Promotional film poster
|Directed by||Tom Holland|
Richard P. Rubinstein
by Stephen King
|Music by||Daniel Licht|
|Cinematography||Kees Van Oostrum|
|Edited by||Marc Laub|
Spelling Films International
|Distributed by||Paramount Pictures (US theatrical)|
|Budget||$14 million (estimated)|
|Box office||$15.3 million (domestic)|
Thinner (marketed as Stephen King's Thinner) is a 1996 American body horror film directed by Tom Holland and written by Michael McDowell and Holland. The film is based on Stephen King’s 1984 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 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 and are now celebrating his acquittal for murder. The town he lives in is hosting a carnival, run by gypsies that some of the townspeople hold obvious prejudice against. Though Billy himself doesn't seem to.
One night, while Billy is driving, Heidi, in an attempt to persuade him to forget about his obsession with food, performs fellatio on him. Distracted, Billy accidentally runs over Suzanne Lempke (Irma St. Paule), an elderly gypsy woman, as she leaves a local pharmacy. Since Judge Cary Rossington (John Horton) is a personal friend of his, he soft-pedals the case, and no charges are filed against him (the Sheriff also lied on the stand for him). Outraged by the injustice, Suzanne's 106-year-old father, Tadzu Lempke (Michael Constantine) curses Billy by touching his face and saying the word "thinner". Billy begins to lose weight rapidly, despite him not working out or sticking to his diet. Heidi, fearing the weight loss may be due to cancer, brings in Dr. Mike Houston (Sam Freed), with whom Billy soon begins to suspect his wife is having an affair.
It is revealed that Tadzu Lempke also cursed Judge Cary and Police Chief Duncan Hopely (Daniel von Bargen), who helped him avoid punishment in court. Cary, whose curse was "Lizard", is now growing scales all over his body. Chief Duncan, whose curse was "Leper" becomes mutated with large boils and eventually commits suicide. Billy continues losing weight and calculates that he only has a few weeks to live. He begins eating even more compulsively to prolong the starvation. Billy looks for the gypsy carnival, to get Lempke to remove the curse, but they have gone.
When Heidi continually mentions Dr. Houston, who is repeatedly visiting their home, Billy is convinced of her affair. He lashes out at her and blames her for the accident. He finds the gypsy camp and tries to reason with Lempke, but instead angers him into increasing the curse's effects. Galina, Lempke's great-granddaughter (Kari Wuhrer), uses her slingshot to shoot a large ball bearing which goes directly through Billy's hand, infuriating Billy into vowing revenge against Lempke and his gypsies. Billy then enlists Richie Ginelli's help. Richie pays Frank Spurton (Josh Holland), a local hustler, to go down to spy and report the gypsy camp. Richie then kills their dogs, and leaves a message demanding Billy's curse be removed. In retaliation, Galina and her husband Gabe kill Frank—insisting the curse will never be lifted. Richie vengefully brings a gun to the camp and personally begins opening fire on everything, then pushes Gabe out into the open to be accidentally shot and killed by his fellow gypsies. He then impersonates an FBI agent, kidnaps Galina and begins torturing her. He promises he will kill her if the curse is not taken off of Billy, then tells Lempke to meet Billy at the lighthouse.
At the meeting, Lempke finds Billy emaciated and near death. To prevent further attacks on his people (especially his granddaughter), he finally agrees to lift the curse. Lempke explains that the curse cannot be removed, only transferred to another person. Chanting a spell, he mixes Billy's blood into a strawberry pie. Lempke states that after being consumed by an unsuspecting person, the pie causes painful but rapid death, and the curse will be lifted. He urges Billy to eat the pie himself and die with dignity, but Billy refuses. He calls Linda, telling her to spend the night at her friend's house, so that he and Heidi have the evening to themselves. He arrives home and presents to Heidi the strawberry pie, which happens to be her favorite flavor. She delightedly eats a piece, while Billy heads to bed, exhausted.
The next morning, Billy finds Heidi's desiccated corpse next to him. He is gleeful to be free of the curse and of his disloyal wife. However, when he goes downstairs, he finds to his horror that Linda, who came home after he went to bed, had eaten some of the pie for breakfast. Wracked with guilt, he prepares to eat the rest of the pie. However, Billy is interrupted by Dr. Houston who is at the door. Seeing Billy, the doctor grows uncomfortable and struggles to explain his early and unannounced presence. Billy invites Houston in for a piece of pie, and closes the door with a smirk, after referring to Houston as "white doctor from town" in Lempke's dialect.
- Robert John Burke — Billy Halleck
- Joe Mantegna — Richie "The Hammer" Ginelli
- Lucinda Jenney — Heidi Halleck
- Michael Constantine — Tadzu Lempke
- Kari Wührer — Galina 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
This section needs expansion. You can help by adding to it. (July 2016)
Thinner received generally negative reviews from critics. The film holds a rating of 16% 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."