With four different stories and directors, Twilight Zone: The Movie is a mixed bag. But at least it gets better with each passing segment. John Landis’ (The Blues Brothers, An American Werewolf in London) segment is up first, dealing with a racist who suddenly finds himself pursued by Nazis and the Ku Klux Klan. It’s pretentious and anti-climactic, perhaps in part because some of the script was never filmed after actor Vic Morrow and two children were killed in an on-set accident. Even without the real-life tragedy, I can’t imagine the piece being any more interesting. Next up is Spielberg’s sugar-coated segment, about residents of a nursing home who get a magical chance to become children again. Scatman Crothers is very good in the piece, but without any weight to the flight of fancy, the piece just doesn’t add up to much.
Half-way through the movie, things get much better. Joe Dante (The Howling, Gremlins) delivers a visually stunning, spooky segment about a boy who can create his own reality. The boy lures unsuspecting adults into his household and bends them to his whims… or else. Dante conjures some surreal, cartoonish imagery in the piece — think Looney Tunes on acid. The final segment, starring John Lithgow as an airplane traveler on the verge of a nervous breakdown, is by far the best part of the movie. Lithgow sees a banshee destroying the plane’s engines, but can’t convince anyone else that it’s real, even as the plane starts to go down. It’s a terrific bit of suspense helmed by Road Warrior director George Miller.
If you can get past the Landis piece, you might enjoy Spielberg’s. But if you don’t like Dante’s or Miller’s, there’s probably something wrong with you. Look for Dan Aykroyd and Albert Brooks in the bookends, and prepare to soak in another fine, fine film score by the late, great Jerry Goldsmith.
Scott studied film and sociology at Indiana University and is currently the video producer for a large publishing company. He is the director of several independent films, including "House of Hope," "Off the Beaten Path," "The Day Joe Left," and "Found." For more about Scott, visit www.scottschirmer.com. Scott is also one of the principal organizers of the Dark Carnival Film Festival. (www.darkcarnivalfilmfest.com)