This film has suffered from a lot of criticism, but I watched it with an open mind and can't really understand the harshness of some people's views. Yes, it's a simple plot, and yes it features primarily unlikable characters, but is that really so worthy of a damning review? I think not. For a start, I rarely like a lot of characters in horror films... Like most people I always wind up rooting for the bad guy! However, in a film such as this there is no particular bad guy or good guy. Just people being all grey and in-betweenish. Some are dicks and some are cruel, and some don't deserve their fate and that's that. Maybe that's why some people don't like this film?
Billy Halleck (Robert John Burke) is a morbidly obese lawyer. His wife, Heidi (Lucinda Jenney), is trying to get him to lose weight, but he's just not very motivated: he likes his food, he likes his booze and he's got money, why bother losing weight?
Their daughter, Linda (Bethany Joy Lenz), is his pride and joy, and out of all the characters, he relates most casually to her. His wife is a bit of a moan, so I can't blame him for that! ;)
Billy has just won a case for a known criminal and gangster, Richie "The Hammer" Ginelli (Joe Mantegna - yes, the voice of Fat Tony from 'The Simpsons'!) - so you know he's due some bad karma!
Aside from being fat, lazy and with a dubious set of morals when it comes to his profession (but then again, he's a lawyer!), I didn't see him as too bad a guy, really. His mates on the other hand...
There is a gypsy carnival in town, which is causing a stir, particularly amongst the local Judge, Cary (John Horton) and Police Chief (Daniel von Bargen), who are prejudiced against the gypsies and sexist to the young gypsy girl, Gina (Kari Wührer).
When driving home one night, and while otherwise occupied... Billy accidentally runs over an elderly gypsy woman, killing her! He finds a way to get around that whole problematic law thing about cars and killing folk, however, which results in him being faced with the wrath of the Gypsy leader, Tadzu Lempke (Michael Constantine), who curses him.
Naturally, the curse begins quite positively, as Billy is still eating like a horse, but is losing weight. It isn't until he realises that the weight loss won't stop that he becomes worried!
I found this film entertaining, and although the 'twist' was quite obvious, this is more from having read a lot of Stephen King stories, rather than it being uninspired. The characters are unlikable because this is their purpose to the message. I was confused, though, as to whether there was a secondary hidden message about being content and a nicer person and being thin, hungry and devious.... But maybe I'm over thinking it.
The effects are good, and quite gruesome, but not in a particularly gory way (most of the time). In particular, the thin Billy stuff is quite shocking. It's all a bit schlocky, which I like, and for some reason I felt this film was from earlier than '96!
Not many Stephen King adaptations are done successfully, but I like this one. It's got a good simple plot, some angry gypsies, curses, revenge, brutal off-screen deaths, back-firing revenge attempts, gangsters, fat suits, car chases, skeletal people... What more do you want?
Give it a chance, even if you haven't read the book!
[Image: Spelling Films International, Paramount Pictures & Lions Gate Entertainment]