Needful Things (1993)

needful_things

Needful Things: C-

This is a movie based on a Stephen King novel and it has been parodied so many times that even if you have never seen the movie or read the book, you sort of have even if you think you haven’t.

What’s ironic about the movie’s forced familiarity is that the actors populating this film have been typecast so many times in the 90s that you sort of know what they are going to do the whole time. Max von Sydow is in it and you already know he’s playing a devil who deals in haunted antiques; wherever old MvS shows up, you can bet there’s probably some hidden evil afoot. Ed Harris is the hero and, yep, you guessed it: he delivers a powerful monologue while his neck-veins pop out. Honey Bunny from Pulp Fiction screeches and gets violent and the asshole mayor from Pleasantville plays an asshole assemblyman.

So we have a movie you have somehow seen starring actors who will somehow do exactly what you think they will. And the movie production and acting are not very good, so the movie is off to a rough fucking start once you get a few minutes in. Speaking of minutes: there are 120 of them in this movie! That’s a full two hours of layered Stephen King predictability; I would have sold my soul to trim this down to 80 minutes.

Also, there are so many characters that it’s hard to care when old MvS puts some Satan Antique Magic on them and they start murdering each other. He reveals he has delighted in stirring up conflicts throughout history that boiled over into some of the world’s most famous and bloody atrocities. Why he suddenly feels the need to use a magic thrift shop to torture and kill a handful of people in Maine remains the movie’s greatest mystery.

I dissed the acting, but Sydow is pretty good, all things considered. He does a great job of switching between Your Friendly Swedish Grandpa and Grandpa Satan Who Sells Evil Antiques. If you disagree, I’d like to see you keep a straight face while you sell Honey Bunny a haunted antique doll and three quarters of your lines are just the worst fucking puns ever.

There are scenes that seriously drag on to the point where you wish Satan would just open up a Hell-fire volcano in the town square and just be done already. There is one scene where Honey Bunny breaks into the Mayor’s house. Watch that scene and ask yourself if it was necessary.

Overall, this is a goofy 90s piece of horror clockwork that isn’t absolutely awful. There is some satisfaction in seeing a story play out predictably, I guess. If you are not a fan of 90s horror schlock or if you don’t have a soft spot for anyone on the cast, maybe avoid this one and see one of the (rarer) good Stephen King movies instead.

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