Night of the Tommyknockers
Dir. Michael Su (2022)
Miners accidentally unleash ancient mythical creatures called Tommyknockers, who besiege the town of Deer Creek, Nevada. When a gang of bank robbers stumble across the town, they’re forced to work with the remaining citizens to fight off the monsters.
CAUTION: MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS
Westerns have always been very frustrating to me. As a general rule, I’m not a fan of the genre as a whole, yet the genre is home to some of the greatest American directors who have ever lived, filmmakers like John Ford who revolutionized the entire medium of film. When you add horror to the mix, the results can certainly be hit or miss: for every even decent film there are twenty that don’t hold enough of my interest to make it through the opening credits. Make it an indie horror western? Well, the odds are certainly not stacked in the favor of it being a film I’d enjoy. Michael Su, the director of a few other movies I’ve reviewed here (Death Count and Bridge of the Doomed), decided to tempt fate with his new film Night of the Tommyknockers, and I gotta say… maybe I should reconsider a bit.
While there are certainly some pieces of the film that don’t work, most notable the acting by some of the cast who seem to be part of the movie more as scene fillers than to actually add anything to the plot, Su has created an interesting western creature feature with a lot of guts (literally.) Building upon the legendary creatures called Tommyknockers, who live within mines as harbingers of collapse and death, Night of the Tommyknockers is more Western than horror throughout most of its runtime. You have the stereotypical bank robbers and sheriffs, gunfighting in a dusty ghost town as would fit within any film in the genre, but you also have some compelling performances and some great creature design. Richard Grieco is fantastic as Dirk, the leader of the bandit gang and a grizzled, Devil-may-care hoodlum who seems to care as much for the outlaw lifestyle as he does for the gold in his purse. Robert LaSardo plays lucky, the comic relief of the gang, and the film even has a performance by Tom Sizemore as Marshal Steed, the lawman in the town overrun by The Descent-esque monsters. While Sizemore is a ghost of his former performer, he’s still a welcome addition to the cast and has some great scenes within. I also loved Angela Cole’s portrayal of Betsy, Dirk’s girlfriend and the female of the gang.
The gore is actually pretty decent, especially for a relatively low-budget indie horror, and the creature design works perfectly for the tight and often claustrophobic surroundings. While the film is filled with beautiful locations and vast drone shots of the Western desert, most of the movie takes place within a saloon and its hallways, providing for a lot of close combat with the bizarre creatures. Su capably balances the humor with his horror, which works surprisingly well in the film and actually made me chuckle more than once. Despite some of the poor performances, it’s a very watchable film with some genuinely frightening moments.
For a low-budget, straight-to-VOD creature features, this one isn’t half bad. Even if Western horror isn’t your thing, this one is worth a shot for the monsters alone. A lot of the film brings to mind other precursors like Feast or if Full Moon made The Descent, which are to great films to be compared to in all fairness, and a lot of the monster attacks echo other films like Dog Soldiers as well. This one could very well become a cult classic, and it’s absolutely worth a watch for fans of this type of film. Grieco kills his role, and his charming performance carries this film in style.
Who this movie is for: Creature feature fans, Western horror lovers,
Bottom line: Night of the Tommyknockers is an uneven film, but it’s highly entertaining and well worth a watch for fans of either Western horror films or folks who dig creature features. The creature design and gore are great, and there are some excellent performances from Grieco, LaSardo, and Cole.