The film 1922 is the latest Stephen King adaptation to arrive on our screens. It is based on the novella of the same name from King’s 2010 collection Full Dark, No Stars. It stars Thomas Jane in role of Nebraska farmer Wilfred James, a man who loves working on his farm, but who is struggling with difficult seasons and with the fact that the property is actually owned by his wife Arlette (Molly Parker). As much as Wilfred loves life on the land, even when nature makes it difficult, Arlette despises that existence and is planning to move to the city with their teenage son Henry (Dylan Schmid).
Wilfred and Arlette’s marriage has been in its last stages for some time. But they live in a time when divorce is frowned upon by society. The social stigma of this act can be harsh. As bad as this may be, especially for Arlette, the particular problem for Wilfred is the farm is deeded to his wife by an inheritance. He has no direct right to possess the land he works on. He finds intolerable the power that she has over the life and future happiness of himself and their son. He burns with rage and indignation. Wilfred is a simple farmer on the surface, but in some sense he is a deeply complicated man.
King has written a primal tale that touches on love, greed, retribution and family. Director Hilditch has taken these themes and given them the proper weight and importance in his adaptation. There are horror elements within the story, but they have less to do with attention-grabbing gore and the glitzy occult and everything to do with pride and selfishness; the drama is powered by the common deceit that perfectly average people can descend into. The setting is likely before our time (hello nonagenarian AccessReelers…), but we know how and why Wilfred acts the way he does. We all have this kind of darkness dwelling within.Thomas Jane’s Wilfred is a performance you can’t take your eyes off. You want to keep watching the farmer’s journey through all its turns and twists. Molly Parker and Dylan Schmid are also excellent in their roles.
Western Australian film-maker Zak Hilditch has directed a number of shorts, independent features and the low budget, end-of-the-world drama THESE FINAL HOURS (2013). He does a great job keeping this dark tale moving. The result is a compelling adaptation of King and the best thing Zak Hilditch has directed.
1922 premieres on Netflix on Friday October 20. (9/10)
Note: The AccessReel Zak Hilditch -1922 interview is here.