Promotional film poster
|Directed by||Tom Holland|
|Produced by||Mitchell Galin
Richard P. Rubinstein
|Screenplay by||Michael McDowell
|Starring||Robert John Burke
Bethany Joy Lenz
|Music by||Daniel Licht|
|Cinematography||Kees Van Oostrum|
|Editing by||Marc Laub|
|Studio||Spelling Films International|
|Distributed by||Paramount Pictures (US theatrical)
Lions Gate Entertainment (current US video distributor)
|Release date(s)||October 25, 1996 (USA)|
|Running time||92 minutes|
|Box office||$15,315,484 (domestic)|
Thinner (marketed as Stephen King's Thinner) is a 1996 American horror film directed by Tom Holland and written by Michael McDowell with the screenplay by Tom Holland. The film is based on the Stephen King novel of the same name and stars Robert John Burke, Joe Mantegna, Lucinda Jenney, Michael Constantine, Kari Wührer and Bethany Joy Lenz.
Billy Halleck (Robert John Burke) is an arrogant, obese, upper-class lawyer living with his wife Heidi (Lucinda Jenney) and their daughter Linda (Bethany Joy Lenz). Billy recently defended an underworld crime boss named Richie "The Hammer" Ginelli (Joe Mantegna) in court. The town is in the middle of a carnival, which is run by gypsies whom the town seems to have prejudices against.
While driving one night, Billy accidentally runs over an elderly gypsy woman named Suzanne Lempke (Irma St. Paule) with his car (Heidi was distracting him by performing oral sex on him). The death is ruled accidental, and no charges are filed against him. Suzanne's 106-year old father, Tadzu Lempke (Michael Constantine), who is outraged by this, curses Billy by touching his face and saying the word "thinner". Billy begins to lose weight rapidly, regardless of how much he eats. Heidi, concerned, brings in Dr. Mike Houston (Sam Freed), with whom Billy thinks perhaps his wife is having an affair.
It is revealed that the man also cursed Judge Cary Rossington (John Horton) and Police Chief Duncan Hopely (Daniel von Bargen), who helped him avoid punishment in court. Judge Cary's curse was "Lizard"; he is now growing scales all over his body, eventually heading to the Mayo Clinic for help. His wife, Leda (Elizabeth Franz), furiously blames Billy for what is happening to Cary. Duncan becomes mutated with over-sized pimples and ends up committing suicide. Billy continues to lose weight and calculates that he only has a couple weeks to live. Because only Lempke can remove the curse, Billy intends to search for the gypsy carnival but learns it has moved.
When Heidi continually mentions Dr. Houston, who is also repeatedly visiting their home, Billy is convinced of her affair and vows vengeance. He finds the gypsy camp and tries to reason with Lempke, but Lempke, unconvinced, tells Billy to leave. After being informed that Cary committed suicide, Billy enlists Richie Ginelli's help; Richie pays a local man named Frank Spurton (Josh Holland) to track down the gypsies and himself kills off the gypsy camp's dogs. Gina, (Kari Wuhrer), Lempke's great-granddaughter, and her husband Gabe, kill Frank in retaliation.
In a vengeful response, Richie opens fire on the gypsy camp, killing Gabe. The next day, Richie lures Gina away to kill her but Billy stops him. While balancing acid on Gina's forehead, Richie gives her a message for her great-grandfather: meet them in two hours.
Lempke arrives at the meeting, finding a very thin and sick Billy. Convinced that only by lifting the curse can he prevent further attacks on his people, he explains that he cannot remove the curse but it can be transferred to another. He mixes Billy's blood into a strawberry pie or cherry pie while chanting a gypsy spell. He states that the pie must be consumed by an unsuspecting person, causing painful but rapid death, but urges Billy to die with dignity by eating the pie himself. Billy tells Linda to spend the night at her friend's house, then talks Heidi into trying the pie while he heads for bed, exhausted.
The next morning, he awakes to find Heidi's desiccated corpse next to him. Initially gleeful to be free of the curse and of his disloyal wife, he finds to his horror that Linda, who did not spend the night elsewhere like he had ordered, had eaten some of the pie for breakfast. His guilt compels him to take Lempke's suggestion to eat a piece himself. As he is about to do so, Dr. Mike arrives, a bit uncomfortable at the situation (making excuses to be there so early in the morning). Billy invites him in to share the pie with him, which Dr. Mike accepts. The ending shows Billy closing the door with an evil smile as Dr. Mike enters.
- Robert John Burke — Billy Halleck
- Joe Mantegna — Richie "The Hammer" Ginelli
- Lucinda Jenney — Heidi Halleck
- Michael Constantine — Taduz Lempke
- Kari Wührer — Gina Lempke
- Bethany Joy Lenz — Linda Halleck
- Daniel von Bargen — Chief Duncan Hopley
- John Horton — Judge Cary Rossington
- Time Winters — Prosecutor
- Howard Erskine — Judge Phillips
- Terrence Garmey — Bailiff
- Randy Jurgensen — Court Clerk
- Jeff Ware — Max Duggenfield
- Antonette Schwartzberg — Mama Ginelli
- Terence Kava — Gabe Lempke
- Irma St. Paule - Suzanne Lempke
- Elizabeth Franz - Leda Rossington
- Stephen King — Dr. Bangor
- Adriana Delphine — Gypsy Woman
- Ruth Miller — Billy's Secretary
- Sam Freed — Dr. Mike Houston
- Peter Maloney - Biff Quigley
- Josh Holland - Frank Spurton
Critical reception 
Thinner received generally negative reviews from critics. The film holds a rating of 17% on Rotten Tomatoes, based on 18 reviews. James Berardinelli gave the film two stars out of four, writing: "Thinner could have been an opportunity to examine the ethics of a slick lawyer who refuses to accept responsibility for his actions. ... Unfortunately, questions of morality are of secondary importance to a film that emphasizes its Death Wish aspects." Owen Gleiberman of Entertainment Weekly gave the film a D rating, writing: "Like too many Stephen King movies, Thinner is all (emaciated) concept and no follow-through." A more positive review came from Mick LaSalle of the San Francisco Chronicle, who called Thinner "one of the better Stephen King-derived movies."
In the book Creepshows: The Illustrated Stephen King Movie Guide, author Stephen Graham Jones says that the movie's critical failure and near financial failure was based on the fact that the "mean-spirited film did not have one single likable character."