Jim Gardner -
Roberta Anderson -
Sheriff Merill -
Trooper Duggan -
Deputy Paulson -
Joe Paulson -
Cliff De Young
Nancy Voss -
Ev Hillman -
Written by -
Lawrence D Cohen
Directed by -
OTHER STEPHEN KING SHOWS
Salem's Lot '79
Salem's Lot '04
Nightmares and Dreamscapes
OTHER HORROR SHOWS
Jim Gardner is a poet of some repute, although he hasn't published anything new in a long time. The reason for that is because he is also an alcoholic. When he falls off the wagon one more time, he goes back to the home of Bobbi Anderson, the woman and friend who nursed him back to sobriety the last time. Bobbi has made a discovery in the woods. Something is buried there, something that has exerted an influence over her to create complex battery-powered machinery like a telepathic typewriter. As she unearths more of the object, the same influence is being spread to the residents of the nearby town.
THE TOMMYKNOCKERS is one of Stephen King's lesser works, taking in as it does many of the themes of earlier works. Once again we have a small town being destroyed from the inside by insidious forces that are at first not even noticed (see NEEDFUL THINGS or IT OR SALEM'S LOT). There's the flawed everyman hero, here protected from the influence by a plate in his head. The sheriff is a significant figure. There's guilt and loss between brothers (SALEM'S LOT again).
The main new aspect is the source of the evil influence. Instead of some supernatural monster, the source here is an alien spaceship, though it is barely glimpsed in this first episode since most of it is buried. The fact that it glows bright green when anyone's near it ought to be some sort of warning to Bobbi that she ought to stay away and maybe alert the authorities.
The effects of the influence are mild in this first half. One child goes missing as part of a magic trick gone wrong and a cheating husband gets his comeuppance and that's about it. There are hints at future events, such as the doll collection, but since nothing happens with them in this half they seem sort of irrelevant.
The cast is filled out with dependable performers, but the characters are so sligthly sketched, even the main two, that the actors really don't have that much to get their teeth into.
Crucially, though, it just isn't scary. The second half of THE TOMMYKNOCKERS is going to have to come up with something special if it is to rise above the merely mediocre.Top
The spaceship's evil influence is growing stronger. The townsfolk are now zombie stormtroopers for it. The local sheriff and state troopers are all 'taken care of' and Jim Gardner remains the only person unaffected thanks to the plate in his head. That means his body isn't decaying in the same way as everyone else's, but also that he remains the last hope for the town.
After the long set up of the first episode, the story gets down to the job of trying to be scary. There is mild body horror as teeth fall out, skins pales and eyes become sunken. There is the attack of the killer dolls though it is never made clear how they became animated (or was it just a vision). There is the killer coke machine and the disintegrating lipstick (we kid you not). There is the fate of the missing people, taken to be human batteries. And there is the final appearance of the Tommyknockers themselves when Bobbi and Gard finally get aboard the ship.
The exterior of the ship is never really properly realised as not that much of it is ever exposed and it then only appears as an odd-shaped model shot, which is a shame considering that the uncovering of the thing is the main focus of the story. The Tommyknockers, though, do appear, firstly as dead husks and then as reborn aliens. They are the show's ultimate scare and they just don't work. Jerky animatronics and men in suits just don't cut it.
The cast try hard to cover over the cracks with Jimmy Smits still impressive, Marg Helgenberger looking genuinely ill and Joanna Cassidy and John Ashton managing to make their mid-life romance less yucky than the script. Unfortunately, the rest of the cast are mediocre at best whilst Traci Lords is given lines in this second half and manages to deliver each one awfully.
At the end of the day, THE TOMMYKNOCKERS is a better book than miniseries and if people are going to insist on adapting everything that Stephen King scribbles then they are going to have to find ways of making it work better than this.Top
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