This film adaptation of Thinner was directed by Tom Holland. Tom Holland first emerged as a genre screenwriter with works like The Initiation of Sarah (1978), Class of 1984 (1982), The Beast Within (1982), Psycho II (1983), Scream for Help (1984) and Cloak and Dagger (1984). Holland made his directorial debut with the well received vampire film Fright Night (1985) and then went onto the non-genre Whoopi Goldberg comedy Fatal Beauty (1987), Childs Play (1988), which started off the Chucky franchise, and the psycho secretary film The Temp (1993). Holland had previously ventured into Stephen King territory with the tv mini-series adaptation of The Langoliers (1995). Subsequent to Thinner, Holland appears to have vanished into the ether, only turning up as a director of one episode of Masters of Horror (2005-7) and the short-lived tv series Twisted Tales (2013).
As a scriptwriter, Tom Hollands work had a great deal of promise but with each outing he made as a director, this gradually disappeared into a blandness. This blandness is certainly something that typifies Thinner. The script and direction never get to the heart of Robert John Burkes horror. Tom Holland seems to concern himself only with external displays but never keys things in on a psychological level. Instead, we get silly dream sequences where Kari Wuhrer uses a slingshot to fire ball bearings through Robert John Burkes hand and Michael Constantine pursues Burke in a huge semi-trailer, which are both unnecessary and ridiculously overblown. Certainly, the makeup effects are highly convincing. As the 300-pound man, Robert John Burke is extremely believable we even get a brief nude rear shot of his obese body. Unfortunately either it seems because the technical facility to show such was not there or beyond the films budget we correspondingly see nothing of the anorexic Burke, only his gaunt face with the rest of his body being kept huddled and swathed in clothing meaning that the true horror of his wasting away is kept off-screen.
Part of the problem with the film also lies in Robert John Burkes performance. When playing the obese half of the character, Burke plays Halleck as a wimpish pudding. However, when the character starts to thin, Burke adds a decidedly nasty undertow to his performance. However, this gets the character the wrong way around. The audience should have been allowed to despise the obese character for his amorality and callous insensitivity and then gradually develop sympathy for the curse-afflicted character and the powerlessness of his plight. In a classic story, this should have been the crux of the characters redemption.
This is also symptomatic of the repellent messages that lie underneath Thinner. Most of the characters in the film are caricatures, in particular the Gypsies. The film would appear to (and wants to) uphold the moral message that the cover-up of the initial accident was wrong. However, the way it is played out, this is overlooked and the film then plays into racial prejudices about Gypsies indeed, Thinner is only about two steps away from the satirically exaggerated caricatures of Gypsies that are a constant target of Sascha Baron Cohens Borat. By the end of the film, the Gypsies are shown to be the nasty, unforgiving and vengeful people that the prejudiced townspeople hold them up to be. In an equally bizarre turn, the Mafia hood (Joe Mantegna) that Robert John Burke gets off becomes the rescuing hero of the film by employing gang-style strong-arm tactics. What should be the emotional thrust of the film about the central character learning from his mistakes becomes an altogether more repellent message about the central character standing up to make the Gypsies pay for daring to take revenge on him for covering up his complicity in a manslaughter.
Even that would not be as objectionable as the ending. Here Tom Holland has Halleck take the pie that the curse has been placed into and feed it to his unfaithful wife. It is only when Halleck sees that his beloved teenage daughter has inadvertently eaten some of the pie too that Halleck feels remorse and decides to eat some of it himself. However, this moment of character realization is thrown away when his wifes adulterer turns up at the door and Halleck then gleefully invites him in for a piece of pie. The pure nastiness of the films unconcerned justification for these acts and the glib throwing away the characters feelings of remorse in favour of further revenge make it a repugnant ending.
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), Needful Things (1993), The Tommyknockers (tv mini-series, 1993), The Stand (tv mini-series, 1994), The Langoliers (tv mini-series, 1995), The Mangler (1995), 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), It (2017), The Mist (tv series, 2017), Mr. Mercedes (tv series, 2017 ) and 1922 (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).
(Nominee for Best Makeup Effects at this sites Best of 1996 Awards).