Review - '1922'
While Stephen King never really went out of style, there was a noticeable drought when it came to well-made adaptations of his work in the past decade or so. "Renaissance" seems to be the most applicable term when it comes to Stephen King adaptations this year. There have been so many of them, and what's most surprising is that most of them, save for The Dark Tower, have been of pretty high quality. The latest offering; Netflix's 1922, furthers the winning streak.
1922 tells the story of a middle-aged man who, along with his son, kill his wife before she can sell their much-coveted farm. While this act yields immediate rewards, the repercussions of their actions lead to a downward spiral filled with unexpected turns, some of them supernatural in nature.
Zak Hilditch does an admirable job of turning Stephen King's novella into a compelling full-length film. Sure, there are times where the story seems a bit slight when held up to some of the more sprawling-in-scope Stephen King adaptations, but I really don't see that as much of a hindrance. This is a very contained story, and above all, a strong character study. This is like Slingblade only in the guise of a haunted house horror movie.
Being a character piece, the performances, especially the lead have the be good, otherwise the entire picture falls apart. Thankfully, Thomas Jane gives his all here as the disgruntled and vengeful farmer, Wilfred James. I honestly think this might be the best performance of his career. He developed a thick, mostly authentic-sounding accent, lost some weight, and behaves completely against his general type. Molly Parker also does an excellent job as Wilfred's estranged wife, Arlette James. She straddles the line of being just unlikable enough for the viewer to somewhat understand Wilfred's plight, but no unlikable enough for you to get behind any of the horrible things Wilfred is planning to inflict upon her. Dylan Schmid plays Wilfred and Arlette's son, Henry James, who isn't the best part of the film, but still gets a few juicy scenes and an interesting subplot that surprisingly works.
Another thing that works about 1922 is the pacing. This film never overstays its welcome, and just when you think you might lose interest, another curveball is thrown and you're back in it. There's a supernatural element to the film that slowly becomes a bigger part of the story that really adds to the intrigue. That said, I wouldn't really call this a particularly scary horror movie. It's creepy from time to time, but the film never really got under my skin in a significant way.
I suppose the biggest criticism that can be lobbied against 1922 is that it didn't leave much of a lasting impression on me after I finished watching it. It's a very competently-made film, but there's nothing particularly extraordinary about it. There's no moment I can single out as exceptional, but there's also no moment that detracts from the overall experience either.
1922 is a well-made adaptation, especially when you consider it was based off of a short story. Thomas Jane is completely transformed as Wilfred James and is the main reason to check out this film. Apart from that, it's a solid, creepy horror movie that's well-paced and well-made, but might not leave much of a lasting impression.