Thinner (Tom Holland, 1996, USA)

Thinner is Tom Holland's 1996 adaptation of Stephen King's 1984 novel - the novel that "outed" his pen name Richard Bachman. The novel is one of King's pulpier outings, and in some ways, it is surprising that it took over a decade to make it to the screen. The script was in development hell for several years, with concerns about the film's depiction of a man wasting away in the wake of the AIDS crisis. Additionally, the film's central premise required visual effects that weren't up to par in the 1980s. Produced by TV maestro Aaron Spelling's company, Thinner was a fully theatrical film when released in theaters in 1996.

While King's novel - despite its premise - is rather grim and serious, Holland (best known for his horror comedies like Fright Night and Child's Play) plays the material more broadly. The film is in full-on satirical mode, with our protagonist Robert John Burke as Billy Halleck hamming up his performance in a fat suit. While Thinner is not regarded among the best King adaptations, it is remarkably faithful to the source text, making some changes along the way that enforces the moral universe of the film.

The best parts of the film involve Joe Mantegna as Ginelli, the mob figure who Billy Halleck brings on to get the family to lift their curse on him. This Death Wish-style assault on the family is so absurd and illustrates the more broader and satirical aspects of King's novel about the nature of conflict. While Thinner is no masterpiece, it does manage to capture the pulpy tone of King's novel, and while it may be tiresome in some ways, it is never really boring. You could do far worse in the King universe than Holland's Thinner, which may have been subject to some trimming in the editing room.



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