Directed by Tobe Hooper [Other horror films: The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974), Eaten Alive (1976), The Dark (1979), Salem’s Lot (1979), The Funhouse (1981), Poltergeist (1982), Lifeforce (1985), Invaders from Mars (1986), The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 (1986), I’m Dangerous Tonight (1990), Night Terrors (1993), Body Bags (1993, segment ‘Eye’), The Mangler (1995), The Apartment Complex (1999), Crocodile (2000), Shadow Realm (2002), Toolbox Murders (2004), Mortuary (2005), Djinn (2013)]
It’s a shame that this movie, despite the potential I sense, is such a mess. To me, that seems clearly due to the script, which doesn’t really feel right.
I have two big issues with this film. One, as I mentioned, is the story itself. The prologue takes 22 minutes to get through, and once we do, we’re stuck with characters that seem interconnected but don’t know they’re interconnected, a secret plot, some radio psychic, mysteries from the past coming back to haunt a character, some subplot about a nuclear plant that doesn’t seem related at all to the rest of the story, and syringes of glowing green stuff that was never once explained.
The plot goes all over the place, and I don’t think things were put together particularly well. That prologue took way too long to get through, and most of the present-day story isn’t overly captivating either. Some of the special effects (and I really mean some, as there are some really bad scenes here) work out well, but the story itself is just a mess. Maybe I just missed something, but it seems to me there were still quite a few unanswered questions by the end of the film, and it just grated on me. Things just felt disjointed at times.
Secondly, and this may be controversial, but I was deeply underwhelmed by Brad Dourif’s acting throughout this whole film. I know his character is in an odd place, so some of it can be excused, but it wasn’t just the odd scene out where I thought he was just a bad actor. I loved hearing Chucky’s voice, and I get the fact his character’s going through a confusing and emotionally-wrecking period, but his acting didn’t do it for me here at all, which is shame, as he generally is pretty enjoyable (such as his role in Death Machine, which came out four years after this).
I’m not saying that Spontaneous Combustion doesn’t occasionally have charm, but from a personal standpoint, I don’t think I’d watch this again anytime soon, as I honestly enjoyed very little of this film, despite the potential I really thought it had. I could tell from the beginning that the tone just felt off to me, and it pretty much stayed that way throughout, all the way to the ending which also just didn’t do it for me at all.
Tobe Hooper has, no doubt, done a lot for the horror genre, but this one is definitely not one of his better works in my view.