In 1922, Wilfred James (Thomas Jane, Dreamcatchers and The Mist), a farmer in Nebraska, is dealing with hard moments in his wedding. His wife Arlette (Molly Parker, House of Cards) wants to sell the land, get a divorce and take with her the couple’s teenage son (Henry, played by Dylan Schmid) to Omaha, to live the city life.
Wilf is discontented to say the least and, after repeated attempts to change Arlette’s mind, starts planning to kill her, because “a man’s heritage is his land and son”. As if the frame wasn’t complex enough, Wilf decides to involve his son in the murder.
This is the basic plot of 1922, another Stephen King’s adaptation produced by Netflix (after Gerald’s Game) that came out recently.
The source material of the same name is a 2010 novella that mixes horror, psychological drama and thriller. A combination that, in my opinion, had created some of the greatest King’s stories.
Thus, the human demons are what emerge strongly in the movie, the best part of it I’d say. The exploration of Wilfred’s psyche is profound and complicated, which creates a character study perfectly realised by director Zak Hilditch (These Final Hours, 2013: an Australian apocalyptic drama that blew me away and sets itself apart as one of the best films in recent years).
Thomas Jane, at his best in movie based on the work of Stephen King, truly shines in this one: his sloppy and fatigued dialogues recreate the accent spoken in Nebraska, in 1922; his body language is simultaneously pitiful and threatening; his facial expressions both frightening and emotional.
However, the rest of the cast doesn’t pull up as good performances as Jane. Both Parker and Schmid seem to overact throughout the entire runtime, getting to a pinnacle of over-the-top drama in the most intense scenes.
As the cast, so the soundtrack is quite off, since it alternates great effect choices with annoying and overly eerie tracks and sound design. The mice squeak is great at creating an unnerving feeling and improving the emotions of the characters, whereas other scratchy sounds are just very irritating.
1922 is also very slow and the choice of having the pinnacle of tension, the plot twist if you will, only 30 minutes into the movie, makes the rest of it hard to be compelling. Sure, Jane’s performance is great and some horror imagery every now and then quite effective, but the movie feels monotone, overall. It clearly shows the struggle to stretch out the source material to obtain the feature length, to the point that a 100 minutes long film feels like Lawrence of Arabia!
Furthermore, I believe 1922 is not one of the best King’s novellas. In fact, it rips off so much from The Rats in the Walls, 1924 by H.P. Lovecraft, without reaching the uneasiness of Lovecraft’s short story.
Although I’m not here to judge the written work of King but its adaptation by a raising director, I can’t help but consider that the source material didn’t give Hilditch enough substance to work with.
In conclusion, I recommend checking out 1922 if you’re fan of the novel or you like slow-burners. Despite some interesting feature and an outstanding performance by Jane, the movie falls flat in the end and, unfortunately, doesn’t live up to the expectations. Cheers!