Quick Hit: This slow-burning horror film is exactly what King intended.
I am at the point now, as I’ve probably surpassed 400 reviews in our short time together, DFP readers, where I fear repeating myself at times. Some of my favorite subjects in horror, and in regards to Stephen King, are easily repeatable and far from original. And yet, when I find new content to write about, like Netflix’s 1922, the first thing to say is usually something I’ve said before – Stephen King is the king of monsters, particularly of the human variety.
But something I don’t know if I’ve referred to before is his ability to give many of those monsters at least a convincing motivation. Sometimes they’re just plain crazy, sometimes they’re jealous, but more often their victims of the systems they were brought up in, or of downturns in life they couldn’t have expected. Take for instance Wilfred from 1922. He was raised in a world where a man was a man and that’s all he was, where his greatest joys in life should be his progenies and the land that he worked to sustain himself. Wilfred is a blue-collar worker before there were true blue-collars and while he can’t be forgiven or even excused, his inability to adjust to the new status quo that his wife presents at least makes sense (which is more than most of superhero villain motivations nowadays).
Director/Writer Zak Hilditch does a terrific job at shrinking the scope of the story to focus on Wilf, Arlette, and Henry. Arlette wants a much bigger world though, one with dress shops and even St. Louis, which is what gives the story its engine. Wilf slowly turns Henry against her, and eventually we have one of the most terrifying rat scenes in all of film. This becomes the driving factor in Wilf’s life before long, and the death of his mother causes Henry to go to dark places as well. Hilditch helps to shrink the action by focusing on shots of the farm, and also by continuing to give the cast moments of privacy – in groups of two and of themselves. Some of these are beautiful examples of good cinematography – right up with Mud, which we watched earlier this year.
All three of the main actors have terrific chemistry. Molly Parker, who plays Arlette combines with Hilditch’s writing to take make Arlette a bit more relatable – in King’s story, you almost root for her demise. Dylan Schmid does an adequate job as Henry, but truly comes alive once he leaves Thomas Jane’s shadow. With his almost Baby Faced Nelson like appearance, his role becomes much more sincere.
But, it’s Thomas Jane who makes the film truly worth watching. His gruff, squinting Wilf is easily a memorable character, but when combined with the accent that Jane gives him, he becomes unforgettable. Though Wilf obviously is not a learned man, he’s not dumb, and that also comes across in Jane’s acting. It’s a very good performance by a very good actor who landed a role right in his wheelhouse.
The movie has some stumbles, including a rushed introduction and a blink and you’ll miss it ending, but overall it is a good, well-paced film. I’m going to give it a “B+”.
For more on this film, check out IMDB.
"All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy"