short story, Sometimes They Come Back is a classic horror story of a tormented man who is revisited by his past in an all too vivid manner.
The film opens with a voiceover narration, a technique I have my gripes with. However, I have come to accept that it is mostly necessary with literary adaptations, and in the case of Sometimes They Come Back, it actually works quite well in establishing the character of Jim Norman, a father who is returning to his home town, Stratford, Connecticut, to live with his family. He tells us, the audience, that he has not been back here since his brother died. He says that if he knew what was going to happen on their return, he would never have brought his family back to the place.
Jim is clearly wrapped up in his past which is teased to us through flashbacks, until the puzzle pieces are put together. His brother, Wayne Norman, was stabbed by youths on a train track, who then themselves are killed when their car is hit by a train. Jim manages to run away unharmed – but 20 odd years later, it’s all coming to catch up with him. The teasing through flashbacks is a great device that carries the plot quite well. Unfortunately however, some of these flashbacks are a little on the cheesy side, and the child actors tarnish the effectiveness of these scenes. They do however perform their purpose, blurring the past with the present very well.
It doesn’t take long for the past and present to completely align, as the boys who killed his brother appear, killing off Jim’s students to take their places in his class. This part of the narrative is particularly clever. Jim immediately recognises these people, even over 20 years later. Howeverm everyone thinks they have died, and Jim is always at the scene of the students’ death, or aware they have happened before authorities are. He is therefore the prime suspect for their murders – after all, no one is going to believe that some dead punks did it, are they? This notion could have perhaps been explored more with a longer run time.
The rag-tag gang of criminals reminded me of the gang of vampires in The Lost Boys with their blatant disregard for the rules and their desire to do whatever they damn well please. They slick back their hair, wear leather jackets and drive around in an amazing flame emblazoned car, that also has real flames trailing behind a la Back to the Future. They’re basically the coolest. Their ultimate goal, other than to murder, is to recreate the situation where they were killed, and to drag Jim to the afterlife with them and keep them out of Hell.
Sometimes They Come Back is a great bit of horror story telling. It’s tense, dark, and yet has that satisfying, albeit cheesy, happy ending. The plot is engaging, and the performances – particularly by the gang members – are very impressive. How it holds up against the short story, I am unsure, but it has made me want to check it out.
I do also wonder if the sequel, Sometimes They Come Back… Again (1996), starring Hilary Swank lives up to the enjoyment, or even Sometimes They Come Back… For More (1998). I won’t hold my breath, if I’m completely honest!
Flickering Myth Rating: Film *** / Movie ***