To sit in a dark room with only the flickering light of the television casting shadows on the walls, and the slight hum and whistle of the almighty videocassette recorder is comforting and satisfying in the digital age. Thus, I have decided to make weekly (or monthly) trips to my favorite new store (a sort-of-thrift-store for nerds) and pick up that glorious hunk of plastic and magnetic tape in a beautiful cardboard box – the VHS tape.
This week, I will be reviewing the movie of my favorite Stephen King novel: Needful Things. Based on King’s 1991 novel of the same name, Needful Things was originally released to theatres on August 27, 1993 to less-than-stellar acclaim. Roger Ebert gave it 1.5/4 stars, Janet Maslin of The New York Times said, “… it can lay claim to being the most unpleasant [of movies based on a King novel], and it has a 26% on Rotten Tomatoes. Malarkey! All of it!
This movie is very 1990’s, which I love because I’m a child of the 80’s and 90’s. Having read the book a few years ago, yet still having it stuck in my head, it was nice to put pictures with the characters, the town, the scenery. Ed Harris, although a little manlier than I imagined in the book, played a perfect Sheriff Alan Pangborn. Max von Sydow was perfectly casted as our villain, Leland Gaunt. His shop, though, was not at all what I had in my head, based on the book. Amanda Plummer puts her usual greatness to work as the almost-maniacal Nettie Cobb. And J.T. Walsh plays his frequent typecast, the asshole, as he normally does: splendidly.
If you’ve read any Stephen King, you know he is a master at character development. A third of one of his novels is usually devoted to such. For me, personally, I love this. Spending so much time on getting to know all the players in the story means that I grow to love or hate them – whichever way King is directing you. If you were to transfer as much character development as he puts in the book into the movie, you’d end up with an eight hour film. All this to say, I was missing some of that. This movie still runs a full two hours. I would have, though, could have stood to have an extra 20-30 minutes of introduction. For instance, I didn’t love Polly (Pangborn’s love interest) in the movie; I did in the book. I felt like there wasn’t enough time devoted to the character of Leland Gaunt. He came off more clownish in the movie than in the novel. None of this, though, ruined that film for me.
The fight scene between Plummer’s Nettie Cobb and Wilma Jerzyck (Valri Bromfield; another excellent casting decision) was intense, yet comical. Just the right amount of gore was shown for this mysterious thriller. The special effects were spot on – nothing over-the-top; nothing unnecessary. The acting was much better than expected. And, oddly enough, I found this movie extremely comforting. The tone of the film is a tone which brings me back to my childhood. It’s kind of like a spooky Hallmark movie with swearing and blood and explosions. That, right there, sums up my childhood imagination quite well.