Retro Review: The Langoliers

2011/07/25 15:03:11 +00:00 | Steph Howard

You find yourself on the redeye to Boston, roused from sleep by a weird feeling that you just can't shake. When you open your eyes, there's no one around: no flight attendants, no kids kicking the back of your seat, no screaming babies... no pilots... I've been on some pretty scary flights before, but never one where the pilots up and left halfway through. In Stephen King's wonderfully twisted mind, though, this could happen to you.

The Langoliers, based on part one of King's anthology Four Past Midnight, is a miniseries that aired on ABC in 1995. We see ten strangers trapped on an unmanned plane without any contact with the outside world. It's not long before the panic-inducing feeling of isolation sets in, and they find themselves running low of fuel. Why is this happening and where did everyone go? You'll just have to watch to find out.

Some people, even die hard Stephen King fans, may not like this miniseries, because it's just too long. There were several times where I found myself thinking, isn't this over yet? However, those moments of boredom were trumped by Craig Toomey (Bronson Pinchot Perfect Strangers). Toomey, a character so annoying and easy to hate, is so well portrayed by Pinchot, it's amazing to see him go from the idiotic Balki to a mentally disturbed corporate snob. Aside from Pinchot, there are a few other familiar faces among the players in Langoliers.

For example, David Morse (Disturbia, House) is Captain Brian Engle, forever type cast as the cool under pressure type, or Dean Stockwell (Quantum Leap) who plays the all too convenient sci-fi writer, Bob Jenkins. While we know from their other performances, they can be great actors, but the awkward timing and scenarios created in The Langoliers doesn’t showcase their true skills. If there were better script editing and scene blocking, this film could have been incredible, the story premise is there, but the way that the miniseries is packaged just stretches the text too thin.

There are some good aspects of the film, though, even if it does go on for too long. Really, any fan of Stephen King, Four Past Midnight, or sci-fi should give The Langoliers a chance. The best part of this miniseries, aside from Pinchot's acting, as in most of King's work, is the exploration into social nature. How long does it take to form bonds with strangers in a crisis? How scared to you have to be before the claws come out?

Some may be surprised to learn that The Langoliers is a Tom Holland product. Director and teleplay writer for The Langoliers, Holland has also teamed up with King in the filming and screenwriting of Thinner. If Holland’s name sounds familiar, it should. He was the director of both Fright Night and Child's Play. We know that he has what it takes to make good films. Miniseries work is quite a bit different, though, and stretching a part of an anthology into hours of film would daunting for anyone. It's just very unfortunate that this film is so slow, I would really love to see it remade, hopefully as a movie and not a miniseries.

I remember my mom watching The Langoliers, and sneaking around behind the couch to get a peak. I had nightmares for weeks after seeing just what a "langolier" was. This time around, I was cracking up at the terribly outdated special effects. Putting these effects aside, and some of the stock characters, though, the premise of the movie is horrifying. Finding yourself with a handful of people you never wanted to get to know, and faced with an outside world that's been deserted isn't really my idea of a good day. The next time you're afraid to fly, or have a bad time on a plane, watch The Langoliers. You'll know that there's only one thing worse than what happens to these people on the plane; crashing.