1922 is a slow, dread-filled psychological horror.
Things really sucked in 1922.
It’s only October, which means we still have some adaptations left in the Year of the King. This week, 1922 was released on Netflix.
1922, directed by Zach Hildich, is based on the Stephen King novella of the same name. Wilfed James (Thomas Jane) is a humble farm owner who believes in old values. Like family, owning and maintaining your own lot in life, and an honest day’s work.
But those values are put to the test when his wife Arlette (Molly Parker) says that she’s tired of farm life. She wants to sell the land and move to the city with their son, Henry (Dylan Schmid). She can start a dress shop, and her husband can get a job as a labourer!
Wilfred is less than keen. Arlette threatens to divorce, and seeing as it’s her family who owns the land the farm is built on, Wilfred doesn’t have many options available.
Except to murder his wife.
It’s no spoiler to say he does it — that’s the premise of the movie, after all. With the help of his son he kills Arlette and throws her into the farm well.
But there are always consequences to your actions. Despite justifying the murder to his son, Wilfed can’t escape his own guilty conscience. And he can’t escape his dead wife either. Whose spirit may or may not be back to torment her killer.
The plot itself is razor thin. The husband wants to stay at the farm, the wife wants to sell the farm. The wife threatens to leave, the husband kills the wife. That’s it, really, and it’s all over in the first 20–30 minutes! At the beginning, everything is straightforward for Wilfred. He’s a simple man, with a simple plan.
But nearly everything else that follows is psychological. Early on, Wilfred checks on Arlette’s corpse in the well and finds it being eaten by rats. The rats become a motif for Wilfred’s breakdown. They start appearing out of the pipes around the well, then make their way into the farmhouse. Whenever Wilfred begins to get over what he did, the rats return to remind him.
Thomas Jane is nearly unrecognisable in the role as Wilfred. He nails not just the accent, but the behaviour and mannerisms of someone from another time. this isn’t the kind of movie that wins Oscars, but if you want to see an actor be completely taken over by the character they’re portraying, this one does it.
Molly Parker is an actor who we don’t see enough of these days. As expected, she gives an excellent (though short) performance as Arlette. She’s not a total goody-good who is tragically cut down, nor is she a villainous crone who almost deserves what she gets. In the little time we see her alive, she’s complicated. She’s a doting mother, but also says things that allows Wilfred to justify his horrible actions to himself.
After the first act, the movie becomes a slow, dread-filled burn. But it also has spikes of real horror, with scenes we don’t know for sure are real or psychological. Despite being a slow burn it’ll hold the attention of goreheads.
Some of the narration from Jane was heavy-handed, and betrayed the movie’s novella origins. Jane does such a good job conveying emotions with a slouch or sideways glance, that we didn’t also need to hear him explain what he’s thinking at the same time.
1922 isn’t the best King adaptation of the year (there’s so many to choose from!) but it’s a solid addition to a banger year in horror.