Directed by Tom McLoughlin [Other horror films: One Dark Night (1982), Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives (1986), The Haunting of Helen Walker (1995)]
For a television adaptation of a Stephen King story, this early 90’s flick is okay. The problem is that, compared to the original story, this falls moderately flat.
See, the short story (which was first published in 1974, then released in King’s first anthology, Night Shift, from 1978) was written in a very succinct, almost clinical, manner. It’s not King’s best outing in Night Shift, but it is a pretty solid story, and also appropriately dark.
Partially because this is a television movie, though, Sometimes They Come Back strikes me as a lot more saccharine than anything, and it’s overly sentimental, almost sappy, portrayal, really takes away from what the story brought forth.
If you’ve not read the story, I suspect it might fair a little better, but I still think the movie would feel like the sanitized, 90’s flick it is. There are some solid sequences, and pretty solid performances, but it just doesn’t cut it for me.
I do have to give props to Nicholas Sadler, Bentley Mitchum, and Robert Rusler, who gave a fantastically exuberant performance as some greasers out for vengeance. Their over-the-top style, including the fun Big Bopper reference, made the film a lot more fun than it otherwise would have been. Those three brought a lot of heart to this film, and their antics added a lot. Rusler, by the way, played Ron Grady in the second A Nightmare on Elm Street, which was sort of fun.
Otherwise, the only other performance that stood out was the lead Tim Matheson. Brooke Adams, who was also in The Dead Zone (1983), was okay, but didn’t particularly do much for me. Matheson, of course, is a rather well-known name. I know him best from The West Wing, where he played the Vice President for a time, and he also starred in the television movie Buried Alive, which I’ve previously reviewed. He does a good job here, and he fit the role I imagined from the story pretty well. His dialogue, at times, was rather sappy, and his internal monologue was way too 70’s, but he was nice to see nonetheless.
Compared to the story, Sometimes They Come Back isn’t that great. It’s been years upon years since I last saw it, and it’s not really a movie I could see myself watching again any time soon. There are much better Stephen King adaptations out there, so I’d personally just recommend sticking to the story. Still, this is a harmless movie, with occasionally fun scenes, so if it sounds like your thing, give it a shot.