Tom Holland’s ‘Thinner’ (1996) Turns 25 – Retro Review

Stephen King is one of the most popular and prolific authors in our lifetime. There are so many adaptations of his short stories and books out there, especially in recent years. Thinner may be a little less known one, but it is a fun black horror comedy with some thriller moments that is certainly worth watching. Personally, this film is one of my favorites Stephen King adaptations. It is based on a 1984 book written under Stephen King’s pseudonym, Richard Bachman. Thinner was actually one of my first Stephen King reads in junior high, a little before this film was made. While I’ll pretty much always say the book is better,  I can remember watching this film and thinking it was ridiculous but oh so much fun.

The man behind the camera is Tom Holland (Fright Night 1985 – our retro review, Child’s Play 1988). He also wrote the screenplay along with Michael McDowell (Beetlejuice 1988 – our retro review, The Nightmare Before Christmas 1993 – our retro review). Released on October 25, 1996, Thinner stars Robert John Burke (Robocop 3 1993), Lucinda Jenney (Practical Magic 1998) and Joe Mantegna (Criminal Minds TV series, The Godfather: Part III 1990).


Thinner has a pretty basic plot. Billy Halleck (Burke), a heavyset prominent attorney in town, is distracted by his wife while driving and hits a gypsy. The case gets swept under the rug with the help of Halleck’s crooked associates. Halleck believes he is home free, but the victim’s father has other plans and places a curse on him, whispering, “Thinner…” Halleck starts to lose weight at an alarmingly rapid rate. This sparks a series of horrid events which will leave you on the seat of your pants. Will Halleck waste away to nothing? Can he reverse his curse? This film will also change how you forever will look at pie.



Trivia Facts Courtesy of IMDb.

  • While in production, cowriter/director Tom Holland was stricken with Bell’s Palsy, a virus that paralyzed one side of his face. The effects could have been minimized had he gotten a steroid shot immediately, but the producers insisted he keep working, so it was 36 hours before he got to a doctor. It took more than a year and a half for him to fully recover.
  • Director Tom Holland wasn’t happy with the ending; the producers changed the original one (which was faithful to the novel) because every test audience hated it.
  • Joe Mantegna, who plays Richie Ginelli in the film, also narrates the audiobook version of Thinner.


  • Depending upon the stage of his character’s deterioration, Robert John Burke had to spend four to six hours each day in the makeup chair.
  • The film was scheduled to open on May 3, 1996 but the studio pushed back the release until October due to negative reactions from test audiences which reportedly wanted more gore and hated the ending. In April, the crew returned to Maine for six days of reshoots.
  • Originally the crew planned to do a more gruesome FX makeup which would have had Billy Halleck’s flesh dangling off of his protruding jaw and cheekbones. Partway into filming they decided that this look was too horrific.

While Thinner may not be as well known or as highly regarded as some of Stephen King’s other adaptations, it is still worth a watch and so much fun! The performances are great, especially from Joe Mantegna. These actors really bring the characters to life. Be sure to watch for a Stephen King cameo as well!

Is this film ridiculous and absurd at times? Yes. But it is also has a lot of thrills, humor, and fun.

About JenniferLeigh

I love a good scare. I have a collection of over 500 horror movies and I am an avid reader as well. I'm also a fan of other nerdoms, Star Wars, Star Trek, X-Files, Firefly and Doctor Who to name a few. I live in Illinois with my husband and cats who share my nerdoms.

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