Overview: A farmer decides to murder his wife to gain her inheritance. Netflix; 2017; rated TV-MA; 101 mins
Intimate King: It’s been a great year for King adaptations. It, Gerald’s Game, and, now, 1922 are a great showcase for how King’s horror can be transported to the screen. Moreso than any of those previously listed films, 1922 is not a big, grand horror movie. It is made up of small, slow moments that show the cost upon a person’s conscience and well-being of doing a terrible deed.
The movie begins with Wilfred James, played by Thomas Jane, sitting in a hotel room to write out his confession. We flashback to 1922 and James is living with his wife and son. His son is clearly the apple of his eye and his relationship with his wife, who owns more land than him and who wants to move to the city, is strained. Seeing no way around his wife’s plans, Wilfred decides that the only solution is murder and the only willing accomplice will be his son.
Mumbling Evil: There is something truly evil about how Wilfred convinces himself that murder is the only answer and also how he plays on his son’s teenage naivety and the young man’s sense of injustice. Wilfred’s narration explains his belief that within all men there is another man, a conniving man, who is greedy and wicked and sometimes takes over. It is this conniving man who helps Wilfred commit his crime and cover it up, but it is the normal, good man who must live with the guilt, which manifests in an infestation of rats.
As Wilfred, Thomas Jane seems to have learnt from the Tom Hardy school of mumbling performances, which is not a slight on either actor. Jane’s performance, which is the centre of the movie, is magnetic. His low, muttered dialogue forces us to pay closer attention to every utterance, a demand that makes it feel as though he’s talking directly into your ear, as if you are plotting right along with him. Dylan Schmidt is also great as the wide-eyed Henry James, a lovesick teenager who believes his father can do no wrong.
Guilty Scares: The movie is full of creepy, disgusting, and scary images, as gradually Wilfred begins to succumb to his guilt. 1922 eschews traditional jump scares by not giving you musical build-ups or stings to announce the scary thing. The things are simply there and because we have no warning they are more creepy as we walk into them unprepared to be scared.
This genre of horror, the psychological haunting caused by guilt (think in the vein of The Tell-Tale Heart or Macbeth)) is one that this writer enjoys immensely, and 1922 is a great addition to that genre. The images of the rats flooding rooms and chewing through walls are confrontationally disgusting, especially the scenes in relation to the well, which I will describe no further and let you enjoy them for yourself.
Overall: Anchored by a great lead performance by Jane, King’s story is a fantastic, small story about a man’s greed and guilt. Director, Zak Hilditch doesn’t go for big Hollywood scares and the movie benefits immensely from it. The creepy images of the risen dead, the swarming rats, and quiet, snowy cold, all add up to a fantastically engaging and unsettling movie.
Featured Image: Netflix