A four-hour sci-fi-horrorama, scripted by Lawrence D. Cohen from a Stephen King tome, lights up ABC’s sked with echoes of “Dracula,””South Wind,””Invasion of the Body Snatchers” and several comic books and sci-fi pulp mags. ABC, which features Stephen King’s name in the title, has another sure ratings winner with this hokey whoop-de-doo.
King’s novels have gone both ways with miniseries in the past, from the CBS two-part 1979 nailbiter “Salem’s Lot” to the lumpish, four-hour ABC “It.””The Tommyknockers” falls somewhere in between.
The exercise centers on several sets of characters in Haven, Maine, a spot where unexplained underground energy starts creating havoc. Alcoholic poet Jim (Jimmy Smits), finishing a bender in Boston, comes home to novelist Bobbi (Marg Helgenberger), whose
house is situated in haunted Burning Woods, where a partially buried metal object glows like lime Jell-o when Bobbi touches it.
In town, Sheriff Ruth (Joanna Cassidy) has a low-flame romance going with next town’s Sheriff Butch (John Ashton), while nympho postmistress Nancy (Traci Lords) makes time with employee Joe (Cliff DeYoung), who’s married to unsuspecting Becka (Allyce Beasley).
Grandpa Ev (E.G. Marshall), living over in Haven Falls, gives a magic set to grandson Hilly (Leon Woods), who promptly makes his younger brother Davey (Paul McIver) vanish. His parents (Robert Carradine, Annie Corley) look concerned.
First sign the town’s downwind to something foul comes when a doll belonging to Sheriff Ruth grimaces at Hilly.
Bobbi goes on a compulsive archaeological dig where that metal thing shines, her typewriter writes while she sleeps, ESP repairs a water heater, and so on as other machines, gassed up by that odd chartreuse power, go to work. People read minds (the metal plate in Jim’s head makes him immune), other citizens begin deteriorating.
Director John Power gives the fright thing a try, but the writing is pedestrian, the characters obvious. Eventually the vidpic works up to that ultimate Saturday matinee serial weapon from the ’50s, the death ray. Kelly green. The plot’s clearly out of hand.
After last week’s mean ABC miniseries “Murder in the Heartland,” maybe some silliness will clear the air. Smits makes a good hero who’s impassive till the last moment, and Helgenberger gets to demonstrate lots of techniques. E.G. Marshall’s splendidly reassuring, and Leon Woods’s boy Hilly is good.
New Zealand looks great via Danny Burstall’s and David Eggby’s camerawork, though special effects are part of the credibility problem. Tod Feuerman’s editing is splendid.
Christopher Franke’s ominous, seemingly constant score is fiddled by the Berlin Symphony Film Orch; it fits.