Needful Things

Buy Now. Pay Later.

Drama Horror
120 min     6.2     1993     USA


A mysterious new shop opens in a small town which always seems to stock the deepest desires of each shopper, with a price far heavier than expected.


John Chard wrote:
The young carpenter from Nazareth? I know him well. Promising young man. He died badly. Needful Things is directed by Fraser C. Heston and is adapted for the screen by W.D. Richter from the novel of the same name written by Stephen King. It stars Max von Sydow, Ed Harris, Bonnie Bedelia, J. T. Walsh and Amanda Plummer. The community of Castle Rock in Maine is all a tizzy when a new curio gift shop called Needful Things opens its doors. The proprietor is the mysterious Leland Gaunt (Sydow), who agrees to part with special goods in return for the buyer playing pranks on somebody in the community. Pranks that will have far reaching consequences for everyone in Castle Rock. To enjoy Needful Things a number of factors will need to be taken into consideration: have you read the book, do you like the book, do you even like Stephen King as a rule and are you expecting another adaptation like Misery (1990)? I wouldn't dream of trying to sell this as a great King adaptation for the big screen, because it's not, but that's no great surprise since great King adaptations seem to come around about as often as Halley's Comet! But it does have much going for it as a time filling piece of entertainment. The book was a door stopper (I personally thought it was great), but Heston (son of Chuck) and Richter have trimmed off the edges and condensed the core aspects of the book into what is now a two hour movie (it was originally a three hour cut). The result is a pacey piece of devilment that's flecked by horror as it sneakily observes human foibles. Boasting a better budget that's normally afforded a middle tier King adaptation, Needful Things also benefits from being able to assemble a very strong cast. And on the money they are too. Sydow has a great time, relishing another chance to play charismatic villainy and Harris as the Sheriff is a bastion of hard working honest Americana. Among the supporting cast of the unstable variety, Amanda Plummer nails the role of timid waitress Nettie Cobb, playing it like a coiled spring waiting to unwind, while J. T. Walsh (always value for money as a character actor) does a neat line in corporate bully boy loony on the edge. It's here with the number of characters in the story that the negative flip side of the film shows its hand. With the trimming and cutting comes the inevitable absence of character development, something that is evident both in the book and the film's extended form. So here's the final question on if you can enjoy the film: can you accept lack of depth in the narrative to get a brisker film? As it stands it asks a lot from its audience, and without doubt it doesn't have all the answers. But if entering with average expectations, and able to answer yes and no in the right places to the questions posed above? You might just enjoy this more than you thought possible at the outset. 6.5/10