Needful Things (film)

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Needful Things
Needful Things Move Poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Fraser C. Heston
Produced by Jack Cummins
Screenplay by W.D. Richter
Based on Needful Things 
by Stephen King
Starring Max von Sydow
Ed Harris
Bonnie Bedelia
J. T. Walsh
Amanda Plummer
Music by Patrick Doyle
Cinematography Tony Westman
Edited by Rob Kobrin
Distributed by Columbia Pictures
Release dates
  • August 27, 1993 (1993-08-27)
Running time
120 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Box office $15,185,672 (USA)

Needful Things is a 1993 horror film and an adaptation of Stephen King's 1991 novel Needful Things. The film was directed by Fraser C. Heston. It stars Max von Sydow, Ed Harris, Bonnie Bedelia and J. T. Walsh.


A mysterious proprietor named Leland Gaunt (von Sydow), claiming to be from Akron, Ohio, opens a new antiques store called "Needful Things" in the small town of Castle Rock, Maine.[1] The store sells various items of great personal worth to the residents (some of which, like a pendant that eases pain or a toy which predicts the outcome of horse races, are clearly supernatural). Gaunt demands payment both in cash and in small "favors", usually pranks played by his customers on their neighbors. Gaunt's first customer is a kid named Brian Rusk (Meier) who buys off a rare baseball card in exchange for a prank.[2]

Gaunt makes an impression on the town's people, who he also has pull some pranks. One of whom is a corrupt boat salesman and gambler named Danforth Keeton (Walsh) who embezzled tax money to pay off his gambling debts. Keeton is paranoid that people are on to him and relays his fears to Gaunt. Gaunt also sells Keeton a toy horse race that works in his favor. Gaunt also learns of the rivalry between the Catholic priest, Father Meehan and Protestant reverend Willie Rose. The first hint of Gaunt's true nature is when he has Brian throw apples at the house of Whilma Jerzyck, and frames Nettie Cobb. Likewise, Gaunt has another customer kill Nettie's dog, in return for a jacket. This sparks a violent fight between Nettie and Whilma, which gets them both killed. Brian witnesses the investigation and tries to talk to Sheriff Alan Pangborn (Harris) about what Gaunt had him do, but is too scared to come forward. It is at this point it becomes apparent that Gaunt is not human, but a demon (heavily implied to be Satan himself).

Sheriff Pangborn later approaches Brian when he's alone at the lighthouse, and asks whats got him scared. Brian explains that Gaunt is a monster before trying to kill himself. Pangborn manages to stop him, but Brian is hospitalized. Meanwhile, Pangborn begins to suspect that Gaunt may not be what he seems, and Gaunt takes a personal measure towards Pangborn by selling a necklace to his girlfriend Polly that has a placebo effect that helps with her arthritis. Gaunt's pranks spread throughout the town and its citizens, making paranoia and anger spread with it. Keeton becomes afraid that everyone including his wife Myrtle is out to get him, and Gaunt convinces him that he's his only ally.

Later on, Gaunt starts selling his customers guns, encouraging them to kill whoever wronged them, playing on their greed and fear. In addition to this, Gaunt has another prank played on Polly to make it seem that Pangborn is in on Keeton's embezzlement. Gaunt also has Keeton attack Pangborn and his deputy Norris Ridgewick at the police station, and Pangborn breaks up a fight between Ridgewick and Keeton. Shortly after this, Keeton manages to escape Ridgewick by kicking him in the groin, then goes home to kill his wife. Following this, Gaunt has Keeton place explosives around the town's Catholic church, where Pangbron talks to Meehan. Pangborn relays his new suspicions that Gaunt is the Devil, but Meehan refuses to believe him. The church explodes, but Pangborn and Meehan manage to escape with their lives. Meehan believes that Reverend Willy Rose is behind this, and leaves to fight him.

Following this, a riot sparks throughout the town, with Gaunt watching from the sidelines as Pangborn tries to restore order. Pangborn pulls a gun on Meehan and Rose, and Gaunt encourages him to shoot them, but Pangborn fires into the air, much to Gaunt's disappointment. Getting everyone's attention, Pangborn convinces everyone to come to their senses, exposing Gaunt's true nature and web of manipulation. Everyone stops fighting and admits their pranks, but Keeton, despondent after everything, walks up to Pangborn and Ridgewick, pointing a gun at them with a bomb strapped to him, threatening to blow everyone up, but is talked down by Pangborn. Keeton turns against Gaunt and tackles him through the store window, setting off the bomb, destroying Needful Things.

Defeated, but completely unharmed Gaunt emerges from the burning wreckage of his store, and saying that this wasn't his best work. Gaunt walks up to Pangborn and Polly, telling them they make a cute couple, and he will encounter their grandson in 2053, then departs, presumably to continue his vicious, evil work. He leaves in the same sinister black car (revealed as similarly supernaturally indestructible in the extended cut), in which he arrived at the beginning of the film.



Needful Things received generally negative reviews from critics.

Roger Ebert gave it 1.5 out of 4 stars, saying the film "only has one note, which it plays over and over, sort of a Satanic water torture. It's not funny and it's not scary and it's all sort of depressing."[3] Janet Maslin, film and literary critic for The New York Times, gave the film a resoundingly negative review, saying that "though this is by no means the grisliest or most witless film made from one of Mr. King's horrific fantasies, it can lay claim to being the most unpleasant."[4]

The film holds a 26% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, based on 23 reviews.[5]


At the 1993 Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films Awards, Needful Things was nominated for three Saturn Awards and won one: Amanda Plummer for best supporting actress.[6][7]


  1. ^ Terry, Clifford. "Frightful `Things' From Stephen King". 27 August 1993. The Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 31 March 2015. 
  2. ^ Aldersley, Steve (16 April 2012). "In The Frame Film Reviews: Needful Things (1993)". In The Frame Film Reviews. Retrieved 31 March 2015. 
  3. ^ Ebert, Roger (27 August 1993). "Reviews-Needful Things". Retrieved 30 March 2015. 
  4. ^ Maslin, Janet (27 August 1993). "MOVIE REVIEW Needful Things (1993)". The New York Times. Retrieved 30 March 2015. 
  5. ^ "Needful Things(1993)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 30 March 2015. 
  6. ^ Hall, Halbert W. (1997). Science fiction and fantasy reference index, 1992-1995 : an international subject and author index to history and criticism. Libraries Unlimited. ISBN 1563085275. 
  7. ^ "Needful Things Awards". IMDB. Retrieved 30 March 2015. 

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