Spontaneous Combustion (1990)

Posted: 15/06/2017 in Trash movies
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Well, well, well, if it isn’t our old friend Tobe Hooper. After watching Invaders From Mars I thought his directing couldn’t go any lower. Boy I was wrong. Sure there are many people who claim Tobe is capable director but we can’t take their opinion for serious because they most probably had suffered brain damage or are having any other mental disability. So trust my words: He ain’t good.

As you already can see Tobe Hooper’s latest fiasco is a work of nonsense called Spontaneous Combustion. As the film opens, a typical 50s couple is being used in government experiments involving a serum that may or may not immunize the human body against the effects of radiation. The couple is exposed to an hydrogen bomb explosion (which is displayed with archive footage), then monitored to observe the effects of the drug. It seems to have worked, and – except for one complication (the woman has become pregnant) – the experiment is called a success. The child is born bearing a odd birthmark on his hand. Something like stigmata. Nevertheless, parents are as happy as a clam. That will change soon when they burn to death after nurse took their baby (named David). The deaths – in which a mysterious man named Orlander (played by William Prince) seems to be involved – are declared the result of spontaneous human combustion.Furthermore Orlander seems to be happy about poor people’s fate and doesn’t hesitates to show everyone how much he is thrilled with it.

Could it ever been the more evil scientist than this man?

Now we are shifted to the present day (whichever that might be). We see young drama teacher Sam (played by Brad Dourif) who bears the same birthmark as a baby. Sam has been divorced for 2 years and now he found new love Lisa (played by Cynthia Bain). All is going relatively normal until he receives an
anonymous package in which he finds an old watch. After that, things are starting getting strange. Sam’s finger lights like a match, things around start to burn with no apparent reason and he even shoots poorly drawn lighting from his palm. Also, while looking at fire, he gets flashbacks to his childhood and parents. By now, even the dumbest among you could realize that Sam is actually baby David.

Firm handshake

Sam realizes that something is very wrong when two of the people he recently had contact with burned to death while they were alone at home. He decides to call parapsychologist who is holding his regular radio show. Parapsychologist sensed something and hung up the phone in fear. Sam really went mad about this so he engaged in debate with one of the radio station workers (played by John Landis). As you can guess, debate ended up with young John Landis burned to death while eating a sandwich. Keep in mind that they are talking over the phone. No physical contact whatsoever. Also, we found out that mark on Sam’s hand is used to produce fire. Pretty handy when you want to light a cigarette.


It turns out that Lisa was sent by Orlander to get closer to Sam on purpose. Her parents burned to death as well and Orlander was one who raised her. To get to the bottom of this Sam visits nurse Nina (played by Melinda Dillon) from atomic shelter who was holding him when he burned his parents to death. There she explains to him that the point of the experiment never was testing atomic shelter but anti-radiation drugs instead. Sam finally is starting to see connection between mysterious Lew Orlander with everything that is happening. Orlander also presented himself as a grandfather of Sam’s ex-wife Rachel (played by. It seems that experiment never was over so Orlander wanted to keep his eyes on events. Anyway, the moment after Sam had departed, Orlander’s errand boy Dr. Marsh (played by John Cypher) came in and killed Nina. I understand that tracks need to be covered, but why now after so many years?

There are sparkles between them

Sam now suspects everyone to be a part of project “Samson”. He raged at Lisa over the phone which had a flaming arm coming out of mirror for result. Also Lisa started to burn people around. Sam confronts Orlander (a government contractor for nuclear shelters) who explained to him that every moment of his life was planned by Orlander himself in order to create the cleanest killing system on the Earth (it doesn’t look like that to me keeping in mind in what state is Sam now). OF course, Sam wasn’t satisfied with explanation so he burned Orlander to death.

Mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the hottest of them all

Rachel is after Lisa to finish the job. Lisa ignites herself after killing Dr. Marsh while Rachel tries to finish her off with fire extinguisher (?!). But Sam comes to the rescue and that’s when all the hell breaks loose. Awful special effects are coming one after another until Sam disintegrates in a manner of alien abduction. Since picture speaks 1000 words (and video even more) I’ll leave it up to you to make any sense out of ending scene.


Conclusion: Spontaneous Combustion is a very sad horror effort. The whole thing is just ludicrous, from the awful acting to the laughable FX to the stupid plot. Brad Dourif absolutely sucked as the lead and all the supporting cast were only marginally worse. Scenes of death are repetitive. It would seem that Hooper wanted to make his own version of films such as Scanners and Firestarter and so we end up with a film with a couple of good ideas and a whole load more that are borrowed from other films. Put it all together and you get a messy, boring film that most people would do well to miss!

Trivia: Recently the world was shaken by the news that Tobe Hooper had been beaten up by his 38 years younger girlfriend Rebecca. Now, I don’t know the exact reason for it, but if, by any chance, movies such as this one or The Mangler were the reason for Rebecca to punch his old face, then you girl have our full


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