Stephen King’s Needful Things - Review

Stephen King's Needful Things, Stephen King Books, Needful Things Movie

“Everyone loves something for nothing...even if it costs everything.”

Needful Things – the Stephen King Book

First Published in 1991, Stephen King’s Needful Things takes us back to the town of Castle Rock for a tale that King says was inspired by the consumerism of the 1980s. 

Stephen King Books, Needful Things, Stephen King StoreNeedful Things is a shop owned by Leyland Gaunt where everything is for sale, for a price. Anyone who comes into Needful Things finds the object of their desire and it’s theirs for just a token price and one small favour. 

Leyland Gaunt asks each of his customers to do just one thing for him and the deeds he asks them to do, at first, appear to be nothing more than harmless practical jokes to be played on friends and neighbours. The jokes soon get of control, though, and soon the whole town is at odds with one another. 

It’s not too long before the pranks begin to escalate, the deeds become more sinister, and things get totally out of control.  

The only person who seems to be keeping his head and who suspects that Gaunt is behind the troubles of the town is Sheriff Alan Pangborn, who must, somehow, prevent the town of Castle Rock tearing itself apart.

Needful Things was the Stephen King book that was marketed as King’s last ever visit to Caste Rock, and that alone makes it a must for any Stephen King aficionado. It is, however, not rated amongst the best of the all the Stephen King books and the critics certainly didn’t like it.

Then again, the critics don’t generally like Stephen King books anyway and, after all, needful things still sold 1.5 million copies, so that’s about 1.5 million yes votes to some ten or so no votes!

Needful Things – The Movie

The 1993 movie adaptation of Needful Things was directed by Fraser C. Heston and it starred; Ed Harris, Max von Sydow, Bonnie Bedelia, J. T. Walsh, and Amanda Plummer.

Like so many of the Stephen King movie adaptations, it shows again how it is impossible to condense down a Stephen King book of the size and complexity of Needful Things into a single movie, and that may help explain some of the negative reviews that the Needful Things Movie received.

Personally, as a long-time fan of Stephen King, I have always felt that the movie adaptations of Stephen King books are better when they are watched after you have read the book. That way it’s like having a brief visit with a friend you already know very well. 

The plot of the movie, more or less, follows the plot of the book, although, of course, in a much condensed form. This does mean, though, while the characters are pretty much the same as they are in the book, you just don’t get the time to get to know the characters, or care about them. If you already read the book, though, that really doesn’t matter so much, because these are people you already know.

None of that means that the Needful Things movie is a dreadful horror movie; it’s not. It’s just not a brilliant horror movie. Given that it’s only about $15 on Amazon these days, it’s certainly one to add to your Stephen King movie collection and it does stand up as a perfectly watchable horror movie on its own too.