Western themed horror is a subgenre that has always intrigued audiences. Using the legends and lore of the wild west, these movies capture a perspective of the fears in early western America. The Night of The Tommyknockers (2022) does just that. Tommyknockers are mythological boogeymen that live deep under ground hoarding for gold. Historically, there are many different views on whether or not the appearance of tommyknockers were a good or bad omen but this film makes it clear that… it’s all bad.
Another fine film from Mahal Empire
Night of the Tommy Knockers is another horror/action film produced by Mahal Empire. These guys are putting in the work to keep regularly releasing new content. The film is slated for November 25th, 2022 release by Gravitas Ventures. That’s right, when people are getting in knife fights at the local Target, you can relax with this little horror gem on Black Friday! Michael Su takes the reigns as director for this wild west monster massacre.
We would to thank Sonny at Mahal Empire for kindly offering Malevolent Dark an opportunity to review a pre-release screener of the film!
Out West during the gold rush
The film take place in the late 1800s as the legend of the tommyknockers is explained by miners in search gold in an abandoned mine. As soon as one yells he’s found the gold, the attacks begin. This intro launches directly into some suspense, fast action and sweet gore. The audience immediately wants to see these beasts again.
Classic western tropes
Following the title card the film cuts to an old western saloon with a group of men playing poker. Accused of cheating the men quickly draw guns on the accusers. Before they pull the trigger a desperado-esque man stops them and tells them, “Time’s a wasting”. The men drop their guns and follow and join a larger group of bandits. As they leave the owner of the saloon makes the men aware they were lucky considering the men they had accused were the Dirt Gang. This sends the men into a rush to find the local Marshall.
Thus far, the action truly feels like the classic westerns and has the same feel.
At the bank, the leader Dirk (Richard Grieco), tries to ensure everyone that if they listen, no one will get hurt. A man named Lucky (Robert LaSardo), the wildest of the gang, has a hard time with this. In fact, he finds it impossible. We recently discussed Robert LaSardo in the Bridge of the Doomed (2022) review. We loved him in Bridge, but his role as Lucky really let’s his sense of humor shine.
It’s been a while since these eyes have seen Richard Grieco in a film. Formerly a teenage heart-throb in 22 Jumpstreet, Grieco pulls off the dusty desperado archetype as if the role were made for him.
Outside the men of the town have set up a barricade resulting in a shootout, but the Dirt Gang rides off into the sunset with bags of money and the female banker as a hostage.
Raising the stakes with gold in Nevada
As it turns out, the bank teller that Dirk kidnapped is actually an accomplice named Betsy (Angela Cole). While the gang plots their next move by the fire, Dirk tells the crew of a bank that has gold stored inside. He asks if they’ll join him in going to Deer Creek Nevada top stake their claim in other peoples gold. They all agree. Like any good Western, a bounty hunter, Tobin Horn (Michael Beran), stalks them from a distance.
The gang arrives at Deer Creek and it appears to be an abandoned ghost town. They decide to split up and find anyone they can. As night falls on the Dirt Gang, they find something sinister lurking in the darkness – the tommyknockers.
As it turns out, the townspeople are around, but hiding. It’s at this moment that Tom Sizemore steps out of the shadows as Marshall Steed. Tom Sizemore was a one of the biggest names in Hollywood in the late 90’s. It’s great to see him back in the action genre.
Trapped in a saloon the Dirt Gang and the townspeople try to barricade themselves in as the tommyknockers hunt for flesh and gold.
Well Executed Monster Fun
Back when we reviewed Bridge of the Doomed, we called out that team at Mahal Empire really understands how to make fantastic use of limited resources. As a technique, they use CGI sparingly and effectively. Very close inspection reveals that things like exploding glass windows, gunshots and blood splatter are artfully done in CGI. They also use CGI for a giant explosion. While this makes great use of their budget, more importantly they protect their cast and crew from the dangers of pyrotechnics.
The special effects team opted for CGI where it made sense and made efficient use of the budget; however, they opted for good-old 90’s style practical effects for tommyknockers. Together these techniques bring Night of the Tommyknockers exactly what it needs.
The team also pulls together a fantastic cast for this film. Robert LaSardo is quickly rising the ranks of our favorite horror actors. He brings a perfect mix of humor, seriousness and physicality to the role. We also really enjoyed Angela Cole’s portrayal Betsy, the swindling belle of the Wild West. It was great seeing Richard Grieco again, and the role of Dirk worked very well for him. We say the same for Tom Sizemore. Outside of the main cast, performances did get a bit dry, but some of supporting actors like Denny Nolan as Henry Middleton do shine.
Overall, I really enjoyed this film. The combination of the Wild West and cryptozoological beasts offers rich fabric of which to weave a tale. The action is good and humor is well paced. Lest we forget, the old bounty hunter trope offers a few surprises as well. Michael Su’s cinematography once again demonstrates his skill behind the camera.
If you like western horror then this is definitely for you. I thoroughly enjoyed this and can’t wait to see more from Mahal Empire. Support indie horror!