A distasteful main character
Today I am writing to talk to you about Thinner.
Thinner is a short story by Stephen King, and is one of his stories I first experienced as a film rather than a book. As usual when I experience a story this way round, I find myself far more receptive to the film version than I usually am. I still prefer the book simply because a book can do more than a film can, but the film for this story was good as well.
It is my opinion that short stories and novella’s turn into films easier than novels do, novels can make amazing tv series’ however. This is all down to the time restrictions though, books have a lot longer to grab you, develop characters, explore themes and plot points than a two-hour film does. Hence why I think short stories, like Thinner, work well when turned into films.
But I digress, Thinner was published in 1984 under King’s pseudonym Richard Bachman. It was inspired by an episode o0f King’s own life when he weighed 236 pounds and felt compelled by his doctor to lose weight. The concept that the weight loss was not his own choice, but rather something forced on him gave King the idea for this story.
Billy is a very successful lawyer, he has friends in all the right places, a loving wife, cute kid and is also morbidly obese. When Billy and his wife are driving home, he is *cough* distracted *cough* and runs over and kills an elderly Romani woman. However, rather than face justice for the careless driving which resulted in a woman’s death, Billy uses his connections to effectively get away with it.
The elderly woman’s father places a cure on Billy, stressing the word Thinner.
Billy starts to rapidly lose weight, no matter how much he eats, despite how much he eats he simply cannot stop losing weight. At first, he’s thrilled but soon starts to suspect something is wrong. His first thought is illness, such as cancer, but he is healthy as a horse, just rapidly and uncontrollably losing weight.
Billy is not the only person in town to have been cursed, the judge and a policeman who aided in Billy getting away with murder have both suffered as a result. The judge has effectively turned into a lizard and the policeman has broken out in a plague. Both of them eventually take their own lives to escape the curse.
Billy eventually tracks down the Romani family and confronts them to remove the curse. Naturally they refuse stating justice must be done. Billy uses his connections to call a mob member down on the Romani family and they agree to help.
They make it so that Billy can give the curse away to someone else. But the old man begs Billy to eat the pie himself and die with some dignity (has he not met Billy? Dudes a massive asshole). Billy takes the pie intending to give it to his wife, who he blames for this whole thing, but when he leaves the pie in the kitchen both his wife and daughter eat some and Billy decides to take his own life and eats it with them.
Billy is a massive asshole and I love it.
I can’t put my finger on why I enjoy this unlikeable character so much but I do. He’s basically irredeemable in my opinion, his inability to take responsibility for his actions are a major charter flaw that he does not recover from in this story. He’s so bloody awful that the film had to invent an affair to make it slightly more reasonable that he would be angry at his wife enough to feed her the pie.
The film received a lot of negative feedback, mostly for it being poorly acted, low budget effects and somewhat shambolic but in my opinion it’s good fun. It’s not a great work of cinema, but it is fundamentally a good lark. Not very frightening though.
The book however, can be, the lack of control felt by Billy through the story is tangible, as he gets more and more desperate and reacts more and more based on emotions like anger and fear. I love the fact that Billy’s main character flaw, the inability to take responsibility is reflected through the story in a multitude of ways.
The story touches on the societal pressure to lose weight, Billy is pushed to lose weight in the early part of the story, all his success and happiness seem diminished due to that one issue. But the main focus of the horror in this story is the lack of control and how our own personal flaws can very easily be our undoing.
Overall, not one of King’s most terrifying stories but one that hits home none the less. As usual I would recommend reading the book before you see the film, so you can experience the story as it was intended before having good fun with the film.
2 thoughts on “King: Thinner”
Nice Thinner commentary. Read the book twice seen the film twice. I agree short stories translate better to film than novels usually do and that novels can make for great tv series and will add, especially in this day and age. Have a similar pov when I watch a film before I read the book I seem to be more invested in it -and less consciously judgemental I think. In film class in college I commented often (I was the teachers pet for better or worse! I know so much about film whenever fellow students asked questionsfor the answers she didn’t know she would say, “Michael?” 🙃), entertainment is better when you try not to critically compare books to films so I usually don’t -though I enjoy discussing their differences which I think is different. Wanted to mention I had guessed King was probably inspired to write Thinner because of weight issues but never knew for sure and liked you were able to confirm that, as I was always a little curious. I’m a fan of at least 1,000 authors, have read over 40 books by King alone, and belong to 500+ authors newsletters and really enjoying yours, which are some of the most fun because of your perspective on a vast array of discussion topics, many I’ve been a fan of like The King in Yellow, The Bottle Imp, Tommyknockers (I’ve not read it yet however), Hell House, Edgar Allan Poe (you spelled wrong btw 𓄿), Malignant, selkies, etc., since I signed up. Great stuff, Katie!
Hi, thank you for such a comprehensive comment!
I think you’re right about being less consciously judgmental, it always pleases me when I watch a film I like then find out it was based on a book. I’m really pleased you like my little ramblings. I recommend giving Tommyknockers a read 🙂
Thank you very much again, I hope you continue to enjoy horror 🙂