Teen-age thugs back from the dead terrorize a high-school teacher who discovers how horrible it is to go home again in a tale from the ubiquitous Stephen King, "Sometimes They Come Back," airing at 9 tonight on Channels 2 and 8.
The show is a psychological potboiler adapted from a short story by King that mixes potions of "Night of the Living Dead" and "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" with a touch of flavoring from "Blackboard Jungle."
It's a perfect segue to bedtime nightmares, as only King junkies can appreciate, and there are two galvanizing, horrific sequences featuring a hurtling train and a stalled '63 sedan in a narrow, dark railroad tunnel. The thrills in these scenes are a tribute to the special effects and the taut direction of Tom McLoughlin (from an economical script by Lawrence Konner and Mark Rosenthal).
Tim Matheson stars as a young history teacher returning with his wife and son (Brooke Adams and Robert Hy Gorman) to his leafy hometown (the show was shot in Liberty and Rocheport, Mo.). But memories compel the haunted Matheson character to relive the brutal murder of his older brother, which he witnessed 27 years earlier.
The pasty, smirky villains, a leather-jacketed trio of switchblade-wielding joyriders (led by the charismatic Robert Rusler), were also killed in the aftermath of the murder but they show up in the teacher's class anyway, grinning ear to ear. They have come back, from "the mid-realm" of death, and they want revenge.
The show is a tight, moody work, just the ticket with a glass of hot milk to tide you over the noises outside your house. As a bonus, the classroom scenes are tense and boisterous and nicely catch the nervousness of a teacher in his first week on the job.