Sometimes They Come Back (1991) Movie Review

One word comes to mind when considering this adaptation of a very minor Stephen king story:


Why was this made? Can anyone honestly say it was made with the intention of furthering the cause of the horror genre? Would anyone dare claim that a film as lame as this was made to entertain and thrill? Sadly, we all know the answer to these questions.

The film may be based on King’s story, but was clearly inspired by the almighty dollar. “Sometimes They Come Back” is a tired, weak film that has nothing to offer the genre fan. It is a non-event, and yet another thinly veiled excuse to milk yet more money from the apparently everlasting King cash cow.

I must admit, I am a fan of king’s writing and have read most of his books. But Jesus, the cinematic atrocities that have been committed in his name make me shudder for all the wrong reasons. “Sometimes They Come Back” is another in this swamp of mediocrity, an unbearably pedestrian waste of celluloid that would fail to scare even the most nervous of children. The film was actually made for U.S. TV, but even this fails to excuse such a sickening exercise in nothingness.

Based on the story of the same name, the film follows Jim Norman (Tim Matheson), a schoolteacher who returns to work in his old hometown after suffering a violent breakdown. The town holds tragic memories for Jim, and he is still haunted by the death of his younger brother years ago in an accident that also claimed the lives of a local gang of bullies. Jim’s life takes a turn for the sinister as one by one the bullies return from the grave to haunt him, each one replacing a murdered student from his class.

“Sometimes They Come Back” is directed by Tom McLoughlin, an unambitious TV film director whose only effort of note has been “Friday the 13th part VI: Jason Lives”. His direction here is completely anonymous, flat, and without any sense of style. Worse still is the film’s pacing, which is slow even at the best of times. There is no suspense at all, and McLoughlin utterly fails to provide any chills or thrills.

The plot is entirely predictable, and any edge that King’s story may have had is irreparably diluted by the stench of this rotten production. The film is guaranteed to leave the viewer yawning with boredom, troubled by nothing more than a vague feeling of anger at having wasted 97 minutes. What in the name of all that is holy is the point of a horror film that makes no attempt to horrify? Honestly, “Sometimes They Come Back” is so lazy it barely makes any effort to include even the tamest of shocks.

Still, at least McLoughlin does manage to drum up a certain atmosphere: of cheapness. Even the fact that this was made for TV does not excuse the fact that it feels like several episodes of a low budget series hastily edited together. Some films benefit from a shoestring budget, gaining a sense of gritty realism. “Sometimes They Come Back” merely gains the sense of being an amateurish mess.

The acting is sophomoric at best, and film fans will howl with frustration at seeing the career of once proud Tim Matheson (“Animal House”) decline even further into TV movie hell. Oh, the sheer indignity of it all! Minor TV movie queen Brooke Adams simpers her way through the film as Matheson’s laughably ineffective wife. The rest of the cast would be more at home in a high school play and only serve to accentuate the unbelievable lack of professionalism that went into making this pointless melodrama.

Gore hounds should not even bother with this limp, bloodless excuse for a horror film. There is no carnage, few deaths and scant bloodletting. What do we get in return? A few substandard zombie make up FX.

This is a terrible non-film that all should stay away from. I am utterly at a loss as to how this pathetic excuse for a tax-write off managed to inspire not one, but two sequels — the hilariously titled “Sometimes They Come Back….Again” and “Sometimes They Come Back….For More”. Are these films any good? Do you really need to ask?

I hope that anyone who reads this review appreciates the strain I have put myself under by forcing myself to recall viewing this wretched film. Still, if you promise never to watch “Sometimes They Come Back”, then my pain will all have been worthwhile.

Tom McLoughlin (director) / Stephen King (short story), Lawrence Konner, Mark Rosenthal (teleplay)
CAST: Tim Matheson …. Jim Norman
Brooke Adams …. Sally Norman
Robert Rusler …. Richard Lawson
Chris Demetral …. Wayne Norman
Robert Hy Gorman …. Scott Norman

Buy Sometimes They Come Back on DVD