For lovers of Stephen King’s more macabre fare, this one is up your alley, featuring solid suspense, a spooky atmosphere, and a killer performance by Thomas Jane.
Plot: After his wife announces she wants to sell the family farm and move to Omaha, farmer Wilf James (Thomas Jane) plots to murder her.
Review: Although I have read every Stephen King book he has published (except for Faithful and Hearts in Suspension), 1922 was a little fuzzy to me. Maybe it was the rather mundane plot (a farmer kills his wife), or perhaps it was the setting (as I’ve never been big into farm stories), but for whatever reason, I read the novella, thought “huh, that was alright,” and moved on. When I found out that Netflix was making this into a movie, I was damn surprised, as it never struck me as one of King’s more popular stories.
I will say, though, they did a helluva job with this film. 1922 is a taut, dark thriller that shows the true price paid for the sin of murder. As the story unfolded, I was mesmerized, unsure how it would all end (which was ridiculous when you consider I read the short story), but so well made was the film that even though I was familiar with the source material, I was riveted.
Part of that has to be attributed to the excellent performance by Thomas Jane. I often felt that Jane has been badly overlooked in his roles (I would have loved to have seen him in an R-rated Punisher instead of the kiddie flick that the studio gave us), and he shows why with an absolute knockout performance by the lead character. You’re left with Jane for long periods of the narrative, and his grim, bleak performance is undoubtedly award-worthy. Kudos, too, to Molly Parker for her short but compelling portrayal of the shrewish wife (a testimony to her performance is her presence hangs over the characters and the narrative, even when she’s not on the screen) and Neal McDonough, another underrated performer as Wilf’s rich neighbour Harlan.
This is one of those films that just oozes atmosphere and tension. Director Zak Hilditch does a masterful job of setting the stage, the vast emptiness of the cornfields symbolic of the barrenness in Wilf’s soul. You start out on Jane’s side, understanding and agreeing with his motives, but when the deed is done, and he and his son begin to ravel under the enormity of what they perpetrated, you understand that Wilf’s intentions were self-serving and, ultimately, evil. The fact that the director lets the story unfold, not rushing it with stupid jump scares or gags, is a testament not just to his craft as a storyteller but also his understanding of how the story should be told. This is a slow burn movie, and anything else would have felt cheap. Kudos as well to the superb cinematography and score.
I highly recommend this movie, not just for fans of Stephen King’s work, but for folks who don’t mind their entertainment being a tad grim or bleak. It’s a well-told story, artfully executed and with Thomas Jane at his best. For a fan of Stephen King adaptations, I couldn’t ask for anything more.