Genre: Thriller / Horror
IMDB Rating: 5.7 / 10
I’m going through a bit of a 90s thing at the moment with the movies I want to watch, and after spending 14 hours in a movie marathon with Tropical Mary I thought ahead to what I would need to soothe my soul: Sometimes They Come Back…
Since everyone needs a little Stephen King in their lives I felt this was a good choice. I recall watching at least part of it in my pre-teen years (which speaks volumes about what my parents allowed me to watch as a child, but that’s a story for another day) but time had robbed me of all memories of the story. With Ibuprofen in one hand, the remote in the other hand, and a silent prayer that the sugar-comedown-headache would remain at bay, I sat down to enjoy this little romp with 60s misfits and 90s hair.
Jim Norman is just your typical school teacher moving back to the hometown he grew up in and where his older brother was brutally murdered in order to get a fresh start after the little “incident” with a student at the last school he taught at saw him get run out of Chicago. These are the points on which the entire movie spins.
When he was 9 Jim and his brother Wayne decided to take a shortcut to the library through a train tunnel, only to be stopped and harassed by a group of angry rejects from Grease. What started out as some mild intimidation at knife-point over some spare change in Jim’s pocket quickly escalated into a stabbing incident in which Wayne was accidentally murdered. As the four greasers tried to make their getaway a train decided it wanted to use the tunnel – problem was, none of the greasers could find the car key. In a swift move of karmic retribution three of the four were killed when the train plowed into the car, leaving Jim safe but otherwise brotherless and emotionally crippled.
Flash forward to our old future in 1991 and some very strange things are happening at Jim’s new teaching job. If 90s horror has taught me anything it’s that the American public school system is a fuck up, but even by those standards the dead shouldn’t be popping up to try and finish high school, which is what’s happening here. Every time one of Jim’s students mysteriously disappears one of the dead greasers magically appears in his class to take their place. At first Jim thinks it’s a coincidence, but it quickly becomes apparent that these three undead hooligans want an opportunity to relive the day of their deaths in hopes that they’ll be able to change the outcome.
And God help anyone or Jim’s only son who Jim’s used as an outlet for his internalised trauma for the past 27 years who tries to get in the greasers’ way…
Since this was a made-for-TV movie back in the day you can imagine that those in charge of making it weren’t exactly given pillow sacks full of money to hit one another with, but what they did get they put to good use.
Although any video store back in the day would’ve been right to put their copy in the horror section, Sometimes They Come Back… is really more a thriller with supernatural elements than an out-and-out horror. The movie doesn’t rely heavily on special effects (and where it does use them these are competent but in that particularly shiny way that only the 90s was able to pull off) and only uses makeup a handful of times to show the greasers in their undead form.
Outside of that there’s 90s hair and fashion sense aplenty, but largely the movie relies on atmosphere and tension to see itself through. This means that the whole film is quite tame by modern standards, but is still a lot of fun to watch if you can enjoy it for what it is at the time it was made.
Like I said, I had this movie on standby in order to aid my recovery and nestle me while my liver and kidneys slowly got rid of the excess sugar pumping through my system. In that way, it was exactly what I needed.
Sometimes They Come Back… isn’t an amazing movie, and those who don’t have an affinity for the time period will likely find it a bit dated. That said it’s a very competent movie that makes for ideal watching on a Sunday afternoon when you don’t really want to tax your brain too much. If you find it in a discount DVD bin somewhere I would suggest picking it up and keeping it aside for those moments when you just need that little bit of old-school horror realness in your life.
My Final Rating: 6 / 10
Buy Sometimes They Come Back… at Amazon.com