TBT Review: ‘Stephen King’s Thinner’ Creeps and Intrigues

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In honor of Stephen King’s “IT” remake receiving a 2017 release date earlier in the week, I thought it’d be proper to review a film adaptation of a King novel. Now, we all know the film adaptations of his works have been mostly misses instead of hits, so let’s see if “Thinner” is worth watching (hopefully foreshadowing that the “IT” remake will be worth watching as well).

Stephen King’s ‘Thinner’

T1

Engaging | Gruesome | Creepy

Book to film adaptations can go in many directions: The film can be a good interpretation of the book while remaining a quality piece of visual artwork. The film could be a great piece to watch, but it isn’t that wonderful of an adaptation. The film could follow the book very well, but fall short of being something worth watching. The film could be awful and a terrible adaptation.

Which ever one of these categories an adaptation falls under is all up to one human’s preference, particularly depending on if that human has read the original source material or not. I personally have not read Stephen King’s “Thinner,” but it is in my collection, and I’m happy to say this film has inspired me to read it once I’m finished with Mr. King’s “Finders Keepers.”

With that said, I cannot distinguish if this film is a good adaptation of the novel, but I can say it kept me interested through its entire 93 minute runtime, so the filmmakers did their job of creating a piece of enjoyable content for audiences to watch.

Cinematics (Cinematography, Acting, Story, etc.) – 4

First an foremost, the filmmakers did a wonderfully with introducing the universe of the story. Within the first 15 minutes, I understood the personalities of each of the main/major supporting characters and how the world itself has a supernatural tone hovering over it. This is very important for any film to do, but especially for ones that take place in the universe of a Stephen King novel. Right off the bat, I could tell this was going to be a fun and creepy film to watch, while also possessing hopes there would be a huge genre shift somewhere near the end of act two… my hopes were answered.

On the technical side of things, the film is visually pleasing to watch. There’s nothing that makes me say the director and/or DP were trying hard to be “different” or make things even more “creepy/disturbing” to the audience. Everything was presented in a clean and efficient way, making me understand that the filmmakers paid close attention to the story’s content and aesthetics rather than making the film a “visual masterpiece.”

The makeup department did their job very well.

The makeup department did their job very well.

When I say content and aesthetics, one of the main factors I’m talking about is the makeup. I give a check plus-plus to the makeup department for this one. While yes you can tell that’s Robert John Burke in makeup, after the first 15 minutes you forget about it and start believing Billy Halleck (Burke) is actually a very obese man. After the film rolls into act two, that’s when we start seeing the magic of makeup be put to work. Not only do we get to watch Halleck’s weight recede in glorious fashion, but we also witness two other characters go through equally strange transformations, one of which being a man turning into a lizard.

Other “thumbs up” for this film would be the casting and acting. No one seems out of place or awkward during any of the scenes, and I have to particularly praise Robert John Burke and Joe Mantegna for their performances. Late in act two they are forces to be reckoned with and bring us some very captivating scenes (check out the “Acid” scene to see why I particularly enjoyed Mantegna in this film).

One thing that bothered me about the film was some of the weird character reactions to certain events. For example, Billy learns that his sudden weight-loss accompanied by his aggressive eating habits have been hurting his daughter on an emotional level. Storyline wise this is a very important plot-point, where Billy decides to start figuring out what’s wrong with him and try to get it fixed. In the film, Billy’s reaction is very dull, bland and emotionless, making one feel like the story is now trudging along rather than streaming smoothly towards the climax. This is one example of some moments that just didn’t feel right aesthetically, so while the film is very enjoyable, there will be some scenes (especially one chase scene) where you’ll find yourself saying, “Huh? Alright… I guess that works…?”

Entertainment Value – 4

Besides everything I praised the film for in the previous section, this film also does a great job with its genre shift near the beginning of act three. The story is still about Billy Halleck trying to rid himself of the gypsy curse that has been set upon him, but the film turns into a bit of a thriller where we see the Gypsies and “The White Man From Town” battle each other in enjoyable back-n-forth fashion. All of this leads up to a great scene (along with excellent special effects) between Halleck and the leader of the Gypsies. All I can say about this scene is that I’ll think twice before I eat pie ever again.

The film can be surprisingly gruesome at times.

The film can be surprisingly gruesome at times.

The film is surprisingly gruesome, which truly helps it in the end. King novels can be extremely brutal and gruesome when the story calls for it, but the film adaptations usually don’t reach the same levels of brutality. This is probably mostly because of the MPAA and some of the events in Stephen King’s novels shouldn’t be re-created in a visual fashion. I’m sure “Thinner” is much more gruesome in the book, but I enjoyed that the film took it to surprisingly high levels, even making me veer away from my computer screen a few times. Good job on the film’s brutal nature, Mr. Tom Holland (the director).

All together the film entertained me from beginning to end. I loved watching Halleck struggle with the truth behind the manslaughter incident that kicks the story into act two and then finally seeing his character arc going in a fitting but surprising direction. Some of the film’s jokes probably weren’t even funny in 1996 (when the film was made), but the presence of some decent jokes kind of balanced the film’s minimal humor aspect. Another factor that always makes adaptations more enjoyable is when the author of the original work makes a cameo appearance. I’m not just saying this as a Stephen King fan. I actually enjoy seeing other authors/artists appear in the adaptations of their work (i.e. Stan Lee), but with Mr. King’s cameo in “Thinner” it makes the film, story and universe seem more aligned with each other. That’s also because the film is well-made, but I have to a little bit of a fanboy…

Re-Watchability – 3

Definitely one of the better adaptations of a Stephen King novel.

Definitely one of the better adaptations of a Stephen King novel.

This is one of the better adaptations of a Stephen King novel/story. No, I have not read “Thinner,” but the film holds up on its own. I’m sure my opinions about how good of an adaptation it is will change once I read the book (obviously), but for now I wouldn’t mind re-watching it with friends or on my own.

Would it be my first choice for one of those “Watch It Again” nights? No, probably not, but when I want to be creeped out and see some amazingly gruesome special effects, then “Thinner” will definitely be in the running.

  • Cinematics
  • Entertainment Value
  • Rewatchability

Summary

One of the better adaptations of a Stephen King novel, we witness a visually-pleasing piece of filmmaking while being creeped out and entertained at the same time. This is a good choice for a scary Friday night with friends or if you're just wanting something on the bloody but not overly gruesome side. Once you get past some of the awkward character reactions and a very weird/almost out-of-place chase scene, you'll see that the aesthetics of the project hold up with the wonderful casting and performances, particularly Robert John Burke and Joe Mantegna.

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Matt

Author: Matt

Seeing "Stand By Me" at the age of 6 solidified Matt's ambition to be a part of the entertainment industry. After growing up in Northern Virginia, studying film at Old Dominion University and rising from intern to Stage Manager at a Dinner Theater, Matt found himself at a speed bump in his life and wanting to express himself in more of a substantial way than calling a cue or flying a line every night. This need for creative expression pushed him to take on the challenge of getting a Master's Degree, which sent him on a year-long endeavor that seemed to throw obstacles and setbacks from every direction. But now, Matt is a screenwriter with a Master's of Fine Arts in Creative Writing and a passion for film, video games and professional wrestling, looking to keep the ambitious 6-year-old inside of him alive by entertaining the world through various forms of entertainment.

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