Critic Reviews



Based on 18 critic reviews provided by
Time Out London
Better than most Stephen King adaptations, mainly because an exceptionally strong cast adds substance to the facile storyline about a mysterious stranger, Leland Gaunt (von Sydow), who opens the antique shop of the title in Castle Rock, Maine, and, by tapping into the inhabitants' acquisitive desires, sets them at one another's throats.
Needful Things is hardly a cinema milestone -- it's a bit too episodic in chronicling the downfall of the town, and some of King's best bits are glossed over in favor of some of King's worst bits, but all things considered, it's still a hell of a good ride.
It has ideas as well as jolts, themes as well as special effects, characters as well as gore. But, as adapted by writer W. D. Richter and director Fraser Heston, these Things seem disappointingly diminished, squeezed and stuffed into a box too small.
Much slimmed down in a canny script by W. D. Richter, it has become a value-for-money horror movie with a streak of welcome black comedy.
As with many Stephen King adaptations, the problem no doubt partially lies in the necessity to condense the lengthy source novel, with material that might have given the story more depth lost in favor of packing in the horrific highlights
By now, we’ve come to expect certain things in movies adapted from Stephen King novels: brooding misanthropy, a pound or two of viscera, and — perhaps most horrifying of all — Hollywood actors delivering their lines with bad Maine accents. Needful Things delivers on said expectations, no more, no less.
Moviegoers aren’t likely to be similarly spellbound, as Heston employs a too-slow buildup to an explosion of mayhem that incorporates gruesome violence with awkward attempts at dark humor.
Needful Things is yet another one of those films based on a Stephen King story that inspires you to wonder why his stories don't make better films. The movie only has one note, which it plays over and over, sort of a Satanic water torture. It's not funny and it's not scary and it's all sort of depressing.
Though this is by no means the grisliest or most witless film made from one of Mr. King's horrific fantasies, it can lay claim to being the most unpleasant. Why? Because when you strip away the suspenseful buildup to a King story, you're often left with mechanical moralizing and crude, sophomoric small talk. Needful Things has more of both than any film could ever need.
Stephen King is a novelist, not a screenwriter. Which may be worth remembering on the admittedly slender chance that you go to see Needful Things for its dialogue, which is by turns cheap, cute, histrionic, profane and derivative.

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