Thomas Jane delivers one of the best performances of his career in Netflix’s 1922, a 2017 adaptation of Stephen King’s 2010 novella which was published in his Full Dark, No Stars collection. Zak Hilditch wrote and directed the grisly horror film which follows a murderer who’s increasingly plagued by reminders of his actions. Dylan Schmid offers strong support as Jane’s character’s son who’s manipulated into assisting his father in the disturbingly brutal killing of his mother.
Adaptations of Stephen King’s books and novellas have been hit and miss, but recent additions to the long list of feature film and television projects based on King’s work have fallen more into the former rather than latter category. It, Mr. Mercedes, and Gerald’s Game remained true to the source material and struck winning chords with critics and with fans of the books that inspired the projects. The Mist and The Dark Tower were much less successful, with The Mist series easily ranking as one of the worst ever adaptations of a King story. Fortunately, writer/director Zak Hilditch’s 1922 can be added to the successful adaptation list as it captures the tone and texture of King’s story in a powerful manner.
1922 centers on the James family – Wilfred (Thomas Jane), Arlette (Molly Parker), and Henry (Dylan Schmid). Arlette inherited a 100-acre farm but she’d rather live in the city. She’s anxious to sell the property and move to Omaha, something her husband is dead set against. Wilfred conspires to turn his teenage son, Henry, against Arlette using guilt and the potential separation of Henry from his pretty girlfriend if Arlette has her way. Henry is initially a reluctant player in the murder scheme, but when the moment comes to strike he’s by his father’s side for the unexpectedly messy and prolonged attack on Arlette.
Wilfred and Henry prove adept at covering up the murder, convincingly lying about Arlette’s whereabouts. Her body is stuffed down a well and Wilfred cleverly kills one of the farm’s cows, claiming it fell into the well and necessitating the covering of that water source since it’s impossible to remove the cow’s carcass.
As the years go by, the horrific act weighs heavy on both Wilfred and Henry’s minds. Strange things happen around the farmhouse and, as with most Stephen King stories, the guilty are ultimately punished in unexpected ways for their bad deeds.
Thomas Jane’s grizzled appearance matches well with the Nebraska drawl he adopts as Wilfred. His scruffy, weather-worn appearance adds an additional layer, but it’s Jane’s commitment to ensuring Wilfred is never a sympathetic character that gives 1922 its bite.
1922 is a slow burn, a psychological horror tale that weaves a simple yet captivating story. As Wilfred’s conscious eats away at him, his grasp on reality loosens and 1922 transitions from a crime story into an eerie and at times grotesque horror film.
1922 premieres on Netflix on Friday, October 20, 2017.
Running Time: 101 minutes
Supporting Cast: Kaitlyn Bernard, Brian D’Arcy James, Neal McDonough, and Bob Frazer