The Langoliers (1995)
Starring: David Morse, Mark Chapman, Patricia Wettig, Bronson Pinchot
“I hear a really terrible scary sound. And it’s awful. A little like Rice Krispies after you pour in the milk. But I know it’s closer than it was, because something’s coming. Something making that horrible cereal noise.” (Bob, The Langoliers)
As a three-hour made-for-TV film based on a Stephen King book, The Langoliers could either have been compelling viewing or cheesy as hell. Impressively, it manages to be both at the same time. While the story is full of the typical twists and turns you’d expect from a King yarn, the acting is so laughable at times it somehow manages to make things even more entertaining.
On paper, you’d be forgiven for wondering just how The Langoliers manages to last three hours. After all, the plot is the sort of minimalist scenario you might expect as an exercise at an improv class. A group of passengers wake up midway through a flight to Boston to find the rest of the passengers, crew and pilots are missing. With no noticeable damage to the plane and no sign that anyone left, confusion spreads as the group try to figure out what’s happened to everyone. That’s about it.
Of course, with the genius storytelling mind of Stephen King behind the wheel twists and turns inevitably ensue, and by the end the film has covered the likes of time travel, telepathy and big CGI balls of fur that eat up the Earth. And it’s a true testament to King’s talents that as mental as all that sounds, it still makes perfect sense when it happens, even when a Maine airport is completely swallowed up whole by a handful of the aforementioned furballs.
This being a mid-’90s TV movie, the cheese factor is immensely high. The acting ranges from adequate (David Morse is believable as an off-duty pilot who tries to save the day) to atrocious (pretty much everyone else). Probably the most bizarre example of this is Mark Chapman, who plays the mysterious Nick. Despite actually being a British actor (he’s from London, apparently), he still somehow manages to provide a terrible, fake-sounding English accent. This isn’t helped by his stereotypical English gentleman dialogue, which is so cliched that at times he actually says “jolly good”.
While the plot is engaging and there’s always a desire to find out what’s going to happen to the group, The Langoliers constantly seems like it’s trying its very best to put you off with its embarrassingly poor production. The music is horrible, the CGI effects when the titular Langoliers arrive are laughable, and the final scene is easily one of the worst things ever committed to film. Have a look to see what I mean (don’t worry, it doesn’t spoil what happens):
If you’re looking for a film that takes a great story then buries it in made-for-TV cheese then you’ve got very specific tastes and should probably broaden your search filter. Regardless, The Langoliers will fit your rather niche needs perfectly, and despite its incredible three-hour duration it still manages to whizz by. It’s worth a look, just leave your critic’s hat at the door because it’s certainly not cinema magic. Don’t be fooled by the trailer below, it’s not quite as exciting as it makes it appear.
WHERE CAN I GET IT?
UK would-be Langoliers viewers can get the Region 2 DVD at Amazon.co.uk by clicking here. If you live in the US, you can get the Region 1 DVD from Amazon.com by clicking here or get it in a boxset with The Stand and Golden Years by clicking here.