September 6, 1993 -- ``Needful Things,'' the latest creation from the poison pen of Stephen King is a pretty well-made movie, but it is also pretty depressing.
The story is sort of a combination of Mark Twain's ``The Man That Corrupted Hadleyburg'' and the Ray Bradbury story and film, ``Something Wicked This Way Comes.'' The devil, played very well by Max Von Sydow, who ironically played Jesus Christ in ``The Greatest Story Ever Told,'' arrives in the town of Castle Rock Maine and proceeds to corrupt nearly everyone in town.
Von Sydow seems to take delight in turning neighbors and friends against each other by offering them things they want in return for dirty tricks against each other. A young boy agrees to break windows at a house in town in return for a signed Willy Mays baseball card. What the young boy does not know, and what the other willing participants don't realize is that all of these dirty deeds are part of a grand scheme to breed hatred and chaos.
These dirty tricks escalate into murder and mayhem as the devil cleverly plays upon greed, hatred and prejudice until the whole town explodes in an orgy of violence. Bonnie Bedelia, who starred in an earlier Stephen King thriller, ``Salem's Lot,'' does a good job as a woman plagued by painful arthritis and becomes a prostitute for a healing bauble given by the devil. Ed Harris, ``The Abyss'' and ``The Firm,'' gives a good performance as an emotionally wounded law officer who finally becomes the town's peacemaker.
``Needful Things'' is a well-crafted depiction of evil and how easily people who are motivated by material goods can be turned to evil deeds. The film's message is essentially negative. There is no clear triumph of good over evil in the traditional sense at the end of the film. There not even a clear conflict of good versus evil. That left me feeling a bit down at the end of the film.
While I had to admire the craftsmanship of how the film was put together and the acting performances that went into it. I was left with the feeling of ``Who needs this?'' The film rates a C.
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