Adapted from the first of the novellas in Stephen Kings 2010 collection Full Dark, No Stars the first thing the adaptation 1922 gets right, is that it takes place…in 1922.
None of that ‘updated for a modern audience’ twaddle. The stories early era undercuts any ridiculous attempts at race-bending, token diversity insertions, or interjections of current political agendas. In short, by sticking to the original timeframe, 1922 manages to shield itself from the many horrific ideas that pepper the mouths of bad adaptation apologists.
In doing so, the world is rewarded, despite it’s best efforts, with another good Stephen King adaptation. Courtesy of Netflix. Perhaps all novels and comics should put their timestamp in their titles. Making it as difficult as possible for would-be adopters to drift away from and consequently, butcher, the originals.
Thomas Jane, now 2 for 2 on starring in King adaptations done right (Jane starred in Frank Darabont’s now iconic 2007 film The Mist) portrays Wilfred James, a Nebraskan farmer who commits a horrific crime that follows him for the rest of his life.
Visually, I felt Jayne embraced the role fully, I admit that upon first hearing his chosen accent, I found it to be…severe. But given that I’ve never met a Nebraskan from 1922 I suppose I could entertain the notion that it might sound like an open letter from one of those Ken Burns civil war documentaries.
Wilfred…”Wilf” has a dilemma.
His wife Arlette, played by Molly Parker (House of Cards) wants to sell the land left to her by her father to a livestock company and get far away from the farming life. Wilf loves this life and he knows that if her land is sold and used to house a slaughterhouse his land will no longer be farmable and he would have to sell as well. Her best offer is that she have the buyers purchase both sets of land, split the profits, split their marriage, and go their separate ways, with Henry, accompanying his mother.
Wilf…makes other plans.
Wilf’s psychological manipulation of his son is handled well enough. As is the subsequent deterioration between Henry and his mother. Dylan Schmid (Once Upon a Time, Shut Eye) puts in a solid effort conveying a young man confronted with an outrageous dilemma.
Film writer and director Zak Hilditch cuts no corners when it comes to displaying the acts violence, they are visceral and graphic. He takes his time letting the horrific story unfold, not afraid to let the audience indulge in quiet moments, using them to reflect on the preceding events.
Wilfs narration, (an underrated storytelling technique in my opinion) nestles comfortably within the fabric of the film providing insight as only narration can.
For me, horror without the supernatural just isn’t complete. So I was pleased with its implementation in this tale. The manifestations of the horrors that come to consume this man who committed a deed he thought he could live with are handled with an ease not seen often in modern horror films. This, coupled with other competent adaptations like Gerald’s Game could be a sign that the long American drought in this particular genre just might be coming to an end.
Some may argue that the supernatural elements in this film were all in Wilf’s head. But those who have trekked long in the universe created by Stephen King know better.
We know better.
4 out of 5 stars