Turn Back the Clock
Television Miniseries / DVD
Distributed By: Paramount Pictures and CBS DVD
Reviewed by Melissa Minners
When I searched for The Stand, one of my favorite made for television movies adapted from a Steven King novel, I couldnít find it at first. When I did find it, it was in the form of a special Steven King trilogy gift pack containing The Stand, The Langoliers and a now defunct television series, Golden Years. I had read The Langoliers, one of four novellas published in the book Four Past Midnight, in the early 1990s. I vaguely remembered seeing it on television, but couldnít remember whether I liked it. Well, I just bought a DVD containing three separate Steven King tales - of course, I was going to check out more than just The Stand!
The Langoliers begins at the Los Angeles Airport (LAX) as people are boarding a flight for Boston. As the flight heads to Boston, a number of passengers on board fall asleep, when they wake up, they discover that the plane is still flying, but most of the passengers are gone, leaving in their wake a number of personal items like jewelry, Walkmans, moneyÖpacemakers. Thatís freaky enough, but when the surviving passengers unlock the cockpit, they soon discover that there is no one flying the plane.
Fortunately, one of the remaining passengers is Captain Brian Engle (David Morse), a pilot flying to Boston to pay his last respects to his ex-wife who was killed in a fire. Other survivors include Laurel Stevenson (Patricia Wettig), a teacher flying to Boston in search of adventure; Bob Jenkins (Dean Stockwell), a mystery writer; Nick Hopewell (Mark Lindsey Chapman), an assassin; Don Gaffney (Frankie Faison), a machinist; Rudy Warwick (Baxter Harris), a perpetually hungry businessman; Bethany Simms (Kimber Riddle), a teenager flying to Boston to live with her Aunt and possibly enter rehab; Albert Kaussner (Christopher Collet), a violinist on his way to the Berklee School for Music; Dinah Bellman (Kate Maberly), a young blind girl with interesting abilities who is traveling to a hospital for a chance at the ability to see and Craig Toomey (Bronson Pinchot), an investment banker on the verge of a nervous breakdown.
Upon finally landing the plane, the passengers discover that they are alone. There is no one in the airport. As they explore the airport, they soon realize that everything is strangely flat here - sounds, food, drinks, even matches. While most of the passengers struggle to understand what is going on, Mr. Toomey struggles with his own inner demons. One such demon, his father, continuously haunts him, warning him that about the langoliers - fast, toothy creatures who eat up all the lazy people in the world. His explanation for the disappearance of an entire population is summed up in his belief that the langoliers are a real entity.
At first, the passengers chalk up his words to the rantings of a deranged mind, but soon even they start to wonder as they begin to hear a strange crackling sound that gets louder and louder the longer they stay at the airport. Could it be that the langoliers are coming for them?
When I read the novella, I found the concept interesting - traveling through time rifts and monsters that eat up the past. I also marvelled at the incredible amount of drama and sense of urgency Steven King was able to infuse in the short story. The story is still there in the made-for-television movie, but it seems a bit flat, much like everything in the Bangor Airport where the remaining passengers end up. Thereís a bit of melodrama here and there that one would expect from a made-for-TV movie, but for the most part, things are relatively dry. The only stand out performance in the whole movie is that of Bronson Pinchot, who apparently knows just how to perform as a whining, simpering, crazed lunatic. Having been used to his comedic side, I hadnít known he could perform a dramatic role so well and so I have to give him kudos for his performance as Craig Toomey. His rendition of the broker gone mad is just what I pictured it would be like when I read the novella.
Otherwise, The Langoliers movie adaptation was not really all that good. It wasnít horrible as some Steven King story adaptations can be, but it just lacked something I canít quite put my finger on. Itís one of those films which, if you miss it, you really havenít missed anything special. And the langoliers - I know that CGI graphic technology wasnít all that advanced at the time this movie was made, but these things looked like the creatures from the movie Critters, minus the eyes and fur. True Steven King fans might want to watch it as it tries to remain faithful to the book, but, as many a Steven King fan knows, once you get to the part where the monster is revealed, you must be prepared to be disappointed.