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Sometimes They Come Back (Blu-ray Review)

Sometimes-They-Come-BackBased on the short story by Stephen King (The Shining),Sometimes They Come Back, stars Tim Matheson (Animal House).  Matheson (two-time Primetime Emmy-nominee for Best Guest Appearance in TV’s The West Wing) gives what Entertainment Weekly called a “truly moving” performance in the “well-acted and skillfully produced”Stephen King’s Sometimes They Come Back.  Director Tom McLoughlin’s chilling Stephen King’s Sometimes They Come Back is adapted for the screen by Lawrence Konnor and Mark Rosenthal (Planet of the Apesco-writers) and co-stars Robert Rustler (Thrashin’), William Sanderson (Blade Runner) and Nicholas Sadler (Scent of A Woman).  This film would actually go on to spawn its own franchise of films with clever takes on the title.  They were all straight to video, but there were multiple nonetheless.

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Film 

Troubled Jim Norman moves back to his hometown with his wife Sally and son Scott after accepting a teaching job at the local high school.  But the town holds dark memories for Jim who moved away years earlier following the murder of his brother, Wayne. The young men responsible for the murder met with their own horrific deaths and now those restless spirits have come back for revenge.

In the late 80s and early 1990s, the works of Stephen King starting filtering in from the big screen to the one in your living room.  The box office on his films was declining and TV was something that had been done before with his work (Salem’s Lot).  But, this is where the hard charge would come in.  One of the biggest events in a television calendar year was the Stephen King mini-series based off of one of his novels.  Usually airing on ABC Sunday nights for the first part, then concluding somewhere between Monday and Thursday (Depending on whether it was Football season or not to interrupt hit programming).  We were introduced to stuff like It, The Stand and The Tommyknockers during this time.  Sometimes They Come Back wasn’t a miniseries, but it a TV movie that came the year following the widely popular It.  Notable, that it aired on CBS and that may be why it didn’t go the route of being a mini-series.

I didn’t see Sometimes They Come Back when it aired, and I honestly don’t ever remember any advertising or it being a thing when it aired.  It was a Stephen King movie that I rented at my local video store.  I didn’t know it was a TV movie til later on, but when I watched it I remembered being severely underwhelmed and thinking that it felt so tame and safe and like a TV movie.  Now, I’m not bashing TV movies.  Back in the 70s, 80s and a little of the 90s, original TV films were something to look forward to and much more respected than they are now.  But, this film just felt after school special like with a bit convoluted of an endgame and plot that’s just too silly to go on with.

The film features a talented enough cast.  Tim Matheson is actually quite terrific here, carrying the weight of the film’s emotion and delivering.  Robert Rusler proves to be just a fun joy to watch as he gets a juicy part to chew scenery.  Any time the guy is on screen, the movie gets infinitely more entertaining.  Brooke Adams rounds it out with a solid performance.  This isn’t her first rodeo with Stephen King material either, she was also in the underrated David Cronenberg adaptation of  The Dead Zone that had Christopher Walken and Martin Sheen.

I’ve never been a fan of Sometimes They Come Back.  But, I must be in some kind of minority as the film was successful enough to spawn two sequels (One of them has Hilary Swank.  No, no joke.  Pre-Oscar though).  Its another in the line of “evil 1950-60s greasers” movies from Stephen King’s stories.  But, this one is just very talkative with no real effort to have scares, and the scares themselves are too television like and shot poorly to feel any sort of intensity.  And the dead greasers coming back and attending class looking like they did back when they died comes across as entirely absurd and isn’t handled well, making it hard to stick with the film.  There are some good things, like the performances and some of the scenes really do work.  This just isn’t a film when “It’s horror time!” to pull out.  Its not even good for general movie time or even if you’re having a Stephen King marathon it probably will not make the cut.  I wonder if the sequels are possibly more entertaining in an exploitative fashion.

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Video 

Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1

Clarity/Detail:  Sometimes They Come Back gets a rather solid above par presentation.  It isn’t a popping or polished presentation, but a transfer that seems to have been hands off but with a very nice looking print.  The image is on the softer end but sharp enough.  Detail in the film is above average and you can make out clothing texture like leather jacket cracks and the like.  Prior to this I had only seen the film on VHS and television, and this was a very big step up from that.

Depth:  This one’s dimensional work is mildly above average in interior sequences, but solid on some of the exteriors revolving around the train tracks.

Black Levels:  Blacks are rich and some details can be hidden on dark items of clothing, surfaces and hair.  No crushing seen either.

Color Reproduction:  Colors are pretty good and come with a very natural, autumn-like feel to them.  Each color on the palette is done solid, never really popping though but not taking on a dingy worn appearance either.

Flesh Tones:  Skin tones look really full and natural.  Detail like make-up, lip texture, stubble and such all come through pretty good in close-ups and medium range shots.

Noise/Artifacts:  Some grain, but this is a rather clean looking print and transfer.

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Audio 

Audio Format(s): English 2.0 DTS-HD MA

Subtitles: N/A

Dynamics:  Once again, like the video, this audio track is a decent one and gets the job done.  Action effects are heightened at the appropriate areas.  This track does its best to sound as layered as it could with some really decent balance.

Low Frequency Extension:  N/A

Surround Sound Presentation:  N/A

Dialogue Reproduction:  Dialogue is clean and clear at an ideal volume placement.

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Extras 

Trailer (HD, 2:28)

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Summary 

This was my third time watching Sometimes They Come Back and the first in probably over fifteen some odd years.  I’m still not a fan.  The movie drags and bores me too much to be interested.  Robert Rusler is fun to watch in the film but its not enough.  Olive Films has put together a Blu-ray that both looks and sounds very nice.  The only extra you’re getting is a trailer, but getting a TV movie put on Blu-ray is something to be noted.  Stephen King fans and collector’s will also probably be happy just to get it to jump to the format.  For the right price, this is something to pick up for a fan of the film and fan of the author.

Sometimes-They-Come-Back-Blu-ray

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Writer/Reviewer, lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash, Brandon hosts the Cult Cinema Cavalcade podcast on the Creative Zombie Studios Network (www.cultcinemacavalcade.com) You can also find more essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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