THINNER (1996) Reviews and overview


‘Let the curse fit the crime.’

Thinner – aka Stephen King’s Thinner – is a 1996 American body horror film directed by Tom Holland (Rock Paper Dead; Child’s PlayFright Night) from a screenplay co-written with Michael McDowell (Tales from the Darkside; Beetlejuice).

The film is based on the Stephen King [Richard Bachman] novel of the same name. It received mixed critical reviews and was not a financial success. It stars Robert John Burke, Lucinda Jenney, Joe Mantegna, Michael Constantine, Kari Wührer and Bethany Joy Lenz.


Billy Halleck (Robert John Burke) is an obese, upper-class lawyer living with his wife Heidi (Lucinda Jenney) and their daughter Linda (Bethany Joy Lenz). The town he lives in is hosting a carnival, run by gypsies that the townspeople hold obvious prejudice against.

One night, while Billy is driving, Heidi, in an attempt to persuade him to forget about his obsession with food, performs fellatio on him. Distracted, Billy accidentally runs over Suzanne Lempke (Irma St. Paule), an elderly gypsy woman, as she leaves a pharmacy. Since Judge Cary Rossington (John Horton) is a personal friend of his, he soft-pedals the case, and no charges are filed against him.

Outraged by the injustice, Suzanne’s 106-year-old father, Tadzu Lempke (Michael Constantine) curses Billy by touching his face and saying the word “thinner”. Billy begins to lose weight rapidly, regardless of how much he eats…

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“The film doesn’t seem to quite know if it wants to occasionally play some of the hideous mayhem for laughs, and the actors occasionally seem to be wondering whether they should really be chewing the scenery as much as some of them do. But Thinner also has a playful quality that keeps things moving along in a fairly brisk manner.”

“Instead of exploiting the mystery and dread, or even the comedy, of Billy’s condition, Thinner turns into an excruciatingly low-grade pursuit thriller […] Like too many Stephen King movies, Thinner is all (emaciated) concept and no follow-through.” Entertainment Weekly


“Worth seeing and reasonably entertaining despite its flaws, Thinner may prefer over the top effects work and snappy dialogue over strong character development or subtly nuanced performances but the end result is entertaining enough. The film is not without some obvious flaws but you can still have fun with it if you’re in the right frame of mind.” DVD Talk

Thinner is one of the better lesser known King adaptations and my personal favourite Holland flick; if you’re stuck for something to watch and want to switch your brain off for 90 minutes it’s perfect popcorn absurdity. Some of the performances are cheesy and the dialogue is there for an extra sprinkling of cheddar, but overall it’s solid in all aspects.” Attack of the Couch Potato

” …it’s sluggishly paced and the acting ranges from understatement to shameless histrionics […] the comfortable ease of suburbia is at odds with the gypsies, who are virtual cartoon cliches…” Mike Mayo, Videohound’s Horror Show

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Thinner could have been an opportunity to examine the ethics of a slick lawyer who refuses to accept responsibility for his actions […] Unfortunately, questions of morality are of secondary importance to a film that emphasizes its Death Wish aspects.” Reelviews

“As far as camp goes Thinner is surprisingly skilled. The dialog is not terrible, there are some performances that don’t suck and some decent effects including a guy who is apparently turning into a lizard, but looks more like a giant cigarette ash. It even has a little bit of tension and suspense. There were too many talented people involved in making it for it it to be utter B level shlock.” HNN

” …mean-spirited film did not have one single likable character.” Stephen Jones, Creepshows: The Illustrated Stephen King Movie Guide

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Cast and characters:

  • Robert John Burke — Billy Halleck (Dust Devil; Nightmare Weekend)
  • Joe Mantegna — Richie “The Hammer” Ginelli
  • Lucinda Jenney — Heidi Halleck (The Mothman Prophecies; Matinee)
  • Michael Constantine — Tadzu Lempke (Friday the 13th: The Series)
  • Kari Wührer — Gina Lempke
  • Bethany Joy Lenz — Linda Halleck (American Gothic; Dexter)
  • Daniel von Bargen — Chief Duncan Hopley
  • John Horton — Judge Cary Rossington
  • Time Winters — Prosecutor
  • Howard Erskine — Judge Phillips
  • Terrence Garmey — Bailiff
  • Randy Jurgensen — Court Clerk
  • Jeff Ware — Max Duggenfield
  • Antonette Schwartzberg — Mama Ginelli
  • Terence Kava — Gabe Lempke
  • Irma St. Paule – Suzanne Lempke
  • Elizabeth Franz – Leda Rossington
  • Stephen King — Doctor Bangor
  • Adriana Delphine — Gypsy Woman
  • Ruth Miller — Billy’s Secretary
  • Sam Freed — Doctor Mike Houston
  • Peter Maloney – Biff Quigley
  • Josh Holland – Frank Spurton
  • Josh Lucas – Nurse [uncredited]

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