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Literature: Thinner
"When your wife and kids get killed in a plane crash, you don't want to listen to how circuit A fucked up switch B, and traffic controller C had a touch of bug D and navigator E picked the wrong time to go to shithouse F. You just want to sue the shit out of the airline or kill someone with your shotgun. You want a goat, Halleck. You want to hurt someone. And we're getting hurt. Bad for us. Good for him."
Sheriff Duncan Hopley, on revenge.

Thinner is a 1984 novel by Stephen King, published under his Richard Bachman pseudonym.

Obese lawyer Billy Halleck, charged with vehicular manslaughter after killing an old Gypsy woman, is acquitted thanks to his connection with the judge. As he leaves the courthouse, the 106-year-old father of the woman places a curse on him that causes him to rapidly lose weight. After learning that the Gypsy placed a curse on the judge (making him grow hideous scales on his face) and his other friend, a cop that lied on the stand to aid him (leaving his face pockmarked with huge zits), Halleck enlists the help of a former client and mob boss to terrorize the Gypsy to lift his curse.

Made into a movie in 1996 with Robert John Burke as Halleck, Joe Mantegna as the mob boss, and Kari Wurhrer as a Gypsy (the ancient one's great-granddaughter, to be precise).

Thinner contains examples of:

  • Affably Evil: The mafioso is pretty friendly, if primarily towards Halleck for saving his ass in court. He's extremely vicious towards anyone whom he considers an enemy and goes on a rampage against the Gypsies to protect his friend and return the favor.
  • Anti-Villain: Taduz Lemke who place a curse on the man responsible for his daughter's death Halleck and on the two men who helped cover it up. Any sympathy you had is diminished, however, when they brutally murder a bystander paid to give Richie a signal, just to send the protagonist a message
  • Appropriated Appelation: After the old gypsy derisively calls Halleck "White Man from Town", he uses the phrase to intimidate them into taking the curse off.
  • As Long as It Sounds Foreign: The passages supposedly in the Romani language are, in fact, in Swedish, and mostly gibberish.
  • Asshole Victim: Halleck, the judge and the cop. Dr. Mikey could qualify also.The gypsies qualify as well (at least in the movie) once Richie enters the scene
  • Auto Erotica: Halleck hit the old woman because his wife was giving him a handjob while he was driving.
    • The movie changes it to a blowjob.
  • Big Bad: You could argue that Billy himself is the villain of the story seeing as his responsible directly or indirectly for most of the bad things that happen
  • Body Horror: The curses. Given that Halleck is the main character, we get to hear exactly what the Thinner curse entails - a weight loss of two pounds a day. Great if you are a morbidly obese man, as Billy is when the novel begins. Not so much when he starts to lose too much weight. Protruding bones, headaches, brittle hair, jaundice, heart arrhythmia... which all happen to be symptoms of Anorexia Nervosa. Despite not having an appetite at all (it's left up in the air whether or not it's a side effect of the curse, or Halleck's own guilt) he eats like a horse anyway because when he once skipped a meal, instead of losing two pounds, he lost three.
  • Celebrity Paradox: Halleck's doctor tells him at one point that he's "starting to sound a little like a Stephen King novel". (King originally published that book under his Pen Name Richard Bachman, and made this reference to throw people off.)
  • Couldn't Find a Pen: A threatening message is sent to Halleck written in chicken's blood.
  • Creator Cameo: Stephen King appears as Dr. Bangor, who owns the pharmacy outside where the accident happened.
  • Cruel Twist Ending: The movie pushes the ending towards this with the added subplot of Dr. Mikey, who Halleck suspects his wife is cheating on him with. After the original ending, he's just about to tuck in to a piece of pie, Dr. Mikey knocks on the door...and he invites him in for a piece of pie.
  • Cursed with Awesome: Billy Halleck is cursed to rapidly lose weight even if he consumes eight thousand calories in one day, which is awesome at first because he was originally overweight and at high risk of heart problems. However, once it gets to the point where Billy is rapidly approaching the underweight category, and again at high risk of heart problems, the "Awesome" element is dropped entirely.
  • Driven to Suicide: The judge and the cop eventually both kill themselves. So does Halleck at the end, probably.
  • Even Bad Men Love Their Mamas: Mobster Richie Ginelli adores his Italian mother and loves to keep her around.
  • Fat Bastard: Deconstructed. Billy Halleck is a seemingly nice guy with a good marriage and is a doting father (his daughter in fact prefers Billy to her mother). However, he is clearly aware of his firm's tie to The Mafia, and is in fact good friends with a man who may be the head of the local mob family. After the accident, he doesn't deliberately use his connections to get him out of trouble, but he does nothing to dissuade them either. There is blame enough to go around, but no one is willing to accept the consequences for their actions.
  • Fat Suit: Burke had to wear one to play the obese lawyer at the beginning.
  • A Friend in Need: When his wife fails to believe he is cursed (and in fact conspires with a local doctor to commit him to a Mental Institution should he return home), Billy turns to Richie Ginelli, a Mafioso who he is acquainted with. Richie sends Billy a doctor, then shows up himself to wreck havoc on the Gypsies until the they agree to lift the curse. He dies for his troubles, but accepted that fact beforehand.
  • Gallows Humor: After Halleck becomes emaciated: "You finally found a diet that works!"
  • Gypsy Curse: Three, to be precise: The titular one, the "lizard" one on the judge, and the mega-acne one on the cop.
  • Hey, It's That Guy!: Who'd have thought that Fat Tony would be willing to help out RoboCop 3 with his curse problem?
  • Hot Gypsy Woman: Gina Lemke is one. Kari Wuhrer plays her in the film.
  • Impaled Palm: Gina shoots Halleck through the hand with a slingshot.
  • Irony: Deliberately invoked by the curses Taduz Lemke inflicts...
    • Lizard - Judge Rossington's curse. Causes him to grow scales all over his body due to his cold-blooded nature.
    • Unknown - Sheriff Hopley's curse. The name of the curse was not given, but it causes horrendous acne to crop up on Hopley's face, neck, and back. And by "horrendous", I don't mean "looks like chicken pox" - I mean... well...
      Hopley's skin was a harsh alien landscape. Malignant red pimples the size of tea saucers grew out of his chin, his neck, his arms, the back of his hands. Smaller eruptions rashed his cheeks and forehead; his nose was a plague zone of blackheads. Yellowish pus oozed and flowed in weird channels between bulging dunes of proud flesh. Blood trickled here and there. Coarse black hairs, beard hairs, grew in crazy helter-skelter tufts, and Halleck's horrified overburdened mind realized that shaving would have become impossible some time ago in the face of such cataclysmic upheavals. And from the center of it all, helplessly embedded in that trickling red landscape, were Hopley's staring eyes.
    • Thinner - Billy Halleck's curse. Causes him to drop two pounds a day... until he is erased completely. It's initially a boon due to Halleck's morbid obesity, but he quickly learns that the weight loss will never stop on its own...
      • Additionally, Billy Halleck's doctor was initially advising him to lose weight to prevent his getting a heart attack. Once Halleck loses enough weight, he actually comes closer to dying of a heart attack than he ever did when he was overweight.
  • Karmic Twist Ending: Halleck gets the Gypsy to remove the curse from him. The Gypsy places it into a pie, and tells him whoever eats it will be cursed as well. He takes it home for his wife to eat, as he now hates her for giving him the handjob that caused him to run over the woman. She does... but so does his daughter. Oops. Guess he'll have a piece himself.
  • The Mafia: Halleck's friend, Richard Ginelli is an Italian mob boss, who uses his connections to terrorize the Gypsies.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Halleck says this almost word-for-word in the movie, when he finds out that his daughter had some of the cursed pie that he brought home for his wife.
  • Never My Fault: Billy Halleck blames everybody but himself for his having run Susanna Lemke over, including Susanna herself. Also applies to Lemke who seems to forget that his daughter was jaywalking in the middle of the night.
  • Playing Gertrude: Irma St. Paule, who played the woman Halleck runs over in the film, was one year older than Michael Constantine, the actor who played her father. (Of course, it is hard to find 106-year-old actors, and the guy isn't supposed to look 106.)
  • Redemption Equals Death: Billy Halleck finally takes responsibility for his actions when he discovers that his daughter, who was in no way responsible for Susanna Lemke's death, has eaten a slice of the Gypsy pie and is doomed to die of the curse that Billy Halleck brought upon himself and passed on to his wife for jerking him off. He decides to eat a slice of the Gypsy pie himself, choosing to join his wife and child in death by cursed starvation.
  • Roma
  • Sympathetic Murderer: Taduz Lemke. He inflicts one unique Gypsy Curse each on three people, with the full intention of it killing the victim, in one way or another. And yet he's doing this to avenge his daughter's death at the hands of a white town man when the supposed justice system failed to properly do this.
  • Weirdness Censor: Billy's wife, his physician, and the specialists he goes to see refuse to believe that Billy is cursed, despite finding nothing wrong with him in any of their tests. Averted by Richie Ginelli, who believes Billy upon seeing him and hearing his tale. Richie implies that he can accept a supernatural cause because of stories his grandparents have told him.
  • The Topic of Cancer:As their curses worsen, denials set in for Halleck, the judge, and their wives. Cancer is blamed and feared to be the cause in place of the less rational reality.
  • Villain Protagonist: Billy Halleck, who is dealt a Gypsy Curse and uses desperate means in an attempt to get it off... and yet clearly is enough of an asshole that he deserves it.

Black HouseWorks By Stephen KingThe Tommyknockers
The Things They CarriedLiterature of the 1980sThis Is the Title of This Story

alternative title(s): Thinner
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