The Tommyknockers (1993)

tommyknockers poster 1993 movie stephen king
6.0 Overall Score
Story: 6/10
Acting: 7/10
Visual: 6/10

Solid adaptation

Based on a weak book

Movie Info

Movie Name:  The Tommyknockers

Studio:  Konigsberg/Sanitsky Company

Genre(s):  Horror/Sci-Fi/Fantasy

Release Date(s):  May 9, 1993-May 10, 1993

MPAA Rating:  Not Rated

tommyknockers bobbi marg helgenberger green eyes

Green goes with my natural red hair!

In the Maine town of Haven, Bobbi Anderson (Marg Helgenberger) makes an accidental discovery in the woods that have long been rumored as haunted.  Bobbi’s boyfriend Gard (Jimmy Smits) who is fighting a battle with alcoholism finds the discovery unnerving, but Bobbi seems intent on excavating it.  Strange things begin happening around Haven.  Davey (Paul McIver) disappears when his brother Hilly (Leon Woods) performs magic.  Nancy Voss (Traci Lords) finds new ways to deliver the mail as her affair with Joe (Cliff DeYoung) ramps up as his wife Becka (Allyce Beasley) begins to suspect things.  While Sheriff Ruth Merrill (Joanna Cassidy) and Derry officer Butch Dugan (John Aston) try to uncover the truth, the discovery is the woods is getting uncovered and getting stronger…

Directed by John Power, The Tommyknockers was a two-part mini-series airing on ABC.  The series was based on the 1987 Stephen King novel and was met with mixed reviews.  The film was nominated for a Primetime Emmy for Outstanding Individual Achievement in the Sound Editing for a Miniseries or a Special.

tommyknockers traci lords

Who are you calling a porn star?!?!

The Tommyknockers wasn’t a very good Stephen King book (King himself has admitted it).  It is long and somewhat dull and the sci-fi is sometimes cartoonish and ’50s style.  The adaptation is a lot like the book…longwinded and slow-paced.  The Tommyknockers is just another entry in so-so Stephen King TV adaptations.

The format of the story is very Stephen King.  Much like ’Salem’s Lot (or the later written Needful Things), the story is made up of a couple primary characters and a lot of supporting characters.  Jimmy Smits is a thinly veiled Stephen King who was dealing with addiction issues when he wrote the book and always seems to take the most inopportune times to “fall off the wagon” (I realize addiction is something that isn’t planned, but it feels almost like a plot device here).  This all builds up to a rather unthreatening, dull ending.

The cast is strong (in a 1990s TV movie type of strength).  Most of the actors at the time were character actors, but they were good character actors.  Jimmy Smits was just off of L.A. Law but had not started NYPD Blue yet and shows his strength as an actor.  Marg Helgenberger is the co-lead and works well with Smits.  Former porn star Traci Lords, E.G. Marshall, Joanna Cassidy, Robert Carradine, Allysce Beasley, John Ashton, and Cliff DeYoung fill out the cast.

tommyknockers ending alien jimmy smit

You don’t look like that super-fake alien I threw off this machine!

The visuals for the movie aren’t that great, but they smartly minimalize them.  The movie is loaded with “green glow” whenever the characters have alien interaction and alien tech.  I find the actual “Tommyknocker” aliens cool especially when they are portrayed by actors.  The rubber dummy puppets are cheap looking however and it takes away from the movie when Smits tosses one like a rubber dummy.

The Tommyknockers is a solid adaptation of a so-so book, but in being a so-so book, the movie does not excel.  Unlike some of the TV horror from the mid-to-late ’70s, which really scare (like King’s Salem’s Lot), the movie just plods.  It comes off as a TV movie instead of a big screen picture.  The format continued to work for Stephen King stories however and more made-for-TV adaptations of his work…for better or worse.

Related Links:

Salem’s Lot (1979)

It (1990)

The Shining (1997)

Desperation (2006)


Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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