Directed by Tobe Hooper and co-written with Howard Goldberg, Spontaneous Combustion stars Brad Dourif and Cynthia Bain. Such a combination of quality makes this a hidden gem. Until I found it on Amazon, I’d never even heard of it and I consider myself a fan of Hooper and Dourif!
Released in 1990 but with the shimmer of an 80’s horror, Spontaneous Combustion has a lot of charm, a stellar performance from Brad Dourif and a story that harks back to 50’s era nuclear paranoia.
That’s not to say it isn’t a flawed movie because it is. The effects are very ropey. So much so that it’s unlikely that they looked any better when the movie was first released. Its pacing is also a bit muddled and the story is a bit too ‘conspiracy theory’ to really take seriously.
Not that a story about a man who has the power of pyrokinesis is a film to take seriously. Brad Dourif plays Sam, a nobody who makes the unfortunate discover that his entire life has been orchestrated by scientists and government agents of a nuclear test experiment his parents participated in.
As his rage grows, so does his powers with flames erupting from a wound on his arm. Anyone unlucky enough to get on his bad side find themselves becoming human torches.
Sam is a sympathetic character though. His entire life has been a lie and controlled by outside forces. Not only that but his abilities manifest when he is at his weakest and he has no control over them resulting in a few unfortunate deaths. Brad Dourif is excellent, as you would expect coming across both relatable and terrifying. Especially during the films finale.
Clever uses of lighting and simple effects are often when the movie looks its best. The scene where a smoking Sam talks to the man who has orchestrated his life is bathed in moonlight making it all the more sinister. Excellent stuff.
Fans of nuclear paranoia and conspiracies will feel right at home here but thanks to the 80’s sheen, it has plenty of appeal to horror fans too.