Aside from a list of usual titles, I have never found much to enjoy in the many horror films that showed up adapted from Stephen King stories back when they were turning up in abundance. For every Misery there was a Pet Sematary 1 and 2.
Which brings us to this film with a couple of pros at odds against each other in the classic struggle of good vs. evil.
In the small town of Castle Rock our story will focus on a few residents including Ed Harris as the town sheriff who is romancing Bonnie Bedelia over at the local diner. While this may sound like Mayberry don’t expect to see Barney and Andy walking the streets whistling a tune.
Into the town comes the deliciously evil Max Von Sydow as Satan himself. He’s opened a small antique/curio shop which the film adopts it’s title from. Needful Things.
He’s quick to make his presence known to those who he crosses paths with. There’s something for everyone in his shop. For one young boy it’s a Mickey Mantle rookie card. “Fleers or Tops?”
J.T. Walsh falls in love with a horse racing game which is supposed to help him escape the clutches of a gambling debt which has led to the embezzlement of town funds.
Initially thanks to Sydow’s devious performance the film is rather light in tone but that is about to change when he gets his hooks into the unstable Amanda Plummer who is at war with another local resident.
The cost of any item in the shop is rather small unless you count the favor that is required to go along with the low price. It’s the favors that Max asks of his customers that create the mounting tension causing the escalation of arguments and ultimately murder within the town.
Sydow even has the local churches at war with each other over the congregations and minister vs. priest in an all out battle towards the climax.
Ed Harris is slowly piecing the puzzle together and realizes that Leland Gaunt (Sydow) is no man of this earth. He sees that everyone around him has ties to Max and they staunchly defend him when Harris begins to pry. Deep within the basement of the curio shop he’ll unravel the mystery and begin to fight back in the name of all that is good and pure.
Ed Harris was by this time a solid actor having gotten started in the late seventies working for George Romero and making his official screen debut in Borderline in 1980. He has remained a solid presence on screen to this day.
Von Sydow will of course always be associated with his role as The Exorcist. This King adaptation has given him a chance to look at good and evil from the opposite side of things.
Needful Things was directed by Fraser Clark Heston. That last name should ring a bell as Fraser is indeed the son of Charlton. For the trivia fans it should be noted that both starred as Moses in the De Mille epic back in 1956. Fraser as the baby Moses on the river and Chuck as the full scale version. And so the Heston cameo continues……
Supposedly there is a longer version of this that turned up for television which would account for a couple of scenes in the trailer missing from the theatrical release and also explain why there is a woman wandering around at the end of the film in Elvis Presley styled sunglasses. If there is more of Von Sydow’s marvelous whit to be had, I’ll have to check it out if given the chance.