Bobbi (Marg Helgenberger) is a writer living out in the Maine woods who (literally) stumbles onto a spaceship. Deciding it would be a good idea to dig it up, she and soon the whole town feel the effects of the aliens inside: they “become,” which involves having a ton of energy and being inspired to invent things. Everybody’s blissed out except Bobbi’s boyfriend Gard (Jimmy Smits), who has a metal plate in his head that makes him impervious to the aliens’ influence. It’s up to him to stop his fellow townspeople from “being eaten up.”
It’s made for TV, so one can expect bad special effects and barely passable acting from a C-list cast. There’s also the occasional bit of cheesy dialogue: “Just because she was your partner’s wife and a damn fine constable besides is no reason not to speak your heart.” In addition, there are continuity errors (which I normally don’t notice, but these are extremely obvious), for example blood disappearing and reappearing on Gard’s face. Also rather silly are Nancy (Traci Lords) and her laser gun (most of the inventions these people cobble together out of batteries make sense, but how does anyone make a weapon from a tube of lipstick?) and a guy getting killed by a soda machine (that’s how I wanna go).
I did find a few things to like. It’s not unbearably dated for the early ’90s, though Bobbi has a giant cordless phone and printer paper with perforated sides. Though it’s more sci-fi in style, there’s a creepy scene or two, like Sheriff Ruth’s (Joanna Cassidy) already unsettling dolls that come to life. It’s also entertaining—despite the four-hour running time, I wasn’t sitting there waiting for it to be over.
Stephen King has said that his novel The Tommyknockers is an allegory for drug abuse. Critics and fans tend to revile the book for not being up to King’s generally stellar standards (ya know, like the meatballs who eat planes or the sentient grass). The metaphor is firmly in place here; becoming is described as “an incredible high.” The users lose their teeth and become manic with their newfound ideas and drive. Similarly, the transformation is taking an unhealthy toll on their bodies—their masters are gradually killing them.
According to IMDB, James Wan has optioned the rights to remake it. If anyone can make this mess into something cool, it’s him.