August to October last year saw a flurry of Stephen King novels brought to visual life. Starting with The Dark Tower and then swiftly followed by fan-favourite It. Then came Netflix’s turn to join in on the fun, first releasing the excellent Gerald’s Game in September then completing the string of films with 1922. This week’s Netflix Pick is focusing on the last in that modest list.
Stephen King is considered one of the best novelists in the horror genre and director Zak Hilditch has taken from King’s Full Dark, No Stars novella collection and has given us a slow-burn narrative opting to unsettle you and keep you in suspense rather than looking to thrill. Wilfred (Thomas Jane) enjoys a simple life with his family on the Nebraskan farm that his wife, Arlette (Molly Parker) inherited from her father. But such a limited and insular lifestyle isn’t what she had in mind. Arlette soon makes her intentions to sell the farm and move to the city clear to her roused husband.
Wilfred’s opinion on city life isn’t a kind one, stating that “city life is for fools”. Wilfred’s firmly opposed stance isn’t enough to rattle his wife who announces that she will go anyway, taking their son, Henry (Dylan Schmid) with her. Henry is in love with the young daughter of Harlan (Neal McDonough), a far more successful neighbouring farmer. Henry would be taken away from his sweetheart, hearing of his Mother’s news makes him distressed. This gives Wilfred enough ammo to poison his son’s mind and connive a plan to murder his wife convincing his son their actions are entirely justified.
There’s a terrifying mundanity to Wilfred’s thinking, his decision to prioritize his own desires and financial gain over his wife gives the film a chilling and sinister feel. The horrifyingly executed murder of his wife is the beginning, this merciless scene is just the first act. The rest of the film centres on the disastrous effects that follow. Jane persuasively devolves into insanity, questioning his reality. It’s a grim story, plainly told but rendered in the right way. Netflix picking the story up made sense, in cinemas it might have been overshadowed by more bold, flashier rivals. But on demand this bleak but thoroughly interesting little tale has the capacity to find its audience.
Hilditch deserves credit for generating a film that keeps you interested and on-board the whole way through despite the subject matter and its descent in to madness. Delivering the goods and providing the shocks in the right way. There isn’t jump scares like you may be looking for from your more conventional horror, just points of violence and dark acts. Also I must mention that the acting, especially from Thomas Jane in particular, is top notch here. He makes us believe that Wilfred is a man whose roots go deep, clinging to his pastoral life so much that he is willing to go to extreme lengths to protect what he has. Overall the film is a very well made piece that is definitely worth a watch.
The trend of Stephen King adaptions looks set to continue this year with the release of Children of the Corn: Runaway and The Dark Tower series set as a prequel to the 2017 film. In 2019 we will see a remake of Pet Sematary and It: Chapter Two.