It’s a good year for the King. The Dark Tower wasn’t an auspicious start but IT and Gerald’s Game have provided better follow ups. 1922, released on October 20th, also provides a strong follow up that also has a stronger ending than Gerald’s Game.
Based on Stephen King’s 2010 novella, published in “Full Dark, No Stars“, 1922 follows Wilfred James (Thomas Jane) and his plot to kill his wife so that she will be unable to sell neighbouring farmland she has inherited. Arlette James (Molly Parker) wishes to sell her 100 inherited acres and move the family to Omaha. Since James wishes to stay in Hemingford Home he manipulates his son, Henry (Dylan Schmid) into helping him kill Arlette. The death happens pretty early on in the film, and the rest of the film focuses on James’s eventual retribution. We watch him lose the other people who are close to him, one way or another, and slowly descend into insanity.
Wilfred is played with a pretty thick accent, which took some getting used to. However, I was immersed in Jane’s performance quickly, watching him disappear into the role. Jane is also supported well by Parker and Schmid, who have the vast majority of the screentime for the film’s first half hour. Most of the film takes place on the James’s farm, adding to the feeling of isolation and claustrophobia that Arlette feels living in Hemingford Home.
The conflict between James and Arlette is introduced quickly, and another element that comes somewhat quickly is James’s manipulation of Henry. Editing makes the manipulation appear faster, but we get to see James building to it slowly. By this point in the story it is already clear that Henry has a stronger bond with his father than his mother. Wilfred first tells Henry that his mom has to leave their home and return to hers in order for them to stay together. Arlette becomes the figure trying to tear the family apart and we slowly see Henry drifting further away from her, until James is able to convince him there is no other way.
The murder scene itself is simple, but also gruesome. The director holds back on music during the scene, letting us focus on the sound of Molly’s screams instead. One of my biggest gripes with horror movies is that they sometimes rely on music or lack thereof too much, with the music becoming a giveaway for a jump scare or some other scene that is meant to scare us. There are times when the music in the background comes across as outright distracting but the murder scene and most of them are handled well. 1922 is more of a thriller than a horror movie, but it does have some creepy imagery that lingers in my mind. Like Gerald’s Game or It Comes at Night, if you don’t expect a monster movie, you will likely enjoy it.
One Arlette is removed from the story, its focus shifts to Henry and Wilfred, who are now united by the sin they’ve taken part in. This section of the film is actually my favourite, since Schmid is deftly able to play a character whose inner conflict starts to drive him further away from his family. The film is a tale about retribution and Wilfred receives his in spades. Unlike Gerald’s Game, 1922 also has a strong ending that complements everything that came before it.