Based on: The novel Needful Things.
There’s a new arrival in Castle Rock: Leland Gaunt (Max von Sydow), and he’s opened up the titular shop that sells things that people want, badly, even if they’re not precisely things that people need. As a concession to his generally low prices, he asks small favors of his patrons—typically some small prank to be played on a neighbor. Those small violations ultimately cascade, adding up over time in such a way that the residents of the small town begin to turn on each other with increasing violence. The movie wasn’t a particularly big hit on its initial release, but the story of a charismatic hustler who turns communities against themselves for his own amusement and self-aggrandizement? That hits home rather dramatically. As a film, it’s not a home run (the item-in-exchange-for-prank thing gets repetitive), but Von Sydow and Ed Harris, as the town’s untrusting sheriff, are well-suited as adversaries. King adaptations occasionally peter out on special-effects-challenged reveals (think the flying meatballs in The Langoliers, or the original It’s spiders), Needful Things builds to a satisfying, and appropriately explosive, climax.
There’s an extended version of Needful Things that adds about an hour to the runtime—this was from an era when TV stations would sometimes look for longer versions of popular movies that could be played over successive nights to help recoup ad revenue. The extra time lets the story breathe a bit more, and suggests that this might have been better suited to the miniseries format.
Where to stream: Digital rental