If asked about the film that has most affected me, then I want to answer with Godard’s Weekend (1967), Straub/Huillet’s Othon (1969), Bresson’s Pickpocket (1959), Pasolini’s Accatone (1960), Stroheim’s Greed (1924), Marker’s Sans soleil (1983), or any number of auteurist classics. That’s how I want to answer. And it’s true that these films have been very important for me, that I think extremely highly of them. But if I were to really be true to myself, then I would have to acknowledge that, when it comes to the effect they have had on my psyche, none of these works, despite having such a significant place in film history, can rival a film that otherwise has left virtually no trace in our cultural memory of the cinema.

I am speaking, namely, of a TV mini-series from the mid-1990s, The Langoliers, adapted from a 1990 Stephen King novella included in the volume Four Past Midnight­. Why did this “film” – which was only ever shown on TV, and never actually on film, in a cinema – leave such an impression on me? It is, assuredly, not because I either thought then or think now that it is a superlative work of cinema – quite the opposite. A more banal product of the audiovisual culture industry can scarcely be imagined. Nor is it some kind of guilty pleasure: I can’t recall even particularly liking the film when I first watched it, and until very recently, I had never even felt the need to offer myself a repeat viewing.

And yet, for whatever strange reason, The Langoliers left its mark on me. Whereas so many other films, watched on television or at the movies, are evacuated from my mind almost as soon as the closing credits roll, this one lingered, burrowing itself into my sub-conscious. Years later, decades even, the film would spontaneously conjure itself in my mind. I developed a tendency to drop mention of it into conversations, often at the flimsiest of pretexts. It was almost never the case that my unfortunate interlocutor had any idea what I was talking about, and so the allusion would inevitably lead to a lengthy, usually bewildering explanation of the film and the strange creatures that gave it its name.

The premise of the film, as I remembered it, was that a handful of passengers on an aeroplane wake up to find the rest of the cabin empty. When they land, the airport is also absent of any human beings, and eerily quiet. The plane, it so happens, has slipped through a time-rip, stranding the passengers in a universe that is frozen in the immediate past. Worse, the fate of this universe is to be devoured by a swarm of round, black, piranha