Twilight Zone: The Movie Joe Dante, John Landis, George Miller and Steven Spielberg

Twilight Zone: The Movie Joe Dante, John Landis, George Miller and Steven Spielberg

Twenty-four years after its release, Twilight Zone: The Movie loses its DVD virginity without anything more than two trailers — a disappointment considering the names involved in this collaborative feature. An extension of the popular Rod Serling-hosted television series that began in 1959, The Movie (narrated by Burgess Meredith) gained more attention when it was released in 1983 because of a fatal on-set accident that killed actor Vic Morrow and two young children than for the film itself. In truth, it deserved just that considering its recycling of three stories from the original series and inability to deliver that all-important spine chill. That said, the conscious prologue with Dan Aykroyd and Albert Brooks is a rousing intro, with a teasing build-up that climaxes in a jarring "wanna see something scary?” reveal, setting up the movie’s steady decline. The first segment (directed by Landis) stars the late Morrow as a bigot who walks into his own time-shifting private hell of hatred, occupying the bodies of hate crime victims: a Jew in Nazi Germany; a black man at a Ku Klux Klan cross-burning; and a Vietnamese soldier in front of the U.S. army. It’s distressing at first, but becomes predictable once he falls into his second "hell.” Spielberg’s segment centres on a retirement home where an aged newcomer (Scatman Crothers) gives his co-residents the ability to experience childhood again, but it’s too warm and fluffy. He exploits the feel-goodness of E.T. a little too much, which sacrifices the story’s intent. Dante’s segment is a twisted tale about a woman who befriends a boy with the ability to change reality with his imagination. Enslaving his family in a house of cartoon madness, Dante’s contribution is a visual triumph but suffers from a major disconnect brought on by the tale’s vivid incoherence. Finally there’s Miller’s entry, one of the series’ best known chapters, famously parodied on The Simpsons, as was Dante’s. John Lithgow plays a panicky traveller on board a plane who sees a gremlin destroying the engine. No one else believes him, leaving him questioning his sanity while trying to prevent the oncoming death of everyone aboard. It doesn’t achieve the same impact as the original, mostly because of its reluctance to build suspense and concentrate more on special effects. Still, Twilight Zone: The Movie is a faithful film adaptation with a few moments of eerie goodness, but overall hardly matches what the series once offered so often. (Warner)