On Friday, October 20th, Netflix released a new original film: 1922. The movie is an adaptation of the novella of the same name by Stephen King. I have a soft spot for all things Stephen King, and Netflix originals tend to be well made (even if they are problematic for other reasons), so I went into this with fairly high expectations.
The plot is fairly straightforward. A simple farmer, living in the middle-of-nowhere Nebraska, becomes determined to kill his wife when she threatens to sell their farmland, which was willed to her by her father. He decides it would be necessary to involve their teenage son in this deadly plot by convincing him that this is the only way to save their way of life and not be forced to live in the city, something Wilfred (the father) considers to be a fate worse than death. This decision becomes their downfall, as both Wilfred and his son, Henry, begin to unravel.
The story is full of haunting images and creepy plot points, but if you’re hoping for a heart pounding, edge-of-your-seat thriller, this isn’t it. Sure, there’s some blood and guts, but it’s much more of a psychological thriller that allows you to watch how guilt can eat away at you from the inside out. It seems to echo Edgar Allen Poe’s “A Tell-Tale Heart” in its focus on the inner turmoil of the characters that happens after the crime has been committed.
Thomas Jane, a King veteran as he appeared in two other adaptations of King’s work, plays the farmer Wilfred. He’s almost unrecognizable with a lean figure of a poor farmer, leathery tan skin from working out in the son, and a slow southern drawl that reminds me of my friends’ grandparent’s dialects. The one give away that would remind me of who he was, was the unmistakable dimple on his cheek. I was truly impressed with his spot on performance. He seemed to live and breathe the character on the screen, and made watching the decline into madness feel real.
I wasn’t, however, as enamored with his cast mates Molly Parker (Deadwood) and Dylan Schmid (Once Upon a Time). It’s not that they didn’t give decent performances, it’s that they didn’t feel like they fit with Jane’s character of Wilfred. They both lived the farm life with Wilfred, yet both were as pale as I am…which is very pale. Their dialects didn’t quite match up, and they just seemed kind of out of place. I know this is totally a snobby, petty thing to complain about, but consistency in performances is important to me, as I spent most of my life studying acting.
For Parker’s character, this contrast could make sense. She wanted to move to a big city and open a dress shop, not live in some dirty old farm in the country. But, this contrast would only work if Schmid’s character was just as “country” as his father. Or, if we were able to see how hard she worked to be different from them. Instead, Wilfred was the one who seemed out of place, even living in the middle of a corn field. He seemed to belong to a different time and place than the rest of his family, which made it more difficult to believe that his son would side with him to kill his mother.
Nit-picking aside, it was an entertaining film. The costumes, makeup, script, and cinematography were all strong. I had been hoping for a creep-fest akin to the Shining (the book, not the movie), which 1922 does not live up to, but it was enjoyable nonetheless. So, if you like Stephen King, and are looking for a new thriller to get you in the Halloween mood, add 1922 to your list. Or, if you’re interested in reading the novella first, get a copy here (affiliate link included):
Already seen the movie or read the book? Leave me a comment with your thoughts. I’d love to hear from you!
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