Trying to garner success where most have failed, Fraser C. Heston takes on directing responsibilities to bring Stephen King’s “Needful Things” to the screen. With a screenplay by W.D. Ricter, this 1994 film has a whopping runtime of 2 hours. On it is release in the UK, this crime/drama/fantasy film was rated 15. Starring Max von Sydow, Ed Harris and Bonnie Bedella, this film is better than some of the attempts to convert King’s novels to the screen.
In Castle Rock, New England, life is quiet. Sheriff Alan Pangborn (Ed Harris) has recently moved from a big city to this small town expecting it to be a far-removed pace from what he is used to, and it is for a time. A new shop opens in town, it is called “Needful Things” and it is run by Leland Gaunt (Max von Sydow). Where on the surface it looks like he is selling a collection odds and sods, and nothing in particularly, he always seems to have the item that his customers most desire. The price of the objects is a favour, some information, and maybe a practical joke to be played on one of the towns residents. As the town slowly becomes more chaotic Sheriff Pangborn realises that something is not right and the epicentre of everything seems to be the new shop.
Does this adaption of a Stephen King novel work? The answer I am afraid is no. Having enjoyed the book, the film seems to miss out lots of vital information and important characters. The film is not terrible, but it’s not great either and certainly doesn’t do justice to the book. For a 2-hour film the pace seems to be wrong, there are scenes which feel rushed but then there are parts of the film which really drag. NT fails to be scary or thrilling, it is not really a crime drama like it is billed to be because all the information is laid out openly in a transparent story. The big thing about this being a Stephen King adaptation is that you would expect it to have some good story telling and layers of detail. It does not really have this though, it never really gets that deep and the plot becomes obvious early on because it’s basically signposted – whereas in the book it was more subtle. The film tends to more so be just a viewer’s account – something that is unfolding that the audience can choose to go along with but does not really have to invest any engagement in it.
The thing that saves this film is the acting performances, Max von Sydow and Ed Harris carry this film putting in great performances that seem far superior to the film itself. It almost feels like they are out of place in this with the performances they are giving. Another positive is that I can throw at the film is that it does not look to shabby. A decent budget saw to it that, not only were two big stars in this, but the scenery and location looked nice – the town looked quaint and idyllic.
This is a simple but long film; it will not offend or excite much. You can watch this with any member of the family, from kids to the elderly because this will not cause offence or upset. I can see this film being a buffer on cable horror-based channels in afternoons, rather than the kind of feature that gets prime-time slots. I cannot say I enjoyed it, but I did not hate it either, it was just a but meh. If comparing the film and the book, then write this off as another failed King adaption. If comparing it to other crime/drama/fantasy films then I promise you that there are better.