Tim Matheson plays a teacher who returns to his hometown after many years with his wife (Brooke Adams) and their young son (Robert Hy Gorman). He’s employed at a local high school where football is favoured, and Matheson is supposed to let academically lazy jocks like Chadd Nyerges’ Chip pass nonetheless. Meanwhile, Matheson begins to be haunted by flashbacks to his childhood, especially an incident about 30 years ago whereby his older brother (Chris Demetral) was stabbed by young hooligans in a railway tunnel, before a train subsequently killed the thugs. All of a sudden, Matheson’s pupils start dying one by one. And this is when it gets really weird, as whenever someone dies, one of the bullies from long ago seem to take the dead student’s place. After a while, it seems like the whole gang has been reunited. And they want revenge. So is this all in Matheson’s head? Or have the punks really come back to get even with Matheson for perceived grievances? Duncan McLeod plays a senile, retired cop, Robert Rusler plays the chief menace, and William Sanderson plays a frightened, long-time local resident whose help Matheson attempts to enlist.
Not one of the better Stephen King adaptations, this flat 1991 TV movie from director Tom McLoughlin (Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives”) never quite comes off. The restrictions of TV see the material neutered, whilst the screenplay appears to be a hodge-podge of numerous other King stories, but done poorly.
There isn’t enough emphasis on horror to work for that crowd, nor is the drama interesting or effective enough to work for those who preferred “Stand By Me” and “The Shawshank Redemption” to “Salem’s Lot” and “Carrie”. In the end, it joins the likes of “The Dark Half”, “Needful Things”, and “Dolores Claiborne”, in the ‘not awful, but not memorable’ category of King adaptations. If you want to see a Stephen King story balancing horror and drama in a way that works on the small screen, watch the underrated version of “IT” (The cackling punk delinquents in this film are similar to those in “IT”, for instance).
For my money, the ghostly apparitions are inconsistently conceived in the film. Some people can see the car, some can’t. Some can see the thugs, some can’t. Those who can see one can’t necessarily see the other. So the car isn’t exactly a cloak of invisibility, otherwise you’d see the punks pretending to drive a car that isn’t there. Their sudden appearance in Matheson’s class one by one, meanwhile, is clunkily handled, though a clever idea in theory. It’s a bit of a botch-job, really, and the script is undernourished overall.
Tim Matheson isn’t all that much of an actor, but he fits in reasonably well as a King stand-in (despite a godawful mullet-thing he has going on up top), though the talented Brooke Adams is severely wasted as his worried wife. Useless cameo by William Sanderson playing a good guy for once but barely seen (nice cameo by Duncan McLeod, though), and Robert Rusler (where has he disappeared to since this film?) was surely a good 15 years too old to be playing high-schoolers at this point!
Aside from some really nice lighting and fog, I found myself not really giving a crap here. Don’t bother with this one, especially if you’re looking for horror. Forgettable, dull, and familiar.