Needful Things (1993) – By Duane L. Martin

Ok, just a little disclaimer here.  I can’t stand Stephen King.  There, I said it.  Both personally and as a writer, I have very little use for him and I’ve never seen a movie of his that I’d want to watch again…except for this one.

So what makes this one so special?  Well, we’ll get to that in a minute, but first the synopsis for those who haven’t ever seen the film.

Someone new just moved to Castle Rock, Maine.  His name is Leland Gaunt (Max Von Sydow), and he’s just opened up an antique shop called Needful Things, in which he sells only the items that his customers desire the most.  As such, he lures people in, offers to sell them the items for a lower than normal price…and a favor.  The favors are always a prank that is aimed at escalating the tensions between two individuals who are already having serious issues.  Because the prank is pulled by a third party, they’re never suspected, and the tension between the targets simply grows until things finally explode.  He’s gone from town to town for God knows how long stirring up conflict in this way, because he’s…wait for it…the Devil.

Now that he’s in Castle Rock, it’s up to the local sheriff (Ed Harris) to figure out what’s going on so he can put a stop to it before it’s too late.

This movie from start to finish is just absolutely brilliant…except for one thing.  They killed a dog, which is a cardinal sin in any film.  You NEVER kill a dog.  I mean EVER.  There were other ways to stir up crap than to do that.  Anyway, what’s really great about this film is how brilliant it was to use third parties to stir up trouble between two people.  It was an ingenious plot device, but more importantly it was carried out by one of my all time favorite actors, Max Von Sydow.

Max Von Sydow has been absolutely brilliant in everything I’ve ever seen him in.  Everything from this, to Flash Gordon, to Strange Brew to The Exorcist.  I’ve never seen him give a bad performance, and in this film he was just beyond perfection, just as he was as Emperor Ming in Flash Gordon.

Now, take that perfection that is Max, and surround him with an absolutely brilliant supporting cast, and you’ve got yourself one hell of an entertaining film.

There is one small casting change I’d have made though.  Valri Bromfield did a great job of playing the angry turkey farmer Wilma Jerzyck, but every time I watch this film I can’t help but to think how much more awesome it would have been if Kathy Bates had been cast in that role instead.  She’d have been absolutely perfect for it.

On a technical level, this film looked like a Stephen King film.  For some reason, most of them seem to have a very similar look and feel to them.  I’m not sure why that seems to be the case, but it’s very well made and edited beautifully.  The town feels like the kind of a small town that would be ripe for the picking in a situation like this, and the people of the town all felt like more than just props.  They felt like real people with real stories of their own.

For special features, this new release from Kino Lorber Studio Classics includes audio commentary with director Fraser C. Heston, and the original theatrical trailer

People always rave about The Shining and how good it is.  I’ve never seen it, and maybe when I do I’ll find that there are two Stephen King movies I like.  If not, then at least I have this one, and I can’t recommend it enough.  The plot is so twisted and forked out in different directions that you can’t help but to enjoy it.  Plus, it’s got Max.  So there ya go.  Pick yourself up a copy today and enjoy all the evil goodness.

If you’d like to find out more about this release, you can check out its page on the Kino Lorber website here: