Punks reach back from grave in Stephen King tale


May 07, 1991|By David Zurawik | David Zurawik,Sun Television Critic

"Stephen King's Sometimes They Come Back" is a horror story for grown-ups.

This spooky film, to air at 9 tonight on WBAL-TV (Channel 11), depends more on teen thugs than on ghouls and murder for its impact. It pushes a bunch of the right buttons, the biggest of which is the fear adults have of gangs of boys who wear leather jackets and don't seem to care about anything at all.

Here's the story: A high school teacher, Jim Norman (Tim Matheson), returns to his hometown after 27 years away. When Norman was 9, he and his older brother, Wayne, were stopped by four punks in a car. Wayne and three of the punks were killed by a passing train.

The first part of the movie drags. It is filled with Norman having so many flashbacks to the night of the accident that you may suspect there is not enough plot to fill two hours. There isn't. This is a King short story, not a novel.

Things pick up a bit when Norman's students start dying in mysterious accidents or suicides. The dead students are replaced one by one by the punks -- or rather the spirits of the punks -- who were supposed to have died with Norman's brother.

The spirit-punks are not coming back because they heard such great things about Mr. Norman's "Western Civilization" course. They are hell-bent, so to speak, on big-time bully-boy threats and intimidation.

This is Grade "B" Stephen King with nothing-special special effects. There is only one shocking monster-face and no creepy-crawlies. But if Grade "A" horror fans need a hit of horror until Halloween, low-grade King is better than no King at all.

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