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Spontaneous Combustion (1990)

Brad Dourif , Cynthia Bain , Tobe Hooper  |  R |  DVD
3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)

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Product Details

  • Actors: Brad Dourif, Cynthia Bain, Jon Cypher, William Prince, Melinda Dillon
  • Directors: Tobe Hooper
  • Writers: Tobe Hooper, Howard Goldberg
  • Producers: Arthur M. Sarkissian, Henry Bushkin, Jerry Lambert, Jim Rogers, Sanford Hampton
  • Format: Closed-captioned, Color, Widescreen, NTSC
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: R (Restricted)
  • Studio: Starz / Anchor Bay
  • DVD Release Date: October 8, 2002
  • Run Time: 97 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B00006JDRY
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #136,917 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Spontaneous Combustion" on IMDb

Editorial Reviews

This offbeat thriller from Tobe Hooper (THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE) stars Brad Dourif as Sam Kramer, a young man whose parents died after participating in a top secret radiation experiment during the 1950s. Around the time Sam discovers his parent's fate, he begins to have bouts of anger that seemingly cause other people to burst into flames. Realizing this may be some sort of leftover effect of the radiation he was exposed to as a child, Sam is not surprised that his newfound powers begin to attract the attention of the government.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars July 7, 2014
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
excellent movie if ur into Sci-Fi movies,, also n excellent seller also
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2 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Pyromania over the top! December 31, 2002
The silliness begins in 1955 with newlyweds Brian and Peggy Bell undergoing a secret government experiment to give humans an increased resistance to radiation. As an unfortunate side effect, (don't all nuclear experiments have icky side effects?)their newborn child has developed the ability to cause people to burst into flame. Alas, Brian and Peggy are our first victims and our first hint that this is not going to be a special-effects masterpiece.
Jump to the present-day (late 80's) and our little firestarter is all grown up in the form of university student, Sam Kramer (Brad Dourif). Sam's opening scene is a school play audition wherein his performance is so pathetically bad that even his loving fiance, Lisa (Cynthia Bain) tells him not to quit his day job. If this scene was meant to ease the audience into Dourif's unconventional manner of acting by poking fun at him, it doesn't work, because we'll get to cringe a whole lot more as Dourif spends the rest of the film screaming and bugging his eyes out in an over-the-top performance that, for many other actors, would be a career-ending one. Even if this movie had a decent director, Dourif is woefully miscast and should really stick to roles that welcome complete psychosis like Grima Wormtongue (The Two Towers) and Piter De Vries (Dune).
Cynthia Bain doesn't fare much better, which is a shame because she does show some promise and is one of the better actors in the movie. Indeed, seeing her smiling face early on, while dressed in some attractive, if outdated outfits is one of the few bright points of the film. Unfortunatley, the screenplay soon has her bouncing between moderate to extreme hysteria, reminiscent of the closing scenes of Pumpkinhead, but without the believable motivation.
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6 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars CAUTION: Contents of this movie may be hot! October 25, 2002
By chatchi
spontaneous combustion
Function: noun
: self-ignition of combustible material through chemical action (as oxidation) of its constituents -- called also spontaneous ignition

The thought of inanimate objects -- such as a pile of rags, or an old collection of tools -- spontaneously bursting into flames, is terrifying. Well, imagine if there was such a thing as spontaneous HUMAN combustion! Pretty scary, huh?

For Sam, it's not only scary, it's reality.

Sam always knew that there was something wrong with him, but he couldn't quite figure out the origin of his problem. After years of research, Sam discovers that his parents had been used in a number of atomic-weapons experiments shortly before he was born. The government was attempting to engineer the perfect weapon for war. When the project fails, the government hides all evidence of the project, and it becomes a tightly-kept secret.

Or did it?


As a result of Sam's parents' repeated exposure to radiation, both of their genetic codes were changed, eventually being passed onto their first (and only) child, Sam. Because of the radiation running through his veins, Sam discovers that he has the uncanny ability to make things AND PEOPLE burst into flames.

Talk about getting "hot under the collar"!

"Spontaneous Combustion" is a masterful horror/sci-fi movie by one of the most talented filmmakers in the industry - Tobe Hooper ("The Texas Chainsaw Massacre", "Poltergeist").
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1 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Just Plain Weird August 25, 2005
I remembered seeing this when I was younger and really freaking out over the carousel scene where the parents are in the bed all hot for each other. I mean, really HOT. Flaming hot in fact. That scared the (blank) out of me!

Now that I am no longer a wee lad, but am a bit older and wiser, I watched this movie with great interest. One word: "Huh?" This is the freakiest movie ever. And I don't mean that in a good way. It is Dumb with a capital D. Brad Dourif is weird, man. It freaks me out to even look at the guy. And the story is really lame. A psychic radio show guy gets set on fire through the phone. Sam's mentor turnes out to be an EVIL MADMAN who is trying to set him up with his sister/girlfriend Lisa so that together they will breed and create the ULTIMATE SECRET GOVERNMENT WEAPON so that this crazy guy can have THE ULTIMATE POWER. Uh, sorry. You kind of lost me back there somewhere...

The ending is... uh, funky. Some bad special effects with a memorable last line: "Lisa, I can take your fire." Then the movie just ends. What? It just stops. Like, "Okay that's it. You can all go home now. Sorry for wasting your time."

This movie would have had a great theme song if they had used The Doors' "Light My Fire". I can definitely see telling Cynthia Bain to "Come on baby light my fire." I give this movie 2 stars instead of 1 because... well I'm not sure why really. I guess I just like to witness Brad Dourif's flame-sprouting dementia.
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