Movies based on Stephen King novels and short stories are a dime a dozen, but it’s pretty well documented that King’s track record for his adaptation has never been spectacular, and it’s only gotten worse in the years since he’s starting embracing television. After watching “Sometimes They Come Back,” however, one wonders why he opted to make it a TV move rather than a theatrical release; it’s actually one of the better films to have been based on one of his works.
Tim Matheson plays Jim Norman, an idealistic young teacher who returns to his hometown after a several-year absence – now with a wife (Brooke Adams) and son (Robert Hy Gorman) in tow – in order to teach at the local high school. The reason for his departure is an ominous one: his older brother was stabbed to death by a group of local hooligans, who promptly got their just desserts by having their car be hit by an oncoming train while they were still inside. Now, he’s back in town, but being older and wiser doesn’t mean isn’t still haunted by the events of his past…and we do mean that literally.
The second he’s back in town, Jim begins to find himself flashing back to the day of his brother Wayne’s death, and it only get worse when it turns out that the ghosts of the punks who killed Wayne have found their way back to town and into his classroom. They’re “up from Milford,” as they put it, and to make room for themselves in the class, they have to kill other students; unfortunately, no-one seems to see their death car, as it were, except for the victims and, naturally, Jim himself. It’s a horrifying situation for Jim, and it gets worse as the local law enforcement begin to suspect him in the deaths of his students; eventually, he realizes that the only way out of the situation is to confront the demons head on.
“Sometimes They Come Back” is an enjoyable flick that keeps the suspense level pretty high throughout, but it’s also the kind of film that’s best appreciated when one turns their mind off and simply accepts the premise. Otherwise, you’ll be asking questions about the consistency of the ghost’s rules…like, say, why they can be seen when they’re in the classroom but not when they’re tooling down the highway in their muscle car. Just don’t worry about it; just be creeped out.
But, y’know, honestly, I’m not entirely sure why “Sometimes They Come Back” has suddenly gotten a reissue; it might look better than it did in its previous release, but it certainly doesn’t have anything in the way of special features. Still, if you’re a King fan and this one’s flown under your radar for all these years, you might as well enjoy a version that looks pristine. Just stay away from the two sequels, which have precious little to do with either the original film or, indeed, anything King has ever written.