Visually, this movie has that creepy thing happening where everything looks clean, shiny and bright… but it all looks a little too good to be true. Billy Hallbeck might be the poster child for gluttony. The overweight lawyer’s appetite doesn’t stop with Doritos and fine desserts, he’s pompous, self absorbed and money hungry. He’s just won a big case when a “gypsy caravan” comes to Fairview. After a date with his wife, she’s giving him road head to distract him from thinking about food when he runs over an old “gypsy” woman, the old woman dies and Billy feels no remorse, his status ensures that he doesn’t see jail time and he feels no remorse for his actions. On the way out of the court, he’s approached by a long haired old man named Tadzu who touches his face and says just one thing: “Thinner.”
And Billy does get thinner. First 2 pounds a day, then 4… then more. 40 pounds in 2 weeks. And it only becomes more rapid.
His wife who has tried to put Billy on every fad diet is at first pleased, but quickly becomes concerned. She asks him to see his doctor, who tells him “Your blood work is 5 by 5” (was that really a 90s phrase?! Faith Lehane said that all the time)
Billy gets more and more manic, constantly shovelling food down his throat to slow the effects of the curse, he checks in on his friend who helped cover up the accident and finds he is turning into a lizard man. His wife tries to check him into a clinic but he goes on the hunt for the caravan. He find them. They are not so forgiving.
Tadzu laughs in his face while smoking hot Gina Lempke (Kari Wuhrer, Anaconda, “Sliders”, Maria Hill in “Avenger’s Earth’s Mightiest Heroes” and the upcoming Sharknado 2:the Second One) chases him off with a slingshot. He keeps pursuing them as he drops pounds and starts losing his grip, he increasingly holds his wife responsible “Was I giving myself a blowjob?” He becomes so thin that he is frail and sunken and enlists “Criminal Minds” actor Joe Mantegna to coerce the gypsies into lifting the curse.
The Roma relent… eventually. But there’s only one way out of the curse: pass it on. Will Billy die clean or with blood on his hands? Will he accept responsibility for his actions? For most writers, the outcome would be assured but with Stephen King behind the source material…
So fucking obviously: “Gypsy” is an ethnic slur. And in this film the caravan are very much a scary and magical other. Which is classist, racist and bigoted. “The white man from town” AKA Billy is a parody of yuppie culture. So there are other exaggerations, but it doesn’t excuse the fact that they are completely stereotyped and repeatedly called what is an ethnic slur. Yeah, yeah, someone’s gonna tell me that no one was PC in 1996. More valid, the fact that Billy and the other lawyers are terrible people who are greedy assholes and probably bigots and racists.
Also, the overweight main character who lives in a house full of chips and is a gluttonous asshole who can’t walk up a flight of stairs? Offensive.
But is it scary: Yeah, a little? It’s actually a bit creepy. The special effects make up and eerie lighting enhance the mood. It’s never really possible to root for Billy. He’s not a good person. And there’s no reason to feel bad for him. So as the tension ramps up… you’re never really hoping that Billy gets out alive but somehow you still get caught up in the fast pace of the film. Mostly this is due to Robert John Burke (“Rescue Me”, 2 Guns) and his crazy eyes, he and his cursed friends convincingly manic behavior keeps the intensity and creep factor alive more than the story itself.