Stephen King’s novel The Tommyknockers is coming to the screen in a new adaptation from the producers of The Conjuring and IT. Last year was a banner year for King adaptations, headed up by the movie version of IT, which grossed more than $700 million worldwide. The year also saw feature adaptations of King’s The Dark Tower, Gerald’s Game, and 1922, as well as series versions of Mr. Mercedes and The Mist. And the Stephen King adaptation train looks like it won’t be losing steam any time soon.
In 2018, Hulu will debut Castle Rock, a series inspired by multiple King works set in the titular Maine town. And already in the works for 2019 are a remake of Pet Sematary, an adaptation of the novella In the Tall Grass, and of course the IT sequel, IT: Chapter Two. In keeping with the novel’s time-spanning story, the second IT film will leap ahead 30 years and feature adult versions of the Losers’ Club kids from the first movie. Now, fans can add a new feature film adaptation of The Tommyknockers to the list of future Stephen King projects.
THR reports that The Conjuring director and producer James Wan has teamed with IT producer Roy Lee to assemble the project together with the novel’s rights holder, producer Larry Sanitsky. Studios and digital streamers including Netflix received the trio’s proposal this week. Sanitsky discussed his thoughts about the book and its meaning, and why it makes sense to tackle another adaptation today:
“It is an allegorical tale of addiction (Stephen was struggling with his own at the time), the threat of nuclear power, the danger of mass hysteria and the absurdity of technical evolution run amuck. All are as relevant today as the day the novel was written. It is also a tale about the eternal power of love and the grace of redemption.”
Published in 1987, The Tommyknockers tells the story of a small Maine town (of course) whose residents’ minds gradually become taken over by an alien entity. Only an alcoholic poet named Gard can see what’s really going on, thanks to the semi-immunity granted by the steel plate in his head. King would later disavow the novel, calling it “awful” and claiming he was in an alcoholic haze at the time of its writing. Nevertheless, the book was a huge best-seller, like most of the author’s other works. ABC aired a miniseries adaptation in 1993, starring Jimmy Smits and Marg Helgenberger. NBC at one point was set to produce a new Tommyknockers miniseries version, but nothing has come of that yet.
The Tommyknockers book, like a lot of King’s works, is arguably a bit of an overwrought mess. But even lesser King works are gold in the current market. And even with all its faults, The Tommyknockers does have a fairly compelling sci-fi/horror plot at its heart that, if handled correctly, could make for an commercially intriguing movie, especially with a pair of producers like Wan and Lee working on the movie behind the scenes.