Picks and Pans Review: Needful Things

updated 09/13/1993 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 09/13/1993 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Max von Sydow, Ed Harris, Bonnie Bedelia. Amanda Plummer

To invoke another Stephen King novel turned movie: Sitting through the current offering is Misery. Von Sydow is the new arrival in a heretofore sleepy Maine town. Seemingly a dapper antiques dealer, he has an awfully peculiar way of doing business: Von Sydow gives away nearly all his merchandise—including a china figurine to Plummer, a timorous waitress, and an amulet to café owner Bedelia, who suffers desperately from arthritis. Now, how's a guy going to stay afloat that way?

Turns out Von Sydow isn't an antiques dealer at all, isn't even from Akron as he claims but from a certain nether region. His mission: to turn the townspeople into, well, devil's disciples. Those who take his largesse must also take his orders. Nothing much, really, he assures them. Just break a few windows, perhaps, kill a dog, slash some tires, blow up the town. Subtlety and suspense are in desperately short supply here. Those who manage to stay alert through the gruesome doings, the dime-store moralizing and sophomoric dialogue can gainfully pass the time wondering why it takes Harris, the town's top cop, such a hell of a long time to wake up and smell the brimstone. (R)

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