“In 1922, a man’s pride was his land.”
Main cast: Thomas Jane, Dylan Schmid
Director: Zak Hilditch
But when Wilfred James’s wife, Arlette (Molly Parker, The Wicker Man), wants to sell off part of that land–to be fair, the part she wants to sell belongs to her, willed to her by her father–and move to Omaha, Wilfred (Thomas Jane, The Mist) convinces his son Hank (Dylan Schmid, Once Upon a Time) there’s only one way to insure the livelihood of their farm and family. And since Hank is sweet on neighbor Shannon, moving away from Hemingford Home is the last thing he wants as well. So into the well Arlette must go.
Seems like a simple enough plan, kill the wife to keep from having to give up the only life you know or want. But in 1922, based on the novella of the same name by Stephen King, a simple enough plan is usually anything but.
I won’t go into the details about just how terribly Wilfred has to pay for his sin, but this is not a movie for the squeamish, especially if RATS are your big bugaboo.
Suffice it to say, writer/director Zak Hilditch captures the heart of what made the King story such an effective read. The harsh conditions of life on a rural farm, the paranoia and dread that creeps into Wilfred’s mind as he start his downward spiral. And this Ben Richardson kid, the cinematographer, what an eye he’s got. Seriously, between this movie, Gerald’s Game, and It, right now is a great time to be a fan of Stephen King movies. They’re doing some beautiful work lately.
For me, though, the real star of 1922 is Thomas Jane. I’ve always been a big fan (he was married to Patricia Arquette and starring in Marvel movies before starring in Marvel movies was cool, so he’s got good taste), and I’ve seen him play the dark and brooding character (The Punisher) as well as the light, happy go lucky character (The Sweetest Thing), and this isn’t his first King adaptation, but man what a difference the project can make. The less said about Dreamcatcher the better, and his turn in The Mist was a good performance, but in the end he’s just a guy playing a guy. This time, though, he really loses himself in Wilfred James. From his mannerisms to his speech, even his physical appearance. Just check out the poster for it, and tell me you knew right away that was Thomas Jane.
Jane carries this movie from the first frame to the last, and he carries it like a champ. Molly Parker, for her small role, brings many things to it as well. Light in the beginning, quickly dulling to a shadow of menace early on, but her later appearances are downright chilling. And I don’t chill easily.
When I first started 1922, I thought this had the looks of a slow burn movie, something I’d end up watching with one eye while the other surfed my phone. But that quickly turned out not to be the case and I barely touched my phone at all except to look up something real quick, an actor’s name or the director, something movie-related. Instead of a slow burn, it’s just one of those movies that, even when there’s no real action on the screen, it’s so damn well made you don’t want to turn away. And that’s amazing, because my first reaction when I heard this was going to be a movie was, “Well, that’ll be another quickie piece of crap they knock out in a week and toss a title card on.”
WRONG. Hilditch isn’t just a guy who makes movies, he’s a filmmaker, a serious director making serious art.
Is this movie art? I’m not sure about that, but he has a huge respect for both the original story and the process of adapting it to the screen. This isn’t just another job for him, he had a passion for this story and the movie that came from it, and that passion shines through.
Turn off the lights and silence your phone and sit back to a Netflix double feature of 1922 and Gerald’s Game and that will be a night very well spent.
You can check out the original novella in King’s Full Dark, No Stars: