There is not a great deal of material to work with here Needful Things (1991) was one of Stephen Kings weakest novels. Although, in comparison to many Stephen King film adaptations, the screen version is reasonably faithful to the book. The film does blunt much of the book. Some of the characters have been dropped. Probably the worst of the changes made is in Wilma Jerzyk, the books most memorable character a barnstorming portrait of a bad-tempered tyrant housewife who in the film inexplicably becomes a psychotic turkey farmer, given an unconvincingly ranting and hysterical performance by Valri Bromfield. Where the film makes a major mistake is in failing to give us a picture of the obsessive need the Needful Things leave their customers with. A person seeing the film without having read the book gains no insight into the obsessiveness of the recipients rather the impression given (aided by an animated energy discharge over each object) is that the objects themself impart some magical effect to the receiver.
Many Stephen King books are about small towns being torn apart by forces from without that play upon the buried secrets or psychotically deranged minds that the towns facade of normalcy keeps at bay. [Indeed, a much better version of the story here was Kings teleplay for the tv mini-series Storm of the Century (1999)]. Here however, one never gets the impression, as one does with King, of a slice of true red, white and blue Americana being taken and gleefully gutted. The films first half is uneventful indeed, Needful Things is probably one of the most bloodless and scareless horror films ever made. On the plus side, the ending works far better than the book Kings ending where Sheriff Pangborn spills open Gaunts case and releases the claimed souls and Gaunt reveals his true diabolic self and rides off on a flaming chariot never seemed that convincing; the films replacement of that with Pangborn having to fight against Gaunts trouble-making, his convincing people it doesnt have to be that way and Gaunts departure with a sinister promise to return in the future, is much better.
Max Von Sydow gives a dignified performance as Gaunt. The muchly underrated Ed Harris is exceptional. Harris gives a performance that comes with the hot-tempered, hard-headed everymans reasonability. The ending where he stands up to fight against Gaunt and convinces the townspeople to back down contains some great acting.
Other Stephen King genre adaptations include:- Carrie (1976), Salems Lot (1979), The Shining (1980), Christine (1983), Cujo (1983), The Dead Zone (1983), Children of the Corn (1984), Firestarter (1984), Cats Eye (1985), Silver Bullet (1985), The Running Man (1987), Pet Semetary (1989), Graveyard Shift (1990), It (tv mini-series, 1990), Misery (1990), a segment of Tales from the Darkside: The Movie (1990), Sometimes They Come Back (1991), The Lawnmower Man (1992), The Dark Half (1993), The Tommyknockers (tv mini-series, 1993), The Stand (tv mini-series, 1994), The Langoliers (tv mini-series, 1995), The Mangler (1995), Thinner (1996), The Night Flier (1997), Quicksilver Highway (1997), The Shining (tv mini-series, 1997), Trucks (1997), Apt Pupil (1998), The Green Mile (1999), The Dead Zone (tv series, 2001-2), Hearts in Atlantis (2001), Carrie (tv mini-series, 2002), Dreamcatcher (2003), Riding the Bullet (2004), Salems Lot (tv mini-series, 2004), Secret Window (2004), Desperation (tv mini-series, 2006), Nightmares & Dreamscapes: From the Stories of Stephen King (tv mini-series, 2006), 1408 (2007), The Mist (2007), Children of the Corn (2009), Everythings Eventual (2009), the tv series Haven (2010-5), Bag of Bones (tv mini-series, 2011), Carrie (2013), Under the Dome (tv series, 2013-5), Big Driver (2014), A Good Marriage (2014), Mercy (2014), Cell (2016), 11.22.63 (tv mini-series, 2016), The Dark Tower (2017), Geralds Game (2017) and It (2017). Stephen King had also written a number of original screen works with Creepshow (1982), Golden Years (tv mini-series, 1991), Sleepwalkers (1992), Storm of the Century (tv mini-series, 1999), Rose Red (tv mini-series, 2002) and the tv series Kingdom Hospital (2004), as well as adapted his own works with the screenplays for Cats Eye, Silver Bullet, Pet Semetary, The Stand, The Shining, Desperation, Children of the Corn 2009 and Cell. King also directed one film with Maximum Overdrive (1986).