Knowing that "the movie is never as good as the book" doesn't help this horrific mess of a film. That being said, I saw the film when it came out 20 years ago, and it was bad then. Now, after having just put down the book, I would revise that rating down another notch to "atrocious."
I won't go on and on, but I do have a question: why bother basing a film on a book and utilizing almost none of the characterizations, plot nuances or, most importantly, sense of pervasive dread inherent in the novel and so completely necessary to films in this genre?
The book I literally could not put down, all the superlatives apply: engrossing, frightening, thought-provoking, evocative and suspenseful. The film unfortunately seems to have been written by someone who lifted the names and locations from the novel, while leaving out almost everything else.
A dream cast completely wasted (John Houseman, Melvyn Douglas, Fred Astaire, Douglas Fairbanks Jr.). Employing one of the worst actors in the business (Craig Wasson) to play the lead--not to mention opening the film with a mind-numbingly gratuitous shot of him plunging nude from a window--ugghhh, didn't need to see that AT ALL (not that there was much to see, ahem).
It all adds up to disaster and, worse, boredom. This film is a travesty in every sense of the word and an insult to Peter Straub--he should have sued.
This begs to be remade--only PLEASE this time do it right.