Stephen King states that NEEDFUL THINGS will be “The Last Castle Rock Story.” The fictitious Maine town has been the setting for a number of King’s horror classics, including THE DEAD ZONE (1979), CUJO (1981), and THE DARK HALF (1989). A newcomer to Castle Rock, Leland Gaunt, supposedly from Akron, Ohio, opens a shop called Needful Things. For some mysterious reason, Gaunt seems to know what item each of his customers will do almost anything to possess. Eleven-year-old Brian Rusk, Gaunt’s first customer, buys a Sandy Koufax baseball card. The price that Gaunt asks may seem low in monetary terms, but he also asks young Brian to play a trick on a local woman. Each of Gaunt’s customers is asked to do something over and above the cash price.
Gaunt’s charm woos his customer. He seems to understand all too well his customers’ character flaws. He pushes the correct buttons, and the citizens of Castle Rock commit hideous crimes. The only character who seems to be immune from Gaunt’s influence is the sheriff, Andy Pangborn. He becomes more and more suspicious of Gaunt after a number of crimes lead back to the shop, yet the shop is always closed when Pangborn passes by.
As NEEDFUL THINGS moves forward, the number of citizens who fall prey to Gaunt’s influence increases. King details many grisly acts of violence. The narrative shifts back and forth from one character’s point of view to another. It becomes evident that Gaunt is some...
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