Stephen King's Thinner

on October 25, 1996 by Dale Winogura
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   Scarcely a moment of terror or suspense infiltrates this cheap and inept potboiler, which fails to achieve any of Stephen King's offbeat sensitivity to character and situation. Although director/co-writer Tom Holland follows the 1985 novella (published under King's "dark half" pseudonym, Richard Bachman) quite closely, roles have been reduced to venal stereotypes, and the story therefore becomes even more skeletal than it was on paper.
   A corrupt, overweight lawyer ("Simple Men's" Robert John Burke) accidentally runs his car over an old gypsy woman, so her ancient father (Michael Constantine) puts a curse on him that causes gradual but unstoppable weight loss, no matter how much is eaten. As the fat man grows thinner, he hires a mafia pal (Joe Mantegna) to exact revenge on the gypsies, but the lawyer knows he must first persuade the old witch doctor to remove the curse or else he'll die.
   Displaying the absence of taste and talent he did in the so-called horror classics "Fright Night" and "Child's Play," Holland confuses forced hysterics with nightmarish frenzy. His pedestrian cinematic technique and slack pacing could be overlooked if he had any imagination, but his exaggerated melodramatics and ugly sensibilities mangle this tale as surely as he did King's superior novella, "The Langoliers," on TV.
   Burke's one-note slimeball portrayal is matched by the nasty vitriol exuded by Lucinda Jenney ("American Heart") as his unfaithful wife (a sympathetic part in the book), Joy Lenz's obnoxious cretin of a daughter, Constantine's grotesque vulgarity and Kari Wuhrer's screaming lunacy as the hexer's lewd granddaughter. With the exception of Mantegna's blessedly dignified villainy, all characters are like fingernails scraping across blackboards. The one creative touch that Holland adds is a sweet-revenge climactic twist. But it's too little, too late in a stupid and hateful slab of revolting diversion that ranks with "Christine" and "Firestarter" as the worst King adaptations. Starring Robert John Burke, Joe Mantegna, Lucinda Jenney and Joy Lenz. Directed by Tom Holland. Written by Michael McDowell and Tom Holland. Produced by Richard P. Rubinstein and Mitchell Galin. A Paramount release. Horror. Rated R for horror violence and gore, language, and sexuality. Running time: 92 min
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