Movie Reviews

James Wan Could Save Stephen King’s Most-Hated Adaptation

Horror author Stephen King didn’t care for the television miniseries adaptation of The Tommyknockers, but the writer might change his mind if legendary director James Wan’s proposed movie remake comes to fruition. Stephen King has a love-hate relationship with adaptations of his work. While the author famously disliked director Stanley Kubrick’s iconic adaptation of The Shining because the movie strayed from the story of his original novel too much, King also admitted that the ending of 2007’s adaptation of The Mist featured a superior ending to his original novella of the same name.

Similarly, the movie version of The Shawshank Redemption improved King’s original story, but the author still listed it as one of his favorite adaptations from his back catalog. However, not all of King’s adaptations have been so fortunate. One miniseries that stayed relatively true to King’s original novel was The Tommyknockers, a 1993 adaptation based on King’s 1987 novel. Although The Tommyknockers kept an impressive amount of the original book’s story intact, King was not impressed with the finished product. Luckily for the author and his fans, this may not be the last time that The Tommyknockers appear onscreen.

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Speaking to The New York Times in 2014, King said he “didn’t like it” when asked about the 1993 miniseries adaptation of The Tommyknockers as “it felt kind of cheap and thrown together.” While King isn’t necessarily wrong, this is still a surprising take. After all, 2020’s The Stand miniseries ruined one of King’s best books, and the author wasn’t anywhere near as critical of that dud despite many reviewers and critics calling the adaptation a disaster. However, King’s harsh comments could come from his troubles with The Tommyknockers as a novel, which makes the news that director James Wan wants to produce a leaner movie version of the exciting story.

Per King’s admission, “The Tommyknockers is an awful book. That was the last one I wrote before I cleaned up my act.” Since King associated The Tommyknockers with the depths of his substance abuse issues, it makes sense that the author doesn’t love the novel’s screen adaptation. To be fair to King’s assessments, the story of The Tommyknockers is pretty convoluted and messy. The plot sees the residents of a small town become entranced by a mysterious object that they find buried in the woods, but The Tommyknockers takes a long time to introduce its characters and get to the good stuff.

However, the story’s warnings about technology taking over the lives of ordinary Americans still turned out to be pretty prescient, and The Tommyknockers has moments of genius. That said, the plot needs a lot of editing, as The Tommyknockers features a slew of pointless subplots that makes King’s harsh take on the novel understandable. Luckily, director James Wan announced in 2018 that he wants to work on a movie adaptation of The Tommyknockers, and if anyone can make the premise work, the mastermind behind The Conjuring franchise seems likely to pull this off. In Wan’s hands, The Tommyknockers could be a tighter, scarier story than ever.

Wan and producer Roy Lee promised they would make a movie of The Tommyknockers back in 2018, and while the project seems to be on the back burner for the time being, there is no better time for the pair to return to this project than the present. Wan’s work on the DCEU has made the helmer an A-list director, while Lee’s pedigree includes a producer credit on IT, the blockbuster horror movie that remains the most successful King adaptation to date. The duo is a horror dream team, something that The Tommyknockers needs if the troubled story is ever to become a successful movie.

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While King’s objections to Kubrick’s changes to The Shining weren’t entirely fair, they did make sense since The Shining was (and arguably still is) King’s most critically acclaimed novel. However, The Tommyknockers was not well-loved upon its initial release, and even King admits that the book has serious flaws. As such, an adaptation that cuts the story to ribbons and only utilizes the parts that work wouldn’t upset many purists, especially when the faithful 1993 miniseries version of The Tommyknockers already exists. As such, James Wan has a unique opportunity to take one of Stephen King’s biggest mistakes and turn The Tommyknockers into a success if the director can just get the project off the ground.

More: Every Stephen King Miniseries, Ranked Worst to Best

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