Director: Tom Holland
Cast: Robert John Burke, Joe Mantegna, Lucinda Jenney, Michael Constantine, Kari Wuhrer, Bethany Joy Lenz, Kenneth Londoner
Screenplay: Michael McDowell, Tom Holland
93 mins. Rated R for horror violence and gore, language and sexuality.
In the annals of Stephen King adaptations, few are as strange as 1996’s Thinner.
But first, a story about health. Director Tom Holland (Child’s Play) got Bells-Palsy while production was in full swing, but producers wouldn’t allow him to seek health, and the ensuing chaos caused Holland to leave the film community for almost a decade. A rare talent mistreated by producers. Yikes. But, now onto the movie.
In this adaptation of the Stephen King (writing as Richard Bachman) novella, Thinner is the story of Billy Halleck (Robert John Burke, Limitless, True Story), a heavyset man nearing 300 pounds, a lawyer suffering from an addiction to food. But when an accident causes him to kill a gypsy woman who crosses in front of his car, Billy falls ill to a curse from Tadzu (Michael Constantine, My Big Fat Greek Wedding, Prancer), the gypsy woman’s father. Now, Billy is losing weight at an accelerating rate, and he has no choice but to find Tadzu and get the curse reversed before he shrinks to nothing.
Thinner is strange in that it is so small in scale. I think the film would’ve worked best as an hour-long episode of an anthology series than an actual film. The idea of basing a movie around a man getting slowly thinner is just rather odd. The novella moves quick, but the film is rather sluggish, particularly when finding its footing at the beginning of the film.
The performances are passable, but the real enjoyment (what little there is) derives from Tom Holland’s screenplay with Michael McDowell, a terrific and unsung writer from back in the 1980s/1990s. It’s a fun little script that is pretty exciting if altogether campy.
Thinner is absolutely bonkers, and that both works and doesn’t work. There are many elements that are very self-aware, but other factors, like the ending, just fall flat and don’t get back up. Overall, there’s a reason it fell to obscurity, but it is still worth a viewing. If only one.
-Kyle A. Goethe
For my review of Tom Holland’s Child’s Play, click here.