Thinner - Blu-ray Review

Michael Scott

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Apr 4, 2017
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Movie: :3stars:
Video: :4.5stars:
Audio: :4stars:
Extras: :4.5stars:
Final Score: :4stars:

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1996’s Thinner has always been one of those controversial Stephen King movies. The film itself was based upon a paper thin premise of King’s, and that translated over into the mid 1990s horror film as well. I still get a chuckle out of the goofy premise, and the lack of horror is more due to the fact that said premise was more humorous than it was terrifying, and Robert John Burke’s over the top protagonist just adds to the hammy nature of it all. That being said, I still enjoy the snot out of Thinner just for the sake of the shock humor and the running fat gags that made me laugh when I was a teen in the 90s. Olive Films released King’s thriller some 14 years ago with great results, and it looks like Shout Studios has their crack at releasing a collector’s edition. Luckily the new scan looks and sounds great, and the bare bones Olive Films release is handily outclassed in the extras departments.

The story revolves around one Billy Halleck (Robert John Burke in a fat suit), a morbidly obese lawyer who seems to have a happy home life, and a successful career. His flexible morality allows him to defend scum bags and mafia crooks, but overall he’s a decent seeming fella. The only problem is that the 300 lb guy just can’t stop eating long enough to lose weight, despite the begging and help of his wife Heidi (Lucinda Jenney). However, his weight goals are taken out of his hand when he accidentally runs over a gypsy woman in his car and thanks to the help of the local judge and police chief, gets off without even a ticket.

The aged gypsy patriarch (Michael Constantine in a LOT of makeup) puts a curse on Billy, and suddenly the over fed lawyer is losing pounds hand over fist. At first it seems like a blessing. No one really believes in CURSES, and losing weight has been Billy and Heidi’s goal all along. But soon 30 extra pounds leads to 60 pounds lost. Then another 25, and soon after that another 15. Billy’s reticence to believe in curses is suddenly thrown out the window when it turns out that Police Chief Hopley (Daniel von Bargen, may he RIP) and the judge have both contracted conditions from their run in with the gypsies. Desperate to do anything, Billy enlists the aid of mobster Richie Ginelli (Joe Mantegna) due to being owed a favor, and sets out on a quest to lift the gypsy curse.

Thinner is downright hilarious at times, and hovers along the border of being a thriller, and actual horror. King’s works have always been hit or miss on screen, but this was taken from an already thin story and then pushed a bit far with the film adaptation, making it one of Stephen King’s most mediocre movies ever (outside of The Dark Tower that came out a few years ago *shudder). However, the movie still has a good amount of 1990s fun to be had, with John Burke hamming it up to level 11 under the fat suit (and under a ton of prosthetic and makeup additions later on in the movie), and the sheer ludicrous nature of the plot. It’s hammy, cheesy, and just plain stupid at times. But for a 1990s horror fan, it’s still got some good going for it (and yes, Stephen King DOES make an appearance as the pharmacist like he usually does in his films).

My major problems with the film stem from the goofiness of things, as well as a third act that seems to be anti-climactic. Spoilers ahead….The third act sets things up for a terrifying conclusion with Billy finally learning the hard way that he can’t really get out of the curse. Then it literally flips things on its head in the last 2-3 minutes, turning Billy from a tragic, but flawed, protagonist to mustache twirling villain in a matter of seconds. The entire weight of his loss is undercut by the cheesy double switch that just happened, and it sort of robs the movie of some of its power in my opinion.


Rated R for horror violence and gore, language and sexuality

Video: :4.5stars:
Now I haven’t seen the Olive release for quite some time and don’t have the disc on hand, so my comparison to that Blu-ray release will be by memory alone. I haven’t seen any notification from Shout Studios/Scream Factory about a new remaster, so I’m assuming that they didn’t go back to the negative for a new scan, or at least a scan that was done post 2012 and before they got the rights, but I wouldn’t be shocked at all to find out that this was taken from the same master as the 2012 Olive release. That being said, it was a great transfer back then, and looks really good now as well. The film is very 1990s organic looking, with solid grain structure and a nice ruddy skin tone with hints of sepia that was common during the mid 90s. Facial details are clean and precise, while fine details throughout the picture look good. There’s some minor softness while out on the boat with Richie, and some nighttime shots look a bit crushed, but overall this is a fantastic looking encode (which has been re-done from 1.78:1 for the Olive release to it’s theatrical 1.85:1 framing for this Scream Factory release).

Audio: :4stars:
Again, I can’t compare against the Olive release, but the 5.1 DTS-HD MA track seems to my ear to be either the same mix ported across, or simply a re-encode of the same audio master, which means that the releases sound STUPID similar to this guy’s ear. The film’s acoustics are fairly modest, with a strong presence in the front of the room, coupled with some good surround usage while Richie is gunning down gypsies, or from the creepy horn and synthesizer based score. Dynamics aren’t super wide, but we get a few good blasts that shock you out of your chair near the second half of the movie, otherwise this is a fairly modest and straight forward audio mixing.

Extras: :4.5stars:
• NEW Audio Commentary With Producer Mitchell Galin And Actor Joe Mantegna
• NEW Audio Commentary With Film Critic/Historian Lee Gambin And Novelist Aaron Dries
• NEW "Weight Of The World" – An Interview With Director Tom Holland
• NEW "Thick And Thin" – An Interview With Actor Lucinda Jenney
• NEW "The Incredible Shrinking Man" With Special Make-Up Effects Artist Vincent Guastini
• Audio Commentary With Tom Holland And Joe Mantegna
• Vintage Featurette: "The Magic Of Special Effects Make-Up"
• Theatrical Trailer
• TV Spot
• Still Gallery
• Slipcover in First Pressing

Final Score: :4stars:

Thinner is a solid 1990s jaunt, but not one that will rival the greats of Stephen King’s lineage. It’s mostly fun in that goofy sort of “don’t take this too seriously” type of way rather than a truly terrifying experience. The Blu-ray release definitely outclasses the Olive Films presentation in the extras department alone, but the audio and video seem to be fairly similar (I’d give the edge to the new Scream Factory remaster, but the Olive release was already excellent), making this is a fun watch for Stephen King fans.

Technical Specifications:

Starring: Robert John Burke, Joe Mantegna, Lucidna Jenney, Daniel von Bargen
Directed by: Tom Holland
Written by: Stephen King (novel), Michael McDowell, Tom Holland
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 AVC
Audio: English: DTS-HD MA 5.1, English DTS-HD MA 2.0
Subtitles: English,
Studio: Scream Factory
Rated: R
Runtime: 92 minutes
Blu-Ray Release Date: January 23rd, 2024

Recommendation: Fun Watch

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