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Literature / Sometimes They Come Back

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"Sometimes They Come Back" is a story by Stephen King, published in Cavalier magazine in 1974 and later part of his Night Shift collection of short stories. The story was adapted into a TV Movie in 1991, and two Direct-to-Video sequels were released later.

Some tropes associated with the story include:

  • Back from the Dead: The antagonists of the story, much to Jim's horror.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: While not quite a Badass Teacher, Jim overcomes his difficulties with both his past victimhood and the school bullies by raising a demon to drag them to Hell.
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  • Break the Cutie: Poor Sally.
  • Bully Brutality: Doesn't gets more brutal for a bunch of bullies than killing a kid and then coming Back from the Dead for no reason other than wanting to bully and kill the other kid.
  • Cool Car: The hot rod with "Snake Eyes" written on it. Also something of a Chekhov's Gun.
  • Dark and Troubled Past: And how. Jim's brother Wayne was murdered in front of him when Jim was nine years old, his fiancée was hurt in a hit and run and they come back to murder her in the present, he had a nervous breakdown at his first teaching job, and it's implied that his mother died somewhere along the way. Now he's being stalked by delinquent ghosts.
  • Deal with the Devil: In this case, Jim cuts off both index fingers as a sacrifice to a demon.
  • Delinquents: Most of the kids in Jim's "Living With Lit" class, mixed in with a few Jerk Jock types. The antagonists are of the old-school "greaser" type.
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  • Eerie Arctic Research Station: In Sometimes They Come Back... for More, an Antarctic base engaged in illegal mining activities unearths an immortal Satanist who begins killing and resurrecting everyone as zombies while he works to summon the Devil.
  • Faux Affably Evil: The greasers in the first film and original short story and the satanists in the sequel as they have appearances of charming bad boys with goofy Laughably Evil and Evil Is Hammy quirks, however, this shows how sadistic they can be in tormenting their preys.
  • Fingore: When Jim chops off two fingers with a pocketknife, the reader is spared no details.
  • Heel–Face Door-Slam: Chip Conway, the Jerk Jock who was at odds with Jim in his class, but then tries to warn him and eventually relents to go to the police with Jim to inform them of the demonic greasers rather than pull a Screw This, I'm Outta Here!, gets kidnapped and dismembered by the greasers.
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  • Inner City School: Jim's first teaching placement, described as "garden spot of the city."
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Chip Conway initially appeared to be a Jerk Jock who carried a vendetta against his teacher Jim for flunking him, but he eventually reveals to have cared for his classmates, realized the greasers who appeared to be new students are much worse then him and tries to warn Jim about them.
  • Redemption Equals Death: In the 1991 movie Mueller, the surviving gang member who undergone a Heel–Face Turn over the years following the horrific deaths of his ex-friends and playing a part in Wayne's death that wrecked him with guilt, sacrificed himself to bring Wayne back for a Big Damn Heroes moment, send the greasers back to Hell and save Jim and his family.
  • The '70s: Some descriptions of the fashions and cars hint at this, although the story has stood up well over time and was given a Setting Update in the television film adaptation in The '90s.
  • Unfinished Business: The reason the three antagonists come back. Notable in that Jim did them no wrong at all: they did HIM the wrong, as they murdered his older brother (who was twelve) and then crashed their car later resulting in their deaths (a crash Jim also had nothing to do with). In essence, they are such vile souls that they came back from the dead simply because Jim got away from them before they could murder him too and they want to finish the job. Note that just for added vileness, Jim was a nine year-old child at the time.
  • Write What You Know: King was working as a teacher when the story was published. Stratford, Connecticut is also one of King's childhood home towns.
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