by Stephen King

Peter and Mary Jackson are driving quietly on a desolate Nevada highway when they are pulled over and arrested by the disturbed Collie Entragian. They are taken to the police station of a deserted small mining town named Desperation, where Entragian kills Peter. Several other people are held captive here: the Carver family, whose daughter was also killed by Entragian; Johnny Marinville, a writer who was on a cross-country motorcycle trip to gather new material; and Tom Billingsley, the town veterinarian. Meanwhile, Johnny's assistant Steve, who had been trailing him at a distance, finds Johnny's bike and searches for him with Cynthia, a hitchhiker.

Entragian takes Ellen Carver with him, and during his absence, the intensely devout Carver son, David, manages to free everyone, and the party takes him on as a spiritual guide. They take refuge in an abandoned theater and are joined by Steve, Cynthia and Audrey, an employee of the mine. They realize that they are the only survivors of a wave of carnage committed by an evil supernatural entity named Tak. Tak had been imprisoned in an old mine shaft and can take possession of human beings, but this state quickly deteriorates the host and requires it to change hosts. Tak can also manipulate desert wildlife such as coyotes, buzzards, spiders and scorpions. Billingsley is killed by a cougar controlled by Tak, and Audrey, also under its influence, attempts to kill David. She nearly succeeds in strangling him, but is prevented by the intervention of Steve and Johnny. Tak occupies Ellen's body and takes Mary captive.

The survivors contemplate leaving the town, but David, having come out of a trance, reveals to them that God has other plans for them. Mary takes advantage of the rapid deterioration of Ellen's body to escape her, and upon Ellen's death, Tak occupies the body of a golden eagle. The group gather some ANFO to blow up the well from which Tak escaped. Tak attacks David, but kills his self-sacrificing father Ralph. Johnny prevents the now-orphaned David from giving his own life, and takes his place by blowing up the well and sealing Tak inside. David, Mary, Steve and Cynthia begin to leave the town of Desperation. While in Mary's car, David finds in his pocket the hall pass from his previous "deal with God" with a message from Johnny written on it.