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Needful Things

A movie directed by Fraser C. Heston

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Needful Things - don't we all have ‘some' needful thing?

  • Aug 17, 2001
Pros: Sydow & Plummer

Cons: too confusing

The Bottom Line: Depends on how needy you are

Another one of those King books that teeters on the absurd, as most of his movie make-overs do. In a sleepy little town in Maine (I'm thinking Maine has gotta be pretty through with King by now) a neglected store opens to serve your ‘personal needs'. A true case of one quiet little person doing a wayward trick on a hateful lady in town, a little boy throwing mud at the pretty sheets, a dead dog, the mackerel-snapper priest and the Baptist minister. Everyone looking at everyone yet no one knows just who is doing what or why they are doing it.

Never mind the quaint little store opening in town serving your personal needs, your special needs, your ‘needful things'.

Yeah, there is something for everyone in that dang store. The store that never really appears to be open except when that certain someone needs that ‘special' item. Of course, in return of payment, the proprietor asks you to do just a special little favor for him. Nothing big, nothing Earth shattering, nothing really harmful.

Never mind that little black book the proprietor has, marking off the names, marking off the deeds, tracking the exchange of ‘needful things'.

Suddenly everyone in town is in a turmoil of hatred. Friends turning on friends, family turning on family. The stalwart town sheriff and his pretty café owner girlfriend. Sooner or later everyone walks through the door of that dreadful little shop and finds that special something that changes their lives, and in turn changes the lives of all those around them.

Written by Lawrence Cohen & W. D. Richter, and directed by Fraser C. Heston, this Stephen King tale stars Max von Sydow as the devil incarnate, Mr. Leland Gaunt. Ed Harris as the town sheriff, Bonnie Bedelia as his girlfriend and café owner, Amanda Plummer as the painfully shy husband killing waitress, J. T. Walsh as the horse betting, embezzling town official, Valri Bromfield as the hatchet wielding turkey farmer, Ray McKinnon as the wayward deputy.

Everyone comes together in the most dreadful way, with their lives on the edge. I particularly enjoyed the little tete-a-tete between Plummer with the meat cleaver and Bromfield with the hatchet to the background sounds of Ava Marie. Nothing is quite so unmerciful as that.

While I can't recommend much about the movie, it falls miserably short of the book which had to be at least 1,000 pages long or so it seemed, I will give a big thumbs up to the audio tape of the book which is narrated by Stephen himself - as it should be.

You know it is very defeating to destroy an entire town in just one little mini-series. Naturally there is a climatic end to the movie, all fire and brimstone, but by this time you are desperately trying to find a way to just end the mess and get on with your life. Acting high points to me were von Sydow as Gaunt, deliciously evil and Amanda Plummer, enticingly insane. The only other snicker I got in the whole friggin movie was when the dude finally had enough of that darn ‘Achy Breaky Heart' and torn up that dang jukebox, I was thinking of it myself

Now I realize the need for everyone to be on edge, you are trying to get the whole town to turn against each other after all, but there was just too much going on - too many chopped up stories and too much action. You knew where it was all leading from the first time the door to the store opened and eventually you just didn't care.

As has been affirmed with many past productions, Castle Rock, Maine, is a dirty little town with dirty little secrets. The creepiest thing to hit that town was that darn vampire from Salem's Lot and the best thing was Leland Gaunt and his demented store. I believe King determined with this production that he was through with Castle Rock and wanted to move on to other sleepy little towns in Maine.

No matter how much I like King and his works, it is so hard to get into one of his movies. You will get a few jumps from this one but it is much too predictable.


Susi :(


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Susi Dawson ()
Ranked #80
Live your life with the goal to 'pay it forward' and do one good thing for someone else
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About this movie


When a kindly and miraculous old gentleman comes to a small town in Maine he seems too good to be true. Could it be... Satan? Interesting parallel to Mark Twain's "Man That Corrupted Hadleyburg." Based on a story by Stephen King.
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Cast: J.T. Walsh
Director: Fraser C. Heston
Release Date: 1993
MPAA Rating: R
DVD Release Date: 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment (August 27, 2002)
Runtime: 2hr 0min
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