Refusing to learn the lessons taught by laughably cheesy ABC miniseries of the mid-1990s, Universal has emerged victorious from an improbably fierce bidding war to secure James Wan’s film adaptation of Stephen King’s 1989 novel The Tommyknockers for itself. And, hey, on the surface, we get it: Wan continues to be a big name in Hollywood, especially in the field of horror, and the box office success of the most recent King adaptation, It, has largely washed the bad taste of The Dark Tower out of people’s mouths.
And yet, we have to wonder if anyone involved in this deal actually bothered to read King’s book, which feels, in many ways, like a parody of the author’s late-’80s output. (King himself called it “an awful book.”) You’ve got an alcoholic writer, obviously, who finds himself struggling with a dark secret buried underneath a sleepy Maine town, all told in a narrative voice almost overflowing with pal-sy, colloquial tics. The rising paranoia (and the clear allusions to nuclear self-destruction) hit a few solid notes, but the book’s central MacGuffin—a buried UFO that’s turning people into idiot savant dog people who invent things like super-powered water heaters and a murderous flying vending machine—is so damn goofy that it’s more-or-less impossible to take seriously. Hence, for instance, this trailer for the aforementioned 1993 miniseries on ABC:
But hey, maybe we’re just being cynics; given how wide the quality of King’s various adaptations has varied over the years, we just have to accept that there’s no good way to predict which of these projects will work. Wan is reportedly lined up to both produce and direct, at least, presumably once all his Aquaman duties are finished. And it’s not like 25 years of improving special effects won’t make that murderous Coke machine look pretty awesome when it finally shows up.