Spontaneous Combustion

JANUARY 2, 2008


Leave it to Tobe Hooper to make a movie about people suddenly bursting into flames boring, but that’s exactly what he did with Spontaneous Combustion, a film which STARS Brad Dourif (there’s a very VERY small number of films that can bear that claim) and yet doesn’t give him anything fun to do until the film’s finale, during which he’s covered in makeup anyway.

I think this movie features the longest prologue in cinema history. It’s a full 22 minutes long, for a 95 minute movie. It also features Brian Bremer, who has to be the worst actor I have ever seen in a theatrically released film. No wonder the only other thing I remember him being in was Silent Night Deadly Night 5, where he played the Pinocchio thing. A block of wood is about the best this guy can hope for. The chick playing his Jackie O-ish wife is a bit better, and a quick check of IMDb confirmed that she was indeed Evan’s mom in Superbad. That thankless role, which largely revolved around her glorious rack, is still probably more appealing to her ego than this goddamn thing.

Jackie's Strength, indeed.

But back to the main problem with the film: it’s fucking boring as hell. Dourif gets mad at someone and he goes “NRRRRR!” and badly animated flames fly out of whatever’s nearby and the person dies. OR he has a mild disagreement with someone and they die later on. For a “hero”, he kills a lot of people who doesn’t deserve to die, including a couple of cops. At one point he kills John Landis (what the hell is HE doing in this?) simply for not connecting his phone call. So we don’t root for him, should we root for his girlfriend? She seems nice. Oh wait, she’s involved in the conspiracy too. As is his ex-wife (doesn’t this guy date outside the whole nuclear government program circle?). So a bunch of not very interesting people are also all evil. Great.

It's also bafflingly written, and not in an amusing way. At one point, Dourif calls a psychic, and becomes amazed when he himself reveals his mother's name (rendering the psychic rather inconsequential). "How would I know that?" Dourif exclaims. Maybe because it's your mother, asshole, and at some point in the 35 years prior, you took the time to learn it??? There's also another scene where we can clearly hear a heated argument in the background, much more interesting than the main scene, but the film never elaborates on it. Also, the finale features THREE people shooting flames at each other, before one of them dies, one of them loses her powers, and another falls into a blue circle that appears in the ground. Whatever, movie.

The thing is, reading all that you might think that the movie was awesome. But it’s not, at all. It’s repetitive, needlessly overplotted, and ultimately pointless. Even Hooper’s The Mangler offered some ridiculous thrills and decent gore... this has nothing other than Dourif impersonating Bill Paxton at the end of Near Dark:

Now I know why this movie (one of NINE films released in 1990 in which Dourif appeared) was only released in 50 theaters. In fact I’m amazed it didn’t just go direct to video; Hooper’s Toolbox Murders remake was far superior in every way and that didn’t play theatrically. I can’t imagine watching this in a theater, since it’s of the same quality (in both technical and creative terms) as a Sci-Fi original. Even Firestarter 2, which WAS a Sci-Fi original (or at least, premiered as one) was more worthy of a theatrical run.

What say you?


  1. I'm a HUGE Dourif fan, and even I couldn't get behind this one. Whatever drugs Hooper was on turing TCM, The Funhouse, and Lifeforce were totally worn off by this time, it's clear, and he never reached that "high" again.

    Luckily I got this on a double feature with Brian Yuzna's excellent FX-fest Society, otherwise I'd have felt majorly ripped off. (Speaking of which, that's one you should review; along with another 1/2 DVD double feature from the same Anchor Bay Double Feature dvd series, Possession by Andrzej Żuławski. See it.)

  2. Yeah that's actually the version I have, with Society on the other side... i saw it when i was like 17 but, of course, can't remember anything except the girl with her ass in the front.


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