Human Combustion

SPONTANEOUS COMBUSTION. 1989

Director: Tobe Hooper

Reviewed by Paghat the Ratgirl



I love Brad Douriff, yum yum sexy guy. Such pretty eyes. Spontaneous Combustion (1989) provided him with a wonderful leading role. Brad's a great character actor, but has always deserved more leading man roles, even if "only" in horror films.

That awful movie Urban Legends (1998) has Brad in a cameo as a gas station attendant who tries to warn a woman there's a psycho hunched down in her back seat. The fact that Brad never came back on-screen after this one-minute role (he does reappear in a newspaper clipping) is I believe the reason the film is almost universally hated, as the story never comes alive except during his brief appearance.

Human CombustionIf he'd reappeared near the very end, doing something heroic maybe, we'd've left the theater all happy to have seen Brad Douriff & overlooking the fact that the rest of the film stank like liquid poo squirting out of a donkey's rump.

Spontaneous Combustion gives him plenty of screen time, & the film is "on fire" so to speak whenever he is present. This is one of my favorite Tobe Hooper films & favorite Brad Douriff performances.

I was chided in a horror film e-group for liking it so much, but so far as I'm concerned, anyone who hates this one isn't thinking clearly. It might be misjudged because of its extremely low budget. Or it might be disliked by someone hoping for the mindless gore of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) & totally disappointed to get from Tobe a real story with some human tragedy & emotion in it.

The day Sam was born, his parents burst into flame, dead by spontaneous human combustion. The orphaned newborn grows up not knowing that he is the offspring of an experiment that went horribly wrong.

A power in him emerges that he cannot control. When he is enraged, he can cause human beings to ignite. The government is after him; he is a menace even to his own girlfriend; & as if that weren't bad enough for the poor chump, he is transforming into some kind of atomic monster.

Sam's angst & the certainty of his doom are as sorrowful as they are horrific. This is horror with a heart, & after enjoying every minute of it leading up to the climax, it has a closing two-seconds that made me gasp with emotion instead of horror.

I found it to be a wonderful film totally at odds with average thematic materials for horror. Or, a throwback to the Universal classics where the monsters were the characters for whom one could feel the most compassion.

copyright by Paghat the Ratgirl



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