Directed by Tom Holland in 1996 and based on Stephen King's novel of the same name, Thinner tells the story of a lawyer named Billy Halleck (Robert John Burke) who is married to his wife Heidi (Lucinda Jenney) with who he has a daughter named Linda (Bethany Joy Lenz). The Halleck family leads a bit of a charmed life. They do not want for money or material possessions and they're never short on food, something that's obviously a problem for Billy who suffers from some weight problems. His wife does what she can to try and curb his eating habits but she can't rightly babysit a grown man - she can, however, use other ways of convincing him and she does just that when they're driving one day. Unfortunately for Billy and Heidi, her amorous persuasions understandably cause Billy to lose focus, at which point he runs over and kills an older gypsy woman (Adriana Delphine).
Billy goes to court but given his ties to mobster Richie Genelli (Joe Mantegna) and his knowledge of the inner workings of the legal system, nobody is surprised when he walks, despite the fact that he really is guilty. As such, the patriarch of the gypsy woman's family, Tadzu Lempke (Michael Constantine), takes matters into his own hands and when he touches Billy on the way out of the courtroom that day and whispers 'thinner' into his ear, well, Billy starts losing weight faster than he can stuff his face in hopes that he won't wither away to nothing. Billy calls in some favors from Genelli in hopes that he'll be able to convince the Lempke's to take the curse off of him, but it seems that what's done is done...
Thinner ranks somewhere in the middle as far as Hollywood adaptations of Stephen King source material. Though the movie is pretty close to the novel on which it was based, the film suffers from some fairly obvious pacing issues during the middle stretch and while it does build to a reasonably satisfying conclusion, getting there does, at times, seem like work. The story itself isn't generally regarded as one of King's best. It's fine as light entertainment but doesn't work as anything more than that and it lacks the weight or emotional depth of something like The Dead Zone or The Shining. Where the movie does succeed, however, is in how it mixes some twisted black humor in with the more traditional 'horror movie' aspects of the story. Much of this comes directly out of the mouths of the characters, as the dialogue tends to be fairly well written and appropriately delivered.
As far as the performances go, Burke is little more than just okay in the lead. While we're not really supposed to like him as a person, his performance here doesn't have much of a hook. While it wouldn't be appropriate for us to really warm to him given how he goes about treating other people, he just isn't particularly interesting. The supporting characters all suffer from some of the same flaws, with the saving grace in the cast being Joe Mantegna, whose mobster character is given plenty of opportunity to steal scenes, something with Mantegna does and seemingly with some glee. King himself has a small cameo in the movie. The makeup effects in the film, however, are quite impressive across the board. As we watch Burke's Billy Halleck go through his unnatural transformation all manner of appliances are used to quite literally turn him into a completely different person. Had this aspect of the production not been up to par, it would have spelled doom for the movie as so much of what happens in it revolves around this transformation. Thankfully this aspect of the movie is excellent and while it may be closing in on its twentieth birthday sooner rather than later, time has been kind to it in this regard.
Worth seeing and reasonably entertaining despite its flaws, Thinner may prefer over the top effects work and snappy dialogue over strong character development or subtly nuanced performances but the end result is entertaining enough. The film is not without some obvious flaws but you can still have fun with it if you're in the right frame of mind.
Thinner debuts on Blu-ray from Olive Films in AVC encoded 1080p high definition framed at 1.78.1 widescreen. In short, the transfer here looks very good, not great, but very good. There's more depth and detail present here than we'd ever see in a standard definition presentation of the movie but sometimes things look just a bit flat, though this likely stems back to the original photography. This isn't a particularly bright film so the colors aren't as bold and bright as you might expect or notice in other movies, but the transfer replicates this color palette quite well. There are no issues with noise reduction or edge enhancement to note, and only some minor print damage in the form of infrequent minor specks. Skin tones look pretty decent, texture isn't bad at all.
The only audio option on the disc is a DTS-HD 2.0 Mono track in the film's original English language, no alternate language or subtitle options or offered. This isn't a fancy mix but it gets the job done nicely enough. Dialogue is never difficult to understand and the score sounds nice. There are no issues with hiss or distortion and the levels are balanced properly. Some of the more action and horror intensive scenes actually have some surprising weight behind them. No complains here, this might be a no frills mix but it works.
Aside from a static menu offering chapter selection, this disc is completely barebones. It does come packaged inside a slipcover though, for those who keep track of such things.
Thinner isn't necessarily a high water mark in the world of big screen Stephen King adaptations, but it's not a bad movie. Holland keeps things moving along at a good pace and the performances are decent. The makeup effects hold up surprisingly well and if this isn't one you're likely to go back to time and time again, it's worth seeing if you're a horror fan. Olive Films' Blu-ray is as barebones as they come but it looks and sounds nice. Recommended for established fans of the movie despite the lack of extras, and a solid rental for the masses.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.