Leland Gaunt comes to Sheriff Alan Pangborn's pleasant little New England town, and opens a store. What this kindly Satan sells is whatever you need, from a surcease from pain to an object which you have always coveted. The Faustian price is, of course, corruption, and soon the poor sheriff's town is wracked by jealousy, spite, and violence. Written by
"Needful Things" is a typical mediocre Stephen King adaptation. The drawn out book itself isn't among King's best work. Still, the fascination of the story lies in the detail and that had to be trimmed down for a 2 hours-movie version (there is another cut of the movie that's one hour longer, by the way). A lot of things had to be kicked out, but there was way too much changing around of events, items and characters. Ace Merril, a very important character for the novel's big finale, was ignored completely, for instance. I could understand things like that if they improved the movie. Kubrick made a lot of changes with his version of "Shining" and at least one could see why. With "Needful Things" the changes seem totally random and that's rather annoying for someone who has read the book.
If you don't know the story beforehand the movie will probably still seem rushed. You can't really make a connection with the many characters and Sheriff Alan Pangborn finding out what's going on in the town seems unbelievable. It didn't really work in the book, but in the movie it's just stupid that he would draw such far fetched conclusions so quickly.
The acting, on the other hand, is solid. Max von Sydow is a good choice for the part of Leland Gaunt, and Ed Harris is great as ever, although he has to work with a rather mediocre script. The sidecharacters are okay for the most part, even though Polly Chalmers and Wilma Jerzyck are maybe exaggerated.
Unlike a lot of latter King adaptations this one seems to have been made with a decent budget. The locations look good and there are a few nice special effects. At times the explosions and the score can be too much, though. It's as if director Fraser Clarke Heston realized his movie wasn't turning out as exciting as he hoped, so he decided to blow it up with some dramatic music and fire.
Well, as I've said in the headline. This movie could have been a lot better, but it could also have been a complete failure. As it is, it's good for one viewing but if you've read the novel you're going to be disappointed.
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