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An entertaining film.
G.Spider20 January 2000
I have never read the King novel 'Needful Things' and so can't compare it with this film one way or the other.

But this film, about a mysterious character who sets up a shop in which local residents find various treasures and are then tricked into perpetrating horrors against their neighbours, is entertaining and contains some good characters and marvelously black comedy. Though there are a few cheesy moments (like that ridiculous model which is supposed to represent a skinned dog), the film is still a winner. Max Von Sydow is good as the literally devilish owner of the Needful Things store and the climax is nicely-done.
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Be Careful For What You Wish For - You May Get It At Great Cost
theowinthrop19 June 2007
Warning: Spoilers
I have to admit that having read of this horror film I approached it with some trepidation - Stephen King's work is not very familiar to me. I know his reputation, and I have meant to read him, but I have a large number of other books to read before I can make room for King. Probably the leading horror and Gothic novelist/short story writer of our time (the man who is the modern literary heir to Charles Brockden Brown, Edgar Allen Poe, Ambrose Bierce, and Lovecraft), it has become a common comment that his best work is between the covers of his books and not on celluloid. Most of the comments on NEEDFUL THINGS follow this - a general feeling that it is a let-down of sorts.

Yet I finally acquired a DVD of the film today, and it turned out that it is a really good film. Moreover, the horror has it's amusements. If I may suggest this to the readers, when you watch this film do what Max Von Sydow does in several scenes: watch it with a glass of fine old brandy or wine, or even a nice slice of apple pie (with or without Von Sydow's favorite - cheddar cheese), and try not to take it too seriously. Yes, the scene where the dog is found skinned (fake dead dog as it is) is not pleasant to view, but around it are some amusing bits.

It's the practical jokes that Leland Gaunt (Von Sydow's pseudonym - he is the Devil, and is playing the Devil correctly as the Devil is the best of correct gentlemen) plays that amuses us, even as they spread his brand of evil throughout the town of Castle Rock. They are not harmless jokes, but meant to torment his victims at each other's hands. But they include scenes like Brian Rusk (Shane Meier) breaking the windows and smashing the kitchen of the home of Wilma Jercyk (Valeri Bromfield) as though he is pitching for the Yankees in the World Series. They include a self-important, crooked businessman like Danford Keaton (J. T. Walsh) getting involved for a whole afternoon with an antique horse racing game (supposedly it will give him a winning series of horses for the track), and insulting his wife in the process when she innocently suggests he go out for some honey based donuts. They include the neurotic Nettie Cobb(Amanda Plummer) putting up accusatory papers around Keaton's living room and kitchen, while Keaton is busy, and then just barely getting out without being seen by him when he reads the same papers. Even Von Sydow gets into the fun of the horror - he goes into ecstasy thinking of the chaos he created in front of his fireplace while listening to "Ave Maria". His taste in music is fine - but the Devil enjoying "Ave Maria"?

Basically the chaos in the town is created when the Devil gives the luckless, self-centered townspeople what they want at his new store (a type of antique - collectibles shop called "Needful Things") and they have to do little pranks to help pay for their acquisitions. Brian sells himself for an autographed Topps 1955 Mickey Mantle card (I think he should have held out for the really rare 1910 or so Honus Wagner card that is worth about $100,000.00 if you find it). Nettie, whose abusive husband smashed her china collection seven years before, gets a second copy of her favorite statue. Polly Chalmers (Bonnie Bedelia) has arthritis, and gets an ancient Egyptian necklace that helps her condition improve. But then they have to do one evil after another after another. Sometimes one sympathizes with them (Brian is too young to fully understand what he let himself in for, and Polly really suffers from arthritis). But with people like the selfish, self-important Keaton one sympathizes more with others (like his wife) than himself.

There is increased violence in the film, and the death of Nettie's dog is the start of it. The next act is possibly the best recalled moment of the film. It is rare (really rare) for two women characters to kill each other in a movie. In the classic western JOHNNY GUITAR, Mercedes McCambridge was shot and killed in a showdown with Joan Crawford, but our sympathy was with Joan not Mercedes. In NEEDFUL THINGS Nettie and Wilma slaughter each other: Nettie believing Wilma has killed her dog (Wilma didn't) and Wilma believing Nettie first smeared Turkey excrement on her washing, and then smashed up her home (Nettie didn't). It makes the whole more believable that Nettie is considered a mental case who murdered her abusive husband, and Wilma is a violent, mental case as well. They are combustible types about to be mixed together.

The scene (it takes all of three minutes) is well done actually - Nettie showing up holding a bread knife behind her back to face Wilma in Wilma's home. Wilma has grabbed a cleaver. I read some descriptions of the sequence that don't go into the details, but basically the battle is a bloody one, with Nettie getting first blood (thrusting her knife into Wilma's belly), but Wilma swinging her cleaver and cutting Nettie across her chest. Both drop their weapons, and end up with each others, chasing each other to the second floor, and bleeding heavily. They end up falling out of the window with Nettie burying her cleaver in Wilma's face while Wilma pushes her knife into Nettie's chest (and it comes out her back). They are both killed, but they probably would have bled to death anyway.

The violence continues to escalate after that, though nothing as startling in it's violent confrontation. At the end the town is almost blown up. But at the end Mr. Von Sydow leaves town intact. Stephen King knows that the Devil may be thwarted, but evil always survives.
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Could have been better, could have been worse
Superunknovvn20 August 2006
"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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Sydow carries the movie
Chicky515028 April 2006
Warning: Spoilers
Needful Things is an unexpected gem of a movie. I think its subtlety worked against it. Looking at the comments here, I think people missed the point of Max von Sydow's performance.

The plot is simple. Leland Grant (the Devil) moves into a small town and opens up a shop that can get you anything you want, but he'll ask you for a favor. The favors exploit tensions in the town, causing people to turn on each other.

Ed Harris is solid as the town sheriff, but he isn't given a lot to do, neither is his fiancée Bonnie Bedalia. This movie belongs to its the villains, the town politician J.T. Walsh unravels over the course of the movie, and von Sydow is utterly brilliant.

This would be an easy role to overact on. You could be the mustache twirling villain quite easily, but Leland Gaunt is grandfatherly, likable, a complete gentleman. As he manipulates and torments, he never seems sinister which makes it a much more complex and rewarding performance. I think it was quite a choice to play him that way, he really took something on paper, and made more of it.

Some movies are great in their entirety, and some just have great performances. The movie isn't perfect, but has a great performance.
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Hell Breaks Loose in a Nice Place to Live and Grow
Claudio Carvalho21 March 2015
Castle Rock, New England, is a nice place to live and grow and Sheriff Alan Pangborn (Ed Harris) moves from the big city to the town expecting a quiet life. When Leland Gaunt (Max Von Sydow) opens the store Needful Things, he seems to have the object of desire for each dweller. He charges small amounts to the things but requests a practical joke for each of them against another inhabitant. Soon hell breaks loose in town with deaths, violence and riot and Sheriff Pangborn discovers that Leland Gaunt is the devil himself. Further, Gaunt is manipulating the population like puppets exploring the weakness and greed of each person.

"Needful Things" is a horror movie with black humor with a story of greed and evilness. Max Von Sydow has a great performance and his personification of evil is scary. There are interesting characters and situations and this movie is entertaining and surprisingly underrated. My vote is eight.

Title (Brazil): "Trocas Macabras" ("Macabre Exchanges")
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Max on Sydow saves this King adaptation
TransAtlantyk13 February 2012
I'm not a big Stephen King fan but the premise to this story is just great. It should make for a great film but for some reason the film disappoints. Not terribly but you feel like you should have gotten more.

Enter Max von Sydow. The man is an absolute pleasure to watch in any film he is in and no matter how long he appears in a given film it is better for his involvement. Without question one of the world's greatest actors of the twentieth century. This is obviously not his best role but he lends a wonderful Old World charm to this American story, his turn as the shopkeeper saves this movie from being low- quality and brings it up to a decent spooky story.

I have heard that the TBS version is much better as it feature more characterization (what I found to be the weakest part of the film) but I have not seen it. If anyone has any idea where to acquire it please leave a comment.
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Needful Things
rhonda_karen2 May 2006
I love Stephen King, and I've tried to see as many of the movie adaptations of his books as possible. I haven't read a Stephen King book I didn't like - and Needful Things was the first Stephen King book I ever read, so it has a special spot for me. I think this was a pretty good movie, but could have been better if made into a mini-series and more of the stories in the plot could have been developed more fully. I realize this isn't always possible, but in the case of this movie, so many important plot twists were left out it was kind of hard to recognize the story. I think the casting was pretty good and this is a cute little movie to watch if you have some time to kill. But I definitely recommend that you pick up the book and read it if you want the whole story. You'll be shocked to see how much was left out.
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A rare shopkeeper comes to a little American town happening weird deeds
ma-cortes15 April 2009
A strange person comes to a little town named Castle Rock(similarly the name of this movie production) , he's a shopkeeper(Max Von Sidow) delivering fantastic objects to the people, but the items surge an evil forces , terrorizing and originating wreak havoc. The sheriff(Ed Harris) suspects on the scheming seller and owner an antique shop, then he now encounters himself in the middle of a mayhem. The perplexing sheriff attempts to warn everybody his hidden intentions and malignant powers .

The fantastic picture packs weird events, fantasy, irony, some of humor and is quite entertaining. Cast is frankly excellent as Ed Harris, Max Von Sidow, Bonnie Bedelia and magnificent support cast as Amanda Plummer,Morgan Shepard,Ray McKinnon,Don S Davis and the deceased J.T. Walsh as an overacting character. Atmospheric musical score by Patrick Doyle including frightening chores coincidentally to Jerry Goldsmith's Omen film and colorful cinematography by Anthony Westman. This is an acceptable big screen directorial debut for Charlton Heston's son, named Fraser C Heston though the outcome isn't as good as you'd expect. Written by W. D. Ritcher, a Sci-Fi expert which seem doesn't improve in the transition from page to screen and based on horror master Stephen King's bestselling novel of the same title. King movies rendition are converting as prolific as his novels, from ¨Creepshow¨ along with ¨Cats's eye¨, ¨Silver bullet¨,¨Maximum overdrive¨ unique directed by King and various TV take on as ¨Rose red, The storm of the century,The stand,Golden years and Langoliers¨ have been numerous his adaptations. Rating : Passable and acceptable .
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I've always enjoyed watching this movie.
Boba_Fett113816 September 2008
As an horror lover I never have been a too big fan of Stephen King or his horror movie adaptations, since I find his work to be very formulaic but I've always enjoyed watching this pleasant light little movie.

Without its fun the movie probably would had been a really terrible picture. If the movie had been all serious some of the moments within the movie for sure would not had worked out and would had been painfully bad and laughable instead. But it's as if the movie had foreseen this and went with an often light and pleasant approach instead. The movie never takes itself too serious, for which you can also thank director Fraser Clarke Heston, who indeed is the son of screen legend Charlton Heston.

The movie has a good story, in which the devil in flesh, played by Max von Sydow, is setting people up against each other by letting them perform tasks for them, so they can get their 'needful' thing from him. The story is nicely constructed and build up and shows a different but interesting portrayal of the devil, as a man who uses people their own sins to set them up against each other and let them commit horrible acts, without ever getting dirty hands himself.

The movie has a pretty amazing cast with actors such as Max von Sydow, Ed Harris, Amanda Plummer and J.T. Walsh all involved. Von Sydow plays a great role and so does Ed Harris, though for a 'main hero' he just doesn't have quite the screen time you would expect him to have. Also great was J.T. Walsh in a crazy role in which his character more and more starts to derail. These were the kind of roles he always was best at.

The movie has a kind of cheap look over it. A kind of look you would perhaps more expect from a TV movie, which might be due to Fraser Clarke Heston inexperience as a director, though it also is definitely true that this movie was just fairly cheap made and got never aimed toward a large audience and in many countries never made it to the cinemas.

Simply one fine and enjoyable movie, that you just don't need to take too seriously.

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A Very Enjoyable Trip to Castle Rock
gavin694210 March 2011
The small town of Castle Rock suddenly changes when Leland Gaunt (Max von Sydow) opens a store called Needful Things. Soon, everyone finds something they want, and have a high price to pay for it. The town turns itself inside out!

I enjoyed this film, watching it at a friend's house while swirling a glass of zinfandel. It is really made by having Max von Sydow as Leland Gaunt. Without von Sydow in this role -- looking very much the successful of Vincent Price -- the film may have become just another poor King adaptation. But I think this one is one of the better attempts, or at least above average.

I find it interesting that Sheriff Alan Pangborn, played here by Ed Harris, also appears in "The Dark Half" (1993), released earlier the same year, in which the part is played by Michael Rooker. I wish they would have kept the casting the same. King's novels overlap, and I think if the films did, too, it would create more of a demand for them, and make the overarching story more interesting. This story connects also to "Stand By Me", but you would never know it from the film.

The film was directed by Fraser C. Heston, the son of actor Charlton Heston. It was Heston's first project, and an admirable one. To me, it feels like many of King's films have a similar look or feel to them, and I wonder if this is intentional, or if I am just crazy. But if it is intentional, Heston nails it.

While there are other King adaptations I would recommend first -- It, The Shining, Carrie and Dead Zone, just off the top of my head -- this is still better than some, and a good deal better than a lot of the horror films out there. If you are unsure, I say go for it.
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Adaptation begging for more
Robert W.3 October 2004
Needful Things (the movie) revolves around the fictional town of Castle Rock, Maine. A businessman named Leland Gaunt played adequately by Max Von Sydow opens a small antiques type store called "Needful Things" and has some very unique and special items for certain folks in the town. His only purpose to be in town is to wreak havoc with the folks in Castle Rock. He does this by trading special goods for certain pranks from the city people turning everyone against each other and poisoning their town. I think it's important to try and separate a movie from it's this case the unequaled Stephen King Novel. Unfortunately I finished the novel hours before watching the movie adaptation which must bring the inevitable comparisons. I do believe even on it's own, the movie lacks something...character development. We don't know anything about these people, and for being a Stephen King story this is unfathomable. King always spends hundreds and hundreds of pages getting us to delve into a town, it's people, each person and all their personalities. This film attempts to ignore all that and go straight to the root of the story which is an ancient evil (in this case made plainly out to be the devil) who wants to destroy this town. King created Needful Things in part to destroy elaborately his creation that is Castle Rock, the film simply wanted to take the so called best parts of that and recreate it. This film is not as good as it should be in part because of the fickle nature of movie goers who can't stand to sit in a theatre for longer than 1 hour 30 minutes. For justice this film would have to be a mini series of a MINIMUM of 4 hours. The plus sides were most definitely the cast. Ed Harris played a strong, and powerful Alan Pangborn and Bonnie Bedelia was an intriguing yet sadly underused Polly. Sydow played a decent Leland Gaunt although the script could have done so much more for him. The supporting cast including JT Walsh as the already off balance Danforth (Buster) Keaton was nicely done. The film just left me begging and crying for a full adaptation from the book. I understand the writer or writers attempted to pull together the best they could but they fell short from an incredible book that has too many important elements that were left out. The film is enjoyable and probably moreso if you haven't read the book. It just always feels like it's missing something. It's worth checking out especially if you enjoy King movies. 6/10
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Faust revisited
mermatt1 August 1998
Despite the fact that this film is based on yet another Stephen King novel, it is worth watching -- especially for the performance by Max von Sydow as the "old boy himself."

I watched the "director's cut" once on TV that had many scenes in it which were cut from the theatrical version. None of the restored scenes was especially good. It is interesting to note that practically every moment of Max von Sydow's performance is in both versions. He holds the screen with every sly look, every smooth utterance. He is a true joy to watch in this retelling of the Fause legend. It proves what a wonderful actor he is -- he has played Jesus (THE GREATEST STORY EVER TOLD), Ming the Merciless (FLASH GORDON), and many other parts. Playing the Devil allows him to chew the scenery in grand style.
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The best King novel ruined.
Reagen13 October 1998
This is by far my favourite Stephen King novel, and it was butchered. Almost nothing is like it was in the novel. The novel worked, so why change it? There were literally dozens of supporting characters cut out of the script that you cared about, and nobody had any character development. My recoMmendation, skip the movie, read the book. It's a masterpiece of dark comedy.
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Only movie I have ever walked out on.
heyyou-423 July 2000
Took a very good book and completely butchered it. Nothing was as it should have been. Some of the best parts of the book were missing, including the major point of the whole book. Simply the worst adaptation of a Stephen King novel ever. This movie made the mini-series for IT look good.
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What a bad movie. Hardly any redeeming qualities.
Dellamorte_Dellamore0720 March 2007
After the lush, inspiring aerial shot in fast motion in the opening of the movie, this slipped into utter boredom and a one tone note right till the end.

Where to begin, well I'll start with the characters. I really enjoyed them in the book, here they all were types and one dimensional morons that either had "Victim" or "Asshole" written on their foreheads from the get go. How any one didn't see through the store owner Lealand Gaunt (in a hammy and out of place performance by Sydrow)is beyond me.

This film lacks in thrills, suspense, and in some sense yes, entertaining values. It stretches itself for far too long with not a lot of pay off. Why introduce too many annoying should-die-quick type of characters and then forget about half of them half way through? In the book practically everyone that went into the store met a grisly fate. Here, besides one of the only decent scenes that translated well from the novel (the fight between Wilma and Nettie), was a letdown and didn't have much balls. I'm sorry but after, one off screen death,a boring shoot off, and some bickering and then a couple explosions just didn't do it for me. The brutality and mean spiritedness from the book was sadly missing. The explosion of the church scene was so over the top and badly executed, all of sudden the entire city was in a brawl? It made no sense and characters that weren't introduced all the way through suddenly are, who are these people and why should I care?

The story is all over the place and none of the scenes had momentum. I thought Ed Harris and Bonnie Bedeila were good actors in this, but the movie gives them not enough substance for me to give a damn. Amanda Plummer was credible but too pathetic to really be sympathetic (in the novel she was a sad and depressing character)here it was a too one note. J.T. Walsh was entertaining, but the role was far from interesting or layered. Too predictable.

The soundtrack was too classy for the material it was supporting. It stood out like sore thumb. Easy there buddy, easy. Something a little less theatrical I'd assume would have worked.

I will admit some of the gore it did manage to have was good enough I guess, The director seemed to hold back a lot of the times though. If your going to make a movie that reaches the 2 hr point be sure to have far more going on then this disaster of a adaption of on of Kings better novels.

I often found myself laughing at scenes that were suppose to be taken seriously (Ed Harris speech at the end, or the character Hugh Priest in general), and was bored and uninterested most of the other time. Personally the director should have done so much more with this story, his approach is too tame and hides behind too much crisp cinematography to ever come off as a decent movie. The movie looks good, but not the look I think this story deserved. I mean, this dude helmed ALASKA,not a good sign.

I'd rather just read the book, as you should too as if it is far more entertaining,layered character development, grisly violence and mayhem, a nasty sense of humour, and far more oomph. This is a butchered version, that has not much to offer.

** out of ****
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jroywoodward14 May 2001
Reading the book I felt once again drawn into Castle Rock (Needful Things being the final part of the Rock trilogy), and the plot was a variant on the "demon comes to small redneck village" type story King likes to tell. The characters were all described in loving detail, and it made both a good psychological and gory horror. The film on the other hand is awful. Gone are the character interactions and clever plot, and replaced by a story that tries to be exciting but misses by a mile. If you haven't read the book then you might enjoy this, else avoid at all costs, as with most films of King's books.
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Stay Away
christopherborne15 October 2005
Warning: Spoilers
** May contain spoilers ** Horrible. Just horrible. I loved Stephen King's novel, and this is just a horrible adaptation of it. They change the ending. They change the plot. They changed Alan Pangborne's character from a grieving husband to a happy fiancé. If you are a fan of Stephen King's novel, stay away. Even if You are not, stay away.

The book was awesomely dark, even for Steve King. An 11 year old kills himself in the novel. A middle school principal is found with child pornography in the novel. THis is nowhere near as good as the novel.

This movie is my least favorite film of all time. I hate this film with a vengeance.
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Small-town Faust
Gislef22 December 1998
Needful Things is an adequate, if overly long adaptation of the Stephen King novel. The director's cut is a must-see if you want to capture all the nuances and get more of a feel for King's original intent. The main problem with the movie is...well, the incredible let-down of an ending, which bears no resemblance to the novel's even in the DC version. The producers and writers, quite frankly, wimp out. It's some fun getting there, but you'll be disappointed at the end.
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terrible adaptation
emptymask20 October 2003
Needful Things was one of my favorite Stephen King books. But this movie is one of the worst book to film adaptations I have ever seen they changed so many things around that it made me sick. Even the concept of the book being deception, things not always what they appear reminder throughout the book was not shown in the movie. Althogh it was enjoyable as many Stephen King films are, but as many Stephen King films this one did not follow the book and became a piece of Hollywood trailer trash. 2/10
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This is one Stephen King adaptation that should never have been made into a movie
Dan Grant26 August 1999
Stephen King is a genius. I know many people feel other wise, like his college professors that told him his writing was terrible, like critics that say he is a smash mouth writer when compared to the "greats" like Hemmingway. There are always people telling him that his material is terrible. But what really matters is what we his fans think. And since his books have sold over fifty million copies world wide, I don't really think it matters too much what his critics think. But because he is such a brilliant writer, it has always been extremely difficult to interpret his writing onto the silver screen. Some have worked well ( Shawshank, Misery, Stand By Me, Shining, Dead Zone) but most haven't. And that is because what King does in is books is paints a picture for you. He gets inside the heads of the characters he is writing about. He makes you know what makes his characters tick. And not only does he do it over five or six hundred pages, sometimes he does it over a series of books. For instance, Sheriff Alan Pangbourn has been sheriff of Castle Rock since George Bannerman got killed by Cujo. That is about six books ago. He gives time to develop these people and in turn when they show up in more than one book, we are happy to see them again. IT is my favourite book and it is not even part of the Castle Rock stories, and it is one adaptation that I will never see on video. I don't want my vision of the charcters ruined. Ben and Bill can never be former television stars. They have to stay Bill and Ben. Needful Things is another that I should have never saw. The book is too good and honest and familiar to be have even great actors like Ed Harris and Max Von Sydow play the characters. Needful Things is supposed to be the last Castle Rock story and it is supposed to sum everything up, and for it to work, you have to be familiar with all the secondary characters in the story. It really does work better that way. And if that is what you know, Needful Things not only stays entertaining, but you get the message even more. The movie just can't interpret what the book is about because the director can't possibly undertand King's mind. You can't look at Leland Gaunt the same way in the film as you do in the book. He was an evil, twisted but charming man in King's story. In the film he is just another bad guy.

This book is an iteresting and fascinating story, it is pretty much the epitome of the song Sympathy For The Devil. "I shouted out who killed the Kennedy's when after all it was you and me.... I've been around for a long long year... " And to make that as real in the film, as chilling in the film as the book was, well, you just can't do it.

The tag line for King's Pet Semetary was " Sometimes dead is better." Well to borrow from that, sometimes unmade is better. Because there are just some stories that can't be told in a movie. Needful Things is one of them.
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Lets take a great book, remove 70% of the characters and make a movie!
jugg-230 March 2000
The book was one of Stephen King's best. The movie was pure rubbish. It was painful to remain in the theater until the ending, which wasn't even the same as the book. I guess that this is the result when you try to cram 10 pages of story into every minute. There is no good reason to watch this movie.
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Decent Stephen King adaptation.
Paul Andrews31 March 2006
Warning: Spoilers
Needful Things is set in the small American New England town of Castle Rock where a new resident by the name of Leland Gaunt (Max von Sydow), whose most distinguishing characteristic appears to be that he never cuts his finger-nails, plans on opening a shop called 'Needful Things', the day of the grand opening fast approaches but a young boy named Brian Rusk (Shane Meier) decides to have a sneak peak & simply walks in. Brian is confronted by Leland who makes his most wanted item a reality, an old & rare baseball card, which he lets him have in return for a slightly naughty favour of playing a practical joke on someone. The shop opens & everyone in Castle Rock seems to find their dream possession, the thing their hearts desire the most all sold for very little money & with the promise that they'll do Leland a favour. Soon the entire town is playing tricks on each other that specifically targets the victims in a way which will hurt the most, it reaches a point in which they literally begin killing each other. Sheriff Alan J. Pangborn (Ed Harris) & his girlfriend Polly Chalmers (Bonnie Bedelia) start to suspect that Leland isn't what he at first seems & his shop has a sinister side to it...

Directed by Fraser Clarke Heston (yes he is the son of legendary actor Charlton Heston) I thought Needful Things was a pretty good horror/thriller. I am aware that Needful Things exists in two distinct versions, the two hour home video cut which is the one I will be commenting on & a longer four hour cable TV version which I have not seen but it sounds boring. The script by W.D. Ritcher is based on the novel by Stephen King & was a little on the sedate side for me, it's over an hour before any sort of violence or horror comes into play while until that point it's pretty dull exposition & character building which is fine if that's your thing but I just found it a bit drawn out & lifeless. The basic story is quite good & is different although it's hardly exciting & at the end I felt it was all a bit shallow & pointless. I thought it could have used a bit more urgency & a bit more horror as my interest started to disappear rapidly as the minutes ticked away...

Director Heston does an OK job of making it look nice enough although there isn't any great visual style to it. There's a reasonable atmosphere to it but don't expect any great scares as Needful Things seems to be character driven. Don't expect much gore, a skinned dog, some stabbings, a meat clever in the head & a few splashes of blood here & there.

Technically the film is fine & is made with competence throughout. The acting is pretty good which helps.

Needful Things is a decent Stephen King adaptation, it's not the best but it's not the worst either. Persoanlly I thought the story was fine but the slow pace & lack of real horror counted against it in my final reckoning. Worth a watch but nothing to get too excited about.
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Caveat Emptor (Buyer Beware)!
sampleman411-122 April 2002
Me like this film. Me laugh, me somewhat moved, me not quite cry... Me a little scared. International actor Max Von Sydow is given a chance to ham it up (as few others of his professional category qualify) as "The Devil"... or his younger cousin, at best. As already indicated elsewhere on IMDb, there was a TNT (?) cable version (something like a total of three, or four hours...not including commercials).

The story (based on Stephen King's novel) has less roots in the Faust legend, than it does in the grand, American groundbreaking novel "Peyton Place" (author Grace Metalius' once-taboo and scandalous book about provincial hypocrisy and antiquated, stifling mores). King's plot is the goblin's version of this aforementioned soap-operatic melodrama: "Polly Chalmers" is a chronic version of "Peyton Place's" Constance McKenzie, "Nettie" is inspired by Peyton's "Nellie," and "Sheriff Alan Pangborn" (played by Ed Harris) is Peyton's high-school principal.

Leland Gaunt (Sydow) is the mysterious proprietor of a store that caters to customers whose lives are devoid of any of life's more positive and personal fulfillments. Be careful what you 'wish for,' because the devil is liable to give you your due. The film's able cast includes Amanda Plummer (as the nervous "Nettie"), the late J.T. Walsh (as the compulsive gambler) and Bonnie Bedelia (seen previously in Tobe Hooper's two-part telefilm "Salem's Lot," based on another King novel).
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Uninspired adaptation of the Stephen King novel.
Scott LeBrun9 March 2015
Warning: Spoilers
The day to day lives of the good people of Castle Rock, Maine are shook up by a new arrival. Leland Gaunt (Max von Sydow) is a charming, dashing figure who opens up a curiosity shop named Needful Things. This place can basically give you whatever object you desire the most. Naturally, there's a very heavy price to be paid for obtaining these items... Soon the flustered sheriff, Alan Pangborn (Ed Harris) is having to deal with a town full of madmen and madwomen who are all now at each others' throats, ready to kill.

The main attraction in this Stephen King adaptation is some very apt casting. If nothing else makes this watchable, it's the performances. Harris and the late, superior character actor J.T. Walsh are allowed the opportunity to overact as they hadn't done before. Walsh, often a man relegated to various white collar criminal and sleazy guy roles, is a scream as the unhinged politician convinced that he's being persecuted by the world at large. Harris is a likable hero. Bonnie Bedelia is very appealing as his love interest Polly. Amanda Plummer and Valri Bromfield, like Walsh, sink their teeth into their scenery devouring roles. Familiar faces in the cast also include Duncan Fraser, William Morgan Sheppard, Don S. Davis, Frank C. Turner, and Lochlyn Munro. The movie does give the legendary Mr. von Sydow a chance to have some fun, and he is utterly charming as the sinister Mr. Gault, but he's never what you could consider truly scary. At best, he's sort of creepy. Lisa Blount has an uncredited cameo as Cora Rusk.

The King novel isn't one of his best, but it *is* quite entertaining with its character vignettes, and this adaptation (by screenwriter W.D. Richter) just doesn't size up as that satisfying. In making the transition from book to movie, it loses some impact. It's just not that meaty, and in the end is sort of weak, being content to kill off no more than a few characters. (The body count in the book is MUCH higher; the climactic riot is a real corker.) It's reasonably well made; the director is Fraser C. Heston (Charltons' son) and the excellent music is by Patrick Doyle.

At least it manages to end with a big bang, which is pretty impressive. The best moments tend to belong to Walsh.

An alternate, extended TV version of this exists that is titled "More Needful Things". This viewer would be most interested in watching that version and seeing if it works any better.

Six out of 10.
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'Needful Things' in my opinion is still quite good and entertaining
Bryan Kluger11 August 2015
Warning: Spoilers
I'm a huge fan of Stephen King. My parents started me on Stephen King at an early age so that I could learn to love to read. Needless to say, I was sucker from the first one I picked up in the late 80s, even if I didn't quite understand everything at the time. One of the more fascinating Stephen King books was 'Needful Things'. I thought the idea was original and quite cool in that there was a store where you could buy rare items that did "odd" things along with a kooky store owner. I liked to pretend that my local comic book store that had the old vintage issues and rare action figures stored in the back had special powers, and that after I saved my allowance over several weeks, I'd purchase these rare items and I'd gain some sort of coolness or powers.

Granted, 'Needful Things' is much darker than that, but I liked to compare the two. In 1993, during the big string of Stephen King movies and TV shows that were adapted from his stories came 'Needful Things', which was one of the bigger budget and A-List starring projects of the Stephen King periodic table. The studio got Fraser C. Heston (Charlton Heston's son who played baby Moses in 'The Ten Commandments') to direct the film. Fraser's claim to fame was 'Treasure Island' and being a 2nd unit director on 'City Slickers'. They also hired on W.D.Richter to writer the screenplay who has an interesting resume. He adapted 'The Invasion of the Body Snatchers', directed 'The Adventures of Buckaroo Bonzai Across the 8th Dimension', and co-wrote 'Big Trouble in Little China'.

With those three credits alone, you can tell he is a cult icon favorite in the genre. Rounding out the cast is an impressive Ed Harris playing the small town's sheriff and of course the legendary actor Max Von Sydow to play the main sinister character. I think the reason this movie receives the unsavory reviews and feelings is that the film version is too short to dive into the multiple character's story arcs. The film was made for television as well and was an hour longer, which gave us quite a bit more character development, but this is the theatrical version and runs at two hours. It keeps the pace quick, however the character development is lacking.

I think at one point, the studio was trying to secure the rights to the longer version, but everything fell through and is not on this release. Maybe another time, right? Like most Stephen King stories, this particular one takes place in Castle Rock, a small town in which everyone knows everyone's name and are quick to help out each other. Alan Pangborn (Ed Harris) is the sheriff of the town and keeps a close and calm eye on everything. An elderly man shows up in town one day and opens up a new store that sells one-of-a-kind antiques.

This man is known as Leland Gaunt (Max Von Sydow). He is quite humorous and spry. He quickly starts selling these interesting and mysterious antiques to the townsfolk and usually accepts payment in the form of the buyer pulling a simple practical joke or prank on their neighbors. In addition to these weird suggestions of payment, these one-of-a-kind objects seem to have special powers that coincide with the buyer's personal lives, but it all comes at a price. Sooner than later the practical jokes and pranks become bigger and the once peaceful town starts turning on each other, much to the happiness of Gaunt who watches from his home and storefront.

Sheriff Pangborn figures out that this all started with the arrival of Gaunt and begins to investigate further, only to find that Pangborn is definitely not who he says he is. What sells this movie so well are the performances, specifically that of Ed Harris and Max Von Sydow. Harris plays the town sheriff to perfection. He instantly comes off as the smart detective that seems to put things together from the get-go. He has a clam, but stern manner to him, and it plays out very well.

Then there is Max Von Sydow, and how do you not like him in anything? I know, it's impossible. It's no different here as he plays Gaunt flawlessly. You like the guy, but you can't help but be scared of him at every turn. 'Needful Things' in my opinion is still quite good and entertaining. It might not have the scares that 'It' does or the impact of 'The Shining' had on all of us, but it still holds its own with the performances and screenplay.
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