Strange Bacon’s Stephen King Marathon Part IV: Sometimes They Come Back

Everywhere you go, you’ll find a great deal of people who totally abhor their hometown, to the point where they will go out of their way to avoid even talking about it, or going near in at any time. The usual explanation is a poor childhood experience, and Sometimes They Come Back; a film about a high school teacher returning to his hometown, is no exception to that. For the point of the plot, Jim Norman, as a result of several angry outburst in a previous job, is only able to find an education job in his hometown, with a principal who doesn’t like him. If you think this seems like an unlikely circumstance, considering his hometown is small and there are approximately 26,000 high schools around the United States, you’re not the only one. It bothered the hell out of me at the beginning. But it bears resemblance to the manner in which the popular TV series Justified began, and for the sake of the story, King is permitted to take some liberties with logical probability.

“Everything burns.” -Really, I thought it was “Everything floats?”

The movie makes no secret of the fact that the increasingly disturbed, emotional and unreliable protagonist; Jim Norman (Tim Matheson) had suffered through the loss of his big brother years before in this town, and had no desire to come back. Norman struggles to maintain his composure in the classroom and draws the ire of his principal, as well as many of the school jocks (who, somewhat stereotypically, are looking for a free grade for academic eligibility).

He is haunted by memories of the night of his brother’s death. Having been ambushed in a railroad tunnel by leather clad greasers (The bad kind, not The Outsiders romanticized kind), Jimmy was given the opportunity to run and took it. He never saw his brother again. But 27 years later, the members of the leather-clad gang, looking not a day older than the day they attacked, begin arriving in Jim Norman’s classroom.

I would suggest biking off the side of the road, but what do I know?

If that last point looks like something you’ve seen before, it doesn’t stop there. This movie is stuffed to the brim with stereotypical lines, concepts, and somewhat tired takes on the cyclical nature of time (If time went in a circle, you’d get tired too). But it is important to consider that this film, released in 1991, is likely the trendsetter, and in that regard deserves a place in the “Classic horror fiction” category. Despite mediocre production and shooting, and a couple of antagonists who just won’t stop giggling (trust me, it’s annoying after a while), it should provide you enough to get through the hour and a half successfully without breaking the DVD.

Putting Robert Romano in a leather jacket and giving him an all-inclusive sense of humor is kind of scary, but perhaps not in the manner King intended.

I’m not a fan of giving movies numerical rankings, but I will say that this one, while not one of my King favorites certainly ranks far ahead of The Langoliers, and Rose Red. I gave it significant bonus points, because my interpretation of it was as an allegory for dealing with death and survivor’s guilt. Very often one who has experienced death of a close friend or family member would like nothing more than to go back and to set things right, given more than the one fleeting opportunity they had to make a difference with no second chance that life typically presents us with. If this was indeed what King was going for, then I believe he deserves a great deal of credit, and despite not sporting a sexy soundtrack or visual aesthetics, makes this one a decent watch.

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