For my third Stephen King film, I picked Thinner (1996), which is kind of a mixed bag for me. The novel is one that I read over and over and over again to the point of it falling apart because I just thought the story was so damn cool, but the translation to screen is a little bumpy. Mr. Tom Holland is the director of this one too, and he co-wrote the screenplay adaptation with Michael McDowell (who helped craft the screenplays of both Beetlejuice and The Nightmare Before Christmas!).
The story of Thinner is pretty basic, and somewhat chilling (at least, in the book it seemed so): overweight, obnoxious lawyer Billy Halleck (John Robert Burke) accidentally runs over a gypsy woman in his car and kills her — while his wife is giving him head — and then uses his connections to get out of being punished for it. The gypsy’s ancient father decides to takes matters into his own wrinkled hands, by cursing Halleck with something that causes him to lose weight rapidly no matter how much he eats.
It doesn’t take Billy that long to figure out what’s up, and once he does, he spends the entire movie running around looking for a way to break the curse — and, and ogling hot gypsy Kari Wuhrer, but who wouldn’t? It’s a little boring, but since the whole movie only runs 93 minutes it’s okay. The best/funniest parts involve Wuhrer and her slingshot, and Joe Mantega as mob boss Richard Ginelli, who’s also an expert on Gypsies. Or something.
Part of the problem with this one is the special F/X – that fat suit is heinous, dude. It doesn’t look as bad in the photos as it does on screen, but mygod. The edging! If only Glen Hetrick had been on set to give the makeup department the smack-down! The old age gypsy makeup is pretty bad too, but at least the increasingly thinner stages of Halleck got a little bit better. Plus, I mean, THIS EXPRESSION IS PRICELESS:
The end of the movie is pretty close to the end of the book (which I remember being totally shocked by!), but of course since it’s a film they have to tack on something a little extra. (Side note: somebody actually edited the last scene so it matches what happens in the book! THE INTERNET IS RAD SOMETIMES.) With very little gore save a slingshot pebble through a hand and some interestingly gooey pizza-face moments, it’s a fun watch in terms of dated ridiculousness, just not in terms of splatter.
There are good things: Burke is a pretty fantastic actor, and he does a great job even with this material. His wide-eyed delivery just works here! And Mantenga chews up every scene in this thing — you know, just like he does in everything. Plus, as the gypsy curses ramp up the hysterical tone of the film gets even more hysterical with every line of dialog, which is honestly pretty entertaining.
And of course, there’s also Kari Wuhrer in full-on “Sexy Gypsy” costume mode with some impressively big 90’s hair (and possibly the worst Gypsy accent ever):
Just be careful! She doesn’t take kindly to people drooling over her. Especially “white men from town”.
Final recommendation: This is the kind of King adaptation that would lend itself well to a Bad Movie Day with a bucket o’ booze and a bunch of like-minded friends. It’s just a lot more fun (if memory serves) not watching it alone.
2 comments on “Thinner”
Michael McDowell! I’d forgotten about him! I read a bunch of his Southern gothic tales in the ’80s, and I think I liked them. They probably should be republished now that shape-shifters and southern vampires are all the rage.
Oh man. Those sound awesome! I need to look those up.