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Needful Things

Film adaptions of Stephen King books run the gamut from godawful (Firestarter, Maximum Overdrive) to fantastic (2017's It). Somewhere in the middle is 1993's adaption of NEEDFUL THINGS.

The book was massive and amazing. Boiling it down to under two hours was probably always impossible.

Max Von Sydow (The Exorcist) stars as the mysterious Leland Gaunt, who arrives in the small New England town of Castle Rock and opens a new corner shop called Needful Things.

11 year old Brian Rusk is the shop's first customer when his bike ride is interrupted by an unspoken calling to come into the new store, where he finds a long desired, vintage baseball card, somehow autographed to him!

Gaunt sells him the card for the coins in his pocket and a promise from Brian to do Gaunt just one little additional favor.

Those favors turn out to be pranks or vandalism against other citizens of Castle Rock, a plague of favors that threatens to turn all the good citizens (and more than a few bad ones) into an all out war of humanity.

With their weakest traits or biggest secrets laid bare by Gaunt and his unwitting minions, evil takes over the entire town.

Ed Harris (The Right Stuff, The Abyss) is Sheriff Alan Pangborn, Bonnie Bedelia (Die Hard) is his fiance Polly. The great JT Walsh (A Few Good Men, Breakdown) is terrific as egotistical local businessman Danforth Keeton III, one of those Stephen King foul mouthed bad guys that's so fun to hate.

It's a great cast down to the tiniest role as priests and ministers battle, turkey farmers turn on waitresses and everyone pays a hell of a price for their desires.

The only weak like for me, as she always is on film, is Amanda Plummer as Nettie Cobb, the mentally challenged, slow waitress at Polly's diner. Plummer is SO over the top in her mannerisms it's like Liza Minnelli took a bunch of speed and then the director yelled "Go Big!". She's horrible.

Speaking of directors, Fraser Heston, son of Charlton, is okay at best and this was his last major film for semi-obvious reasons.

With this cast and this story, it could have been so much more.

Sydow and Harris are great, the finale is pretty well done and there are a few very good moments. Compared to the novel, the film is a bust, but if you haven't read King's brilliant doorstop of a novel, you'll probably rank it higher. I'll give it a B-.

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