2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Entertaining but fails to live up to it's potential,
This review is from: Stephen King's Needful Things  [DVD] (DVD)
This is an odd mish-mash of ideas that fail to gel into a workable horror, or a thriller. When the mysterious Leland Gaunt arrives in town and opens a store, terrible things start to happen, and it doesn't take long for Ed Harris' sheriff to realise that he's at the heart of it all.
Gaunt is played well by Max Von Sydow, and Ed Harris is good too, but everyone else appears to believe they're in some kind of absurdist comedy and overacts to a ridiculous degree. The kind of petty fueding and comedy outrage protrayed here totally undermines any undercurrent of sinister goings on, with the whole town soon acting like petty whiny children with grudges and tantrums to match, and while it's a clever plot device, it would take a far better script and director to pull it off and make it feel scary - here it's so badly botched that it's highly irritating that so many good actors have been put to such bad use.
The few scary moments are wasted amongst the misjudged pantomime comedy and over-acting, which clash badly with good performances like Harris'.
The film does provide entertainment, but it's a failure as a horror movie, or even a suspense thriller. There are standout moments of tension which could have made it very disturbing, such as one sequence with a local tearaway teenager, but they are again badly mis-handled so that all tension or horror is wasted.
It's peculiar that this is such a misfire, unsure whether it wants to be a comedy or a satire or a horror, but that's symptomatic of so many horrors filmed in the early nineties: too keen for profit not to make the film, but too afraid of violence or criticism to put any 'horror' in the horror films.