Usually the norm for Stephen King adaptations, particularly with those directly adapted for television or as a miniseries, to stay away. They're mostly produced by hacks who have to cut apart King's works, even then ones that don't need or shouldn't be adapted (or the ones he comes up with himself like Storm of the Century), and place them in a set running time meant for commercial breaks and to (sometimes) tone down explicit language and whatever bloody violence tends to happen in the original stories. But somehow Tommyknockers came to me (via the wife of all people), and decided to give it a chance purely based on the premise. It's about a small town in Maine (for King, color me shocked and awed!) and what happens to them when one of the townspeople, local writer Bobbi, comes across a strange object buried in the ground. She keeps digging and digging, and it just becomes an obsessive thing to unearth the entire metal-maze that seems to be underground. But then a green substance or other overcomes her, and the town, and they're slaves to some extraterrestrial entities - all except for one, a man with a metal plate in his head who can't be made zombified.
With a good premise and a few interesting cast prospects (Jimmy Smitts, Marg Helgenberger, EG Marshall, Traci Lords), I was prepared for anything. It could have been a horrid telling of the story, or perhaps something truly surprising and brilliant. It's in the middle; it's not very brilliant nor bad at all. The Tommyknockers works, more or less, how one sees a Stephen King book (one of the really good ones) work as a story: introduce the characters, let us get to know them very well and maybe empathize with them or sympathize with their troubles (alcoholism, infidelity, superstitions) or just understand them, and then just put them through total HELL (in caps). Most of the first half is just set-up, seeing the relationship between Bobbi and Jim, who has been on the wagon until an incident that sends him in turmoil, the fractured marriage of a cop and a postal worker- the latter cheating with a sultry temptress (Lords) every day- and the little boy who wants to master, and believes, in magic.
But once the effects of the Tommyknockers spreads through the town, it gets equally interesting and hokey. Some of the acting is just terrible, as one might expect (the kid playing the would-be magician is the kind one would usually find on low-rated episodes of Are You Afraid of the Dark), and some of that green visual effects stuff is rather cheap even when nifty coming out of a lipstick container. And the writing in some scenes is silly too, and I'm not sure if that's a criticism of the movie or of King. Yet what does work is that it's a solid story, told with a degree of professionalism and some creativity that makes it worth watching. Smitts and Helgenberger give as good as they've got, which is a big boost, and some scenes like the 4th of July climax of the first half of the movie are staged in a creepy manner and style (cutting between the zombies, the dolls, the kid repeating and the telekinetic typewriter typing Tommyknockers over and over). Even the aliens are a lot of fun to watch towards the end, with the end result revealed as just a rip on what would later be seen in the Matrix.
Some of this is predictable, and silly, and its ending is equally tragic and unintentionally funny. But I was entertained and didn't want to get up or stop the DVD during its running time, and that's my two cents.