When miners blast for gold in the 1870s, they accidentally release ancient creatures known as Tommyknockers. The Town of Deer Creek, Nevada is soon under siege with only a handful of survivors held up in the local saloon in Michael Su’s horror western Night of the Tommyknockers.
Night Of The Tommyknockers is an enjoyable B-movie genre mash-up that gives us some familiar faces chewing scenery and spitting familiar Western tropes and clichés with venom. Richard Grieco takes lead duties as Dirk, an outlaw who leads one of the old west’s most wanted gangs The Dirt Gang and it’s good to see him playing somewhat against type. Grieco famously took over Johnny Depp’s role in the late 80’s teen cop show, 21 Jump Street and had his own moment in the Hollywood sun with 1991’s Teen Agent followed by a turn playing a young Bugsy Siegel alongside other 80’s heartthrobs Christian Slater and Patrick Dempsey in ‘Mobsters’. While not reaching the heights as some of his contemporaries, Grieco has worked pretty steadily since the ’90s and does some of his best film work in a long time here, managing to make the more ridiculous dialogue sound almost plausible. Tom Sizemore also has a juicy role as the Marshall and even though he seems to be at times phoning it in, he still manages to exude the weathered confidence that brings to mind the greats.
The small budget hinders the overall quality of Night of the Tommyknockers but despite this, it is a surprisingly robust Western. Yes, we have seen and heard much of this story before, but all westerns are variations on the same themes, it is to its credit that The Night of the Tommyknockers knows what it wants to be and makes no excuses for that. It’s a horror western and there’s plenty of gore but the primary influence is obviously The Alamo which sees a group of western archetypes (bad and good) band together to hold out against an invading force.
Four writers are credited with the script, which leads to the film being somewhat disjointed; the dialogue can be witty, but it does sound forced and overly self-aware on occasion as if it was written by film students who binge-watched a lot of westerns before putting pen to paper. But on the plus side, having a couple of writers means each character is given their own space to breathe, while the obvious enjoyment that the cast is having also helps keep us involved.
Su’s direction is confident and, although people may be turned off by some of the shots of the monsters (making them look a little too much like actors in costume), the film is well-paced with a definite increase in intensity towards the final act. The cinematography also helps give a sense of the old west with the buildings, sets, and rooms creating a world that feels well-lived in. The drone footage used also provides the movie with some epic establishing shots of scorching deserts, rough mountain ranges, and vast plains that even John Ford would have admired.
The Night Of The Tommyknockers is one of the better low-budget genre mash-ups, it will be released on VOD/Bluray/DVD on November 25, 2022, through Gravitas Ventures, and is certainly worth 90 minutes of your time.