It's not so much that SPONTANEOUS COMBUSTION had little potential. Indeed the under-explored title phenomenon is quite intriguing and, for at least the opening half, this Tobe Hooper effort promises to entertain in a way only cheesy '90s horror can. But somewhere between Brad Dourif's on-again-off-again performance and the overly intricate plot, this would-be thriller loses its way.
Dourif, featured here before his built-in horror fan base had accumulated, is average guy Sam. Of course average guys don't stay average for long in horror movies, so after a well-done origin outline, we see Sam's various body parts start to ignite. Soon he's igniting other people, too, much to the consternation of gal pal Lisa, played unmemorably by Cynthia Bain.
While the title of the film implies a fire-happy monster on the loose, director Hooper opted to make Sam an unwilling killer. This approach gives the film an added human depth it would otherwise lack, but it also prevents us from truly fearing the human flamethrower. We're left wondering whether this would have worked better as a straight-up villain-versus-everyone effort ala NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET.
SPONTANEOUS COMBUSTION is a pretty nominal effort when all is said and done. It will carry added appeal for Dourif's fans and those who can't get enough 1990s horror, be it good, bad or in between, but only on a slow night.
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