1922 is available on Netflix starting October 20th.
By Kevin Levine
Has anyone else been keeping track of how many Stephen King film and TV adaptations have been released in 2017? I am certain many of you have been, but just in case you have not, Netflix’s 1922 is already the sixth King adaptation of the year following The Mist, The Dark Tower, Mr. Mercedes, It, and Gerald’s Game. On top of all of those, we are supposedly getting another Children of the Corn film this winter as well. Is 1922 the cream of the crop here? No, it is not, but it is certainly better than that abysmal adaptation of The Dark Tower.
Netflix’s 1922 was directed by Zak Hilditch, a promising newcomer in the film industry. The film stars Thomas Jane as the main character, Wilfred James, a rancher that convinces his son (Dylan Schmid) to help him murder his wife (Molly Parker) and cover it up for financial gain.
Hilditch does a great job of creating an intimate and unsettling atmosphere from the get-go that never lets up. Thomas Jane gives a great leading performance, but the supporting cast pales in comparison. 1922 is also loaded with haunting imagery and beautiful makeup that I won’t soon forget. That being said, it definitely feels tailor-made for Netflix. It was cool seeing it in a theater on a big screen, but the film didn’t create any audience reactions that make it theater-worthy. It’ll do a phenomenal job of making you feel uncomfortable when you watch it on Netflix from the privacy of your home.
Jane’s performance in 1922 is excellent. He nails everything in this film from his accent to his mannerisms; he really seems to be an authentic 1920’s rancher. The performances from Dylan Schmid, Molly Parker, and the rest of the minor supporting characters, though serviceable, really do pale in comparison to Jane who is leagues better than everyone else in 1922. I am not sure whether to attribute that to a lack of effort from the actors or a lack of dedication to those characters in the screenplay, but something is missing that makes those supporting characters forgettable. Where this film succeeds masterfully when compared to other Netflix horror-thriller films is cinematography and the ability to create a haunting atmosphere. 1922 is dark. There are no bright lights and vibrant colors that give off any chance of hope for the characters.
Though I am not a big fan of Parker’s performance in 1922, there is no denying that her makeup was spot on. This is not a spoiler, but after the rancher and his son kill his wife, they are haunted by her. It is never really clear (or at least it wasn’t to me) whether or not she was actually haunting them or if it was paranoia creating images in the heads of the rancher and his son. However, there are a lot of rats in this film, and anytime rats show up we either see Molly Parker’s corpse/ghost or are led to believe that she is around. The makeup used on Parker, though, really creates a haunting image that I still have not forgotten a few weeks after seeing the film. She is truly dreadful to look at, but the makeup is so spectacular that it is near impossible to look away.
When it comes to Schmid’s character, the rancher’s son, I am torn. I really enjoyed what he brought to the table when he was on the ranch with his father and helping create the tense and paranoid atmosphere of the film, but then he acquires his own subplot. He leaves the ranch because he no longer wants to be there and runs off with his teenage girlfriend to become Bonnie and Clyde-style bandits. I will not spoil what happens with that storyline, but it is pretty cliche and predictable. Schmid is also not a great actor yet, but I can see in him the potential to become something special with more practice.
1922 is truly something special when it is contained to the isolated and paranoid environment of the ranch, but falls a bit flat as the story expands outwards to multiple locations. Despite that, thanks to an incredible performance from Thomas Jane, and an unsettling environment that cannot be missed, this is still a film that is well worth a watch and one I can recommend, especially to those who may be looking for a good film to introduce them to the horror-thriller genre.
I give 1922 a B.