Many years ago (2002? 2003?) I read a page-turner, a pretty good one, called Special Effects (http://www.amazon.com/Special-Effects-Disaster-Twilight-Tragedy/dp/0684189437) that proved very influential in regard to both how I see general stunt work and, in particular, how I feel about Twilight Zone: The Movie. Maybe the age I read it was impressionable, maybe I haven't changed all that much, but the story behind the production (and the death of three actors involved in the "Time Out" sequence) was so maddening -- and the movie itself (nearly the whole of it) is so abysmal -- that this film still stands in my bottom 10.
Certainly the "Time Out" sequence, the filming of which resulted in the deaths of three people, is enough to make the feature-length film a big miss. Even without the ghost of the production, the story is terribly naive for a film released in 1983. Apocalypse Now had a difficult production, what with the heart attacks and the Marlon Brandoness of Marlon Brando, but the resulting film is essential. The craziness on set keeps pace with the craziness on screen and it feels like it couldn't be any other way. Twilight Zone: The Movie's first sequence, however, aims to embrace early Reagan-era bizarro feel-goodism with a story that is as much an apology as it is a sanitized guide. For "Time Out" alone, the movie is a failure.
Spielberg's entry is exceptionally mundane given the vast wealth of great stories the filmmakers had at their disposal. So many great updates could have been done and they chose this one, a dull update of one of the weaker episode's. I'll give that the update captures a similar spirit of pseudo warmth, something that the show went for when they weren't telling the classics you all know, but a direct hit on a false tone isn't much of a direct hit.
The third entry, with its great color palette and adult performances, would be stronger if it (a) hadn't been based on the greatest episode of The Twilight Zone and (b) hadn't changed the ending into something wholly wrong. The original It's A Good Life is fantastic stuff: the tyranny of children (overstated but tapping into a real sensation, as is the way of satire), post-1950s collapse of 1950s idealism, and -- most importantly -- it's scary. The film version looks great, has Kevin McCarthy overacting in his joyous way, but where's the need and context for the commentary? Was exceptionalism that terrifying in 1983? And then there's the conclusion, wherein peace is made, that distorts everything that came before and leaves the story unsatisfactorily and inorganically in a hopeful place. It reflects 1983 and serves to remind the viewer that there's a reason why no classic could ever have been spawned in 1983.
The last story, with John Lithgow, is the only entry worth the investment. And it's not worth the investment. Now, as a standalone episode, it's pretty good: Lithgow obviously gets the material and plays it well. Miller knows what he's doing and that is: not changing a thing from the Shatner-led original. It's a good update and feels just about as alive as the short on which it was based. But it's a long, long slog to the last story and by the time we arrive, the damage is done.
Though Peng didn't mention the intro, with Albert Brooks and Dan Ackroyd (spelling, shpelling), it probably deserves at least a brief nod: as a little self-contained short, it kind of works. It sets the tone for a completely different film, a good film, but it isn't a signpost that things are going to go very far south.
A case can be made that the movie is decent and there's no doubt some strong elements. Taken all together, and taken with some background information, the movie seems unreleasable. Is this a different form of gatekeeping, letting the background of a film spoil the experience? Possibly. Nevertheless, this movie is a rare 0/10 affair (alongside The House by the Cemetery, Eden Lake, and Ken Park).
Still, a shout out to the source material. Everyone should be at least somewhat familiar with the great series.