Upstart distributor Olive Films has given the little-loved 1996 Stephen King adaptation Thinner an incongruously arty, Criterion-style cover centering on the spare, haunting image of a gaunt, emaciated body nestled inside the silhouette of a fat man like some macabre Russian nesting doll. This highbrow presentation of lowbrow schlock seems designed to create expectations the film cannot live up to, as does a behind-the-scenes team that includes King (who also contributes a cameo), director Tom Holland (Fright Night, Child’s Play, The Langoliers), producer and longtime George Romero collaborator Richard P. Rubinstein (Dawn Of The Dead, Tales From The Darkside, numerous other King adaptations), and novelist and screenwriter Michael McDowell, a favorite of King’s with screenwriting credits on Beetlejuice and The Nightmare Before Christmas in addition to his work as an author. McDowell, Rubinstein, and King previously collaborated on Tales From The Darkside: The Movie, which helps explain why Thinner feels like a subpar segment of that horror anthology sadistically stretched to feature length. It’s a little surprising Thinner is based on a novel, since its threadbare premise can barely support a short story.
Hal Hartley alum and onetime Robocop Robert John Burke stars as a sleazy, corpulent lawyer who begins rapidly losing weight after an ancient gypsy (Michael Constantine) puts a curse on him after he runs over Constantine’s daughter. The curse first allows the rapacious Burke to live out his wildest dream—he can eat anything he wants and still lose massive amounts of weight—but when the weight loss becomes dangerous and even deadly, Burke goes looking for a way to reverse the ironic curse with the help of his scumbag gangster client Joe Mantegna.
Thinner’s problems begin with a grotesquely unconvincing fat suit and makeup that make Burke look less like a big man battling obesity than a melting marshmallow man. The plug really should have been pulled on Thinner after the first makeup and prosthetics tests, since the bad design digs the film into a hole it never begins to shimmy its way out. Burke mugs wildly in a desperate attempt to make his emotions register through thick layers of sweaty pancake makeup, but his cartoonish performance matches the tone of a film that’s broadly comic and often just plain broad without containing much in the way of jokes, let alone genuine wit or suspense. Stephen King originally published Thinner under the pseudonym Richard Bachman, complete with a fake author’s photo. It’s understandable why King wouldn’t want his name on such work; what’s less understandable is why his overqualified, underachieving collaborators here didn’t follow suit and hide their shame by going the Alan Smithee route.
Key Features: None.