Twilight Zone: The Movie
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Twilight Zone: The Movie (DVD)
A highly anticipated release for fantasy fans in the summer of 1983, Twilight Zone: The Movie presents three adaptations of classic episodes (and one original story) from Rod Serling's anthology series by a quartet of the biggest directors in Hollywood. With Stephen Spielberg (also the film's co-producer), John Landis, George Miller (The Road Warrior, Happy Feet), and Joe Dante behind the camera for this portmanteau feature, one might expect Serling's episodes to positively gleam with star power, but the truth is that Twilight Zone: The Movie is a hit-and-miss affair. Landis opens with an amusing nod to the original series' pop-culture appeal with Dan Aykroyd and Albert Brooks riffing on their favorite episodes before a hair-raising shock finale; unfortunately, his second offering is a bland morality plan about racial tolerance that will forever be overshadowed by the accident that claimed the lives of star Vic Morrow and two child actors during shooting. Spielberg's take on George Clayton Johnson's "Kick the Can" looks lovely and is well performed by its cast (especially Scatman Crothers), but it struggles to bear up under the weight of treacley sentiment so common to the director's films at the time. Dante's version of Jerome Bixby's "It's A Good Life" (about a boy with monstrous powers) is rife with his trademark energy and black humor (and his cast of regular players, including Kevin McCarthy and William Schallert, strike the right balance of terror and comedy). But it's Miller's revamp of Richard Matheson's legendary "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet" that delivers the biggest payoff, thanks to John Lithgow's super-charged turn as a nervous airline passenger who's convinced he's seen a monster tampering with the plane's wing. Burgess Meredith (himself a veteran of the original TZ) provides narration; the widescreen DVD features no extras save for the original trailer and a remastered digital transfer. --Paul Gaita
- New digital transfer with remastered 5.1 soundtrack
- Theatrical trailer
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Twilight Zone: The Movie is an anthology picture based on the famous horror/sci-fi television show we all know and love. The four shorts presented here are a mixed bag of material. Some of it works beautifully and is quite scary, and some of it fails pretty horrendously. In order to properly talk about this film, it's important to note that rating this film as a whole is trickier than usual because of the varying quality of some of the segments. I can't entirely recommend the film just because some of the material is pretty bad, but the stuff that does work works amazingly. I have the same problem with the film Four Rooms, starring my favorite actor Tim Roth. I recommend the film and I think people should see it, but be prepared to wade through some pretty crappy material before getting to the good stuff. The weakest parts of the film are the first two parts, and so I shall explore them accordingly and treat them as their own separate films.
After an effective opening intro involving comedy geniuses Dan Akroyd and Albert Brooks, in a breathtaking sequence that starts off very funny and then slowly turns horrifying, ala' Scream, The first story, Time Out, tells the pathetic tale of Bill Conner (Vic Morrow) a bitter racist bigot who gets drunk and upsets a group of black gentlemen at a nearby table and then leaves the pub. After he leaves, he goes on a horror odyssey in which he ends up assuming the roles of various people he is racist against before finally meeting his ultimate fate. The idea is clever, in my opinion, and has plenty of potential, but I found the end result to be far too heavy-handed and ultimately it is ineffective and kinda weak. Morrow turns in an effective final performance, but it's not enough to really give the story any real weight. The worst part about it is how predictable it is and how there is little to it, ultimately. The story ends in a predictable manner, the irony is too abundant for anyone to really follow or even believe, and above all we are left with little to no reason to even care whether or not he learns anything or gets his comeuppance. It could have been helped if the story had more interesting visuals, more surprises, more shocks, and less heavy-handedness. We are left with a message out of an after school special about the dangers of racism and prejudice, and we've seen it a million times before. I don't think that Landis could have directed the material any better, however. I think he probably should have just re-wrote the script and tried to find another approach. After such an effective opening scene, this segment just feels even more weak. I'd give it a 4 out of 10.
After that, however, we get a segment that makes Time Out look like a classic. Kick the Can, directed by Steven Spielberg, represents Spielberg at his absolute worst. I love Spielberg and I think he's a wonderful filmmaker and producer, but when people talk about him being sappy, cheap, manipulative, and corny, they're talking about this segment. It is the worst thing that he's ever made. Scatman Crothers is the lead in it, and I hope to god he got paid good money to show his face in this because this is just trite, inconsistent material that I can't even bring myself to write about. It's a huge step down from the original episode, I'll say that much. It lacks the energy and the understated beauty of it. A bunch of bitter elderly people are deteriorating at an old folk's home and some magic man shows up and makes the young again. Then they decide being young sucks so they get old again except one resident who stays being a child and escapes out a window while this mean old man wants to go with him. Then he plays kick the can. The end. The segment is so badly made that I used to fall asleep watching it when I was little out of boredom. I had never seen the second half of the film throughout much of my childhood because of this damn segment. It wasn't until I was about nine that I finally sat through the entire picture. I was unaware of all the crazy monsters ans stuff that appear at the end, and it's because of this damn story. I don't know what it is about this story, but it just doesn't resonate with me in any way. It's competently shot and Scatman Crothers does good work, as usual. I'm a child at heart too. I often purposefully seek out films about childhood because I feel like I can relate to them more personally than most other stories. I'm writing a coming-of-age novel as I type this. This story offered me nothing, and I got less than nothing out of it. I give it a 2 out of 10 because it is this story that makes me not want to really recommend the overall film. So yeah, 2 out of 10.
So then we take an enormous step up in quality from the disastrous second story to a third story that is quite spellbinding and surprising. Approaching, though not succeeding, Tobe Hooper in it's quality, Joe Dante's adaptation of It's a Good Life is quite enjoyable, though flawed. Dante opts to abandon suspense in favor of elaborate special effects. The approach actually work pretty well for the most part up until the very end when it looses steam and starts to grow tiresome. This kid with supernatural powers torments the adults around him in a strange halfway house, and an innocent woman is mixed up in the madness after accidentally hitting him with her car in a scene that is more hilarious than probably intended. What can I say? The effects are great, the characters are fun to watch and suitably off-kilter, and the visual style of the story itself is full of spectacle and flash. The story falls apart at the end and ultimately makes all the hijinks seem kind of pointless, but there are some disturbing and twisted ideas put forth here that will more than satisfy fans of the macabre and the morbid. The boy is believably creepy, but retains a sort of innocence throughout that actually makes the effects more chilling. The chaos comes from the mind of a child, and in some ways these ideas are more horrifying in their simplicity than the idea of a masked killer going around chopping people up. There's even a brief appearance from one of the most sadistic cartoons I've ever seen involving a little dog being tortured into joining some sort of shady group. It's not as good as the original episode. It doesn't even tap it. The original is one of the best episodes of Twilight Zone, and in comparison to that this tale is weak. However, when taken on it's own terms it's actually pretty insane and effective in it's own weird way. I give this story a 6 out of 10 due to it's effectiveness, noting that it's not as suspenseful as the original and that it does eventually grow tiresome.
Then we come to the best part of the film, finally. Terror at 20,000 Feet, directed by George Miller, who directed two of the greatest films ever made (The Road Warrior and Lorenzo's Oil) and starring the scariest actor alive, John Lithgow. This story is scary as hell. It's atmospheric, it's dark, it's stomach-churning in it's intensity, and, above all, it tops the original. The story tells of a man who is deathly afraid of airplane flights who is already in panic mode as the tale begins. He sees a monster on the wing of the plane outside, causing damage to the exterior of the craft. Nobody will believe him, so he is forced to take matters into his own hands and confront his ultimate fear. The story is from his perspective, and the chaotic and dark atmosphere throughout the film already makes this segment something special in that we care and identify with this man. The original story starred William Shatner in one of his best performances. The images of the monster on the wing of the plane are engraved in pop culture as well as in the minds of many many children who grew up with the original show. It's one episode that will never be easy to top. Miller manages to do it gracefully, however, and watching it really did make me feel like I was Lithgow. These are the kinds of horror tales that take a lot of effort, style, and courage to really pull off, and Lithgow is never afraid of losing whatever dignity he even slightly had from the get go. He is one actor that I greatly admire, and this is one of his most enjoyable romps. The story is highly unpleasant and disturbing, but it also features the best effects work in the entire production. You won't be able to not feel sorry for this poor man, and by the time it ends you may likely be drenched in sweat. This story is effectively delivered and ends with a bang, allowing the film to be memorably creepy and haunting in the way the show was. Fans won't want to miss this one. I give this story an 8 out of 10, and combining all the ratings together results in the score located down below.
In that movie, nothing surprised me, everything was evident and desperatly predictable, the stories are stories for very young children and told that way, the actors play is desperately flat and incredible. Nothing psychological at all, nothing from a strange dimension, nothing really frightened and obsessive as the Twilight have known to make.
WARNING : Twilight Zoine movie is not Twilight Zone series. No link at all between the masterpiece and the poor hommage made by the film. I do not recommend it even to my worst ennemies.