Firstly, I just want to give a quick shoutout to Co-Writer/Producer Sonny Mahal and Mahal Empire Productions for allowing me access to an online screener of their latest feature film “Night Of The Tommyknockers”, Directed by Michael Su. Night Of The Tommyknockers is an equal parts Horror/Western and takes place in circa 1870 in the mining town of Deer Creek, Nevada. It tells the story of a ragtag gang of outlaws led by, Dirk (played by Richard Grieco of TV’s 21 Jump Street) who while searching for a big score of gold encounter ancient creatures known as Tommyknockers, who quickly become an ever-growing threat to those left holed up in the local saloon. The film also stars Robert LaSardo (Sky Sharks), Angela Cole (Nix), Jessica Morris (Bloody Murder), Tom Sizemore (Crossing Point) and BJ Mezek.
I’ve always been a bit of a sucker for a good ole’ genre mashup, and perhaps none more than the Horror/Western hybrid. Truth be told, the old west in an of itself could be aptly categorized as a place of “horror” just ask Seth MacFarlane’s “Albert” (from A Million Ways To Die In The West haha) about all the seemingly inane ways in which you could meet your demise… anyways, I digress. Tommyknockers takes those few true mainstays of the old-school western (bank robberies/damsels in distress etc.) and infuses a healthy dose of modern creature feature resulting in a mostly entertaining little film. The production value is certainly one of the films highlights. There’s a series of really impressive shot choices that come together in a tight edit with consistent lighting throughout. The audio track is also sharp and succinct with additional foley seemingly having been recorded to round out the sounds of the creatures. Scott Glasgow’s score is energetic and a clear throwback to classic western’s like “The Wild Bunch” and “The Magnificent Seven”, complete with its very own introductory theme/motif.
There’s a few familiar faces among the cast most notably Grieco, who chews the scenery quite well. Sizemore plays the Marshal with a bit of vigor but his screen time is unfortunately rather limited, leaving LaSardo to pick up the slack as “Lucky”, one of the key cogs in Dirk’s crew. Performances are serviceable without necessarily rising to any great heights, though Joel Spencer’s set design impresses and the costume department deserve plenty of accolades for their attention to detail within these budget limitations. I particularly like Dirk’s “The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly” esq poncho that he dons (likely a throwback to Lee Van Cleef’s infamous look). My favorite scene from the film takes place around a campfire as the gang discuss their next moves after having carried out a recent robbery. It gives the cast members each a moment to showcase their skillset. There’s a couple of memorable kills and some practical blood and gore to boot. The Tommyknockers themselves look quite detailed and daunting as well given the aforementioned budget constraints.
On a technical front, my only gripe was around some partial color grading in a few shots when the timeline moves to dusk. It’s a tricky look to get right and the result here is on the amateurish side – no other complaints though. The film opens with the potential for a bit of tension given what the miners discover, but it’s sadly diminished due to largely undersold reactions from characters regarding the present threat. By the same token, most of the secondary acting is a little sub-par (though often the way in low-budget filmmaking). The townspeople are shown up close on occasion and there can be no denying that they all look just a touch too clean to be believed as existing in the 1870’s wild west. A little more TLC (or more aptly elbow grease) given to those bit part players would’ve gone a long way to selling the authenticity further. Not to mention, just about every character in this film just so happens to be truly god awful with firearm in hand (we’re talking stormtrooper level bad!). I’m not sure I completely bought that aspect either. The film does lose some momentum through the middle act but picks up again for a fairly exciting finish. Character-wise, there’s not a whole hell of a lot to absorb though. Betsy (played with moxie by Cole) is interestingly written and revealed and probably turns out to be the only character of any real interest (at least from Dirk’s crew).
Night Of The Tommyknockers is a good bit of genre-blending fun to close out 2022. If you’re a fan of the classic western but you want something new thrown into the mix, Mahal Empire Productions have got you covered with this one (think Feast meets Potter’s Ground). There’s an abundance of technical merit on display here, the re-creation of the era is solid, and the Tommyknockers themselves are a chaotic bunch who gash and gnaw away at the flesh of all those they encounter. There’s a few things that don’t fully come together in regard to some of the acting as well as the film’s characters, but all in all, it’s on the minor end of the scale. Feel free to check out the official trailer below as the film is now available to view on multiple streaming platforms as well as on DVD and Blu Ray. Enjoy!
Night Of The Tommyknockers – 6.5/10