Spontaneous Combustion


Year: 1990
Synopsis: A film about a man learning he and others were the supposedly accidental product of an anti-radiation experiment, and the opposing conspiracies that shaped their lives.

An ambitiously layered plot about pyrokinetic individuals. Perhaps Tobe Hooper’s most unusual film. Sufficiently shocking body horror elements, as the “super power” is well balanced by those negative physical effects. Brad Dourif in particular plays his antihero role with perfectly controlled camp.

It’s ambition is a bit beyond its implementation and budget. The plot degrades a bit by the end. Perhaps a bit too dramatically written at times as well.

This film has a special place in my memory. It was the better part of two decades between the first and second time I watched this, and it was objectively remarkable what I did and didn’t remember correctly. Dourif’s ancient car is red but I remembered it as grey, for example. His character was indeed rather gray morally and physically by the end. The film itself plays with the concept of memory through the hard to control fire making power, and that is rather unique. It also has many elements that became much more common in comic book/superhero films and shows since the early 2000s: limitations and drawbacks of the power, property destruction, psychological issues. Dourif’s imperfect character becomes as dark as the darkest of antiheroes common today. Practically ahead of its time narratively, this film has aged surprisingly well.

Rotten Tomatoes

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