LATEST | FEATURES | INTERVIEWS | NEWS | FRIGHTFEST | REVIEWS Who's There? Stephen King's The Tommyknockers Comes To Horror Channel
By James Whittington, Saturday 1st May 2010
Originally written in 1987, The Tommyknockers was Stephen King’s first real mixing of the horror and science fiction genres. Considering this followed the gritty realism of Misery, The Tommyknockers is a bit of a romp with an easy to digest premise that encroaches on a primal fear, that of not knowing who to trust. The book is set in Maine (where else?) where a long buried UFO is disturbed and emits a gas that infects the population of a local village. They are slowly transformed into creatures similar to those that had lived inside the spacecraft. Unfortunately those creatures had nasty habits and soon the townsfolk are killing each other.
Widely known as a subtle allegory of a period of Stephen King’s life (he was dabbling in substance abuse during the creation of the piece) The Tommyknockers transferred to the small screen in 1993 and like other King adaptations such as Salem’s Lot and It, this mini-series stays true to the source text whilst also injecting some of its own ideas.
To play the leads actors Jimmy Smits and Marg Helgenberger were chosen, a pair who were already established in shows such as L.A. Law and China Beach and brought with them a sense of credibility to the fantastical plot. The supporting cast was constructed from an eclectic mix of actors such as Robert Carradine, Traci Lords, E.G. Marshall and Cliff DeYoung. Mini-series stalwart John Power was given the job of directing whilst Lawrence D. Cohen, the guy who successfully transferred Carrie to the big screen way back in 1976 was put on script duties.
The serial wastes no time introducing us to the people of this small town where almost everyone has a juicy secret. There’s a postman (DeYoung) making “special deliveries”, a cop (Joanna Cassidy) with a crush and a poet (Smits) battling alcoholism and a lack of a new material. One local, Bobbi Anderson (Helgenberger) uncovers an alien craft and soon all hell breaks loose. Innocents start displaying incredible technical skills, building bizarre machines that can do anything, such as telepathic typewriters and others that can track missing persons. All the time whispers of The Tommyknockers begin to circulate and then death comes to the town…
Shot in a very cinematic fashion with subtle use of special effects to forward the narrative, The Tommyknockers is science fiction horror at its most intelligent. The cast play it perfectly straight with Smits in particular adding much pathos and depth to his far from perfect character. The build up to the alien presence and possession of people is measured, with director John Power making sure every ounce of tension can be wrung for the ever increasing extra terrestrial threat.
Fans of Stephen King won’t be disappointed with this interpretation of one of his most famous books. For those of you new to his work, tune in and watch a masterful, chilling and rewarding piece of television.
Stephen King’s The Tommyknockers starts on Friday May 7th at 16:00.
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