The Tommyknockers

(John Power, USA, 1993)


I generally find film adaptations of Stephen King's horror stories to be dreary and moralistic. But the telemovie The Tommyknockers is the most engaging attempt since John Carpenter's Christine (1983).


Directed by John Power, it is a cautionary tale that mixes an Invasion of the Body Snatchers-style conspiracy with a creepy, small town community straight out of Twin Peaks.


As often with King, the sexual politics of the story leave a lot to be desired. Jimmy Smits, playing what the video jacket describes as "an alcoholic poet", is one of the privileged guys of the town who escapes being brainwashed by the sinister tommyknockers buried deep in the woods.


The women are not so lucky once zapped by the mysterious green light, they gleefully get high and begin inventing gadgets, sprouting visionary prophecies, and pulling out their own teeth.


While there are a requisite number of hip pop culture references in the script by Lawrence D. Cohen (Carrie) to Elvis, The Twilight Zone and the past screen career of the amazing Traci Lords it is in fact the telemovie blandness of the piece which secures its chilling effect.


And the ending, which takes that alcoholic poet to a spectacular apotheosis, is just terrific.


MORE King: The Dark Half, Thinner

© Adrian Martin September 1993

Film Critic: Adrian Martin
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