In Stephen King’s Thinner, Billy Halleck, a roly-poly 300-pound lawyer, accidentally runs down an old Gypsy woman and gets a curse placed on him in retaliation. Overnight, he begins to lose weight — a few pounds every week, then every day, then every hour. It’s a state of affairs he initially greets quite favorably (at last, his diet is working!), until he realizes that he’s shedding tonnage beyond his control. Fatty dinners, between-meals snacks, whipped-cream desserts — no matter how much he scarfs, his weight keeps plunging, a situation the film conveys by having its lead actor, Robert John Burke, wear slightly less fakey-looking latex in every new scene. A Faustian fatty who gets just what he wished for, Billy slims down so fast he has to keep stuffing his face just to keep from wasting away.
In its Stephen King-goes-slumming way (the picture was adapted from one of his pseudonymous Richard Bachman novels), Thinner taps a universal medical-hypochondriacal anxiety: the fear of sudden weight loss as a signifier of deadly disease. On the lighter side, the movie can be read as a ghoulish satire of contemporary diet fever. It’s the sort of thing you could almost imagine the David Cronenberg of The Brood and The Fly whipping into a queasy bad dream of degenerative bodily horror. Unfortunately, director Tom Holland is no Cronenberg. Instead of exploiting the mystery and dread, or even the comedy, of Billy’s condition, Thinner turns into an excruciatingly low-grade pursuit thriller, with Billy hunting down the old Gypsy sage (Michael Constantine) who put the curse on him. At one point, Billy and his mobster client (Joe Mantegna) happen upon the Gypsy camp and swing into action by … spraying the place with bullets. Scary! After a while, you may even forget you’re watching a supernatural thriller. Like too many Stephen King movies, Thinner is all (emaciated) concept and no follow-through. D