1922 is 2017 crime thriller about a simple yet proud rancher who conspires to murder his wife for financial gain, convincing his teenage son to participate.
Gotta hand it to Stephen King, for he’s having a stellar year (again), arguably his best yet, with huge box office success and streaming exposure. From the record setting It to the Netflix original Gerald’s Game, and others, adaptations of his writing continues to find a growing audience. The latest is another Netflix production called 1922, a curious slice of nasty that has much good about it, even with its many frayed corners.
Wilfred James (Thomas Jane) is a weathered, Southern-fried corn farmer living in the far countryside of Nebraska with his fourteen-year-old son Henry (Dylan Schmid) and wife Arlette (Molly Parker). This isn’t a happy marriage, he barely worth much and she owning 100 of the acres they work on, wanting to sell it and move to Omaha to open a dress shop with Henry … and without Wilfred. Wilf wants to make a deal for the property and to keep the boy, believing a man is defined in 1922 by the land he owns and the son he raises. She won’t budge and so Wilf finds within him a ‘second man’ that is a monster capable of the worst cruelty. Skillfully employing Henry to his side, he commits to the murder of his wife and then deals with the horrific consequences that follows.
Perhaps most affecting in director Zak Hilditch‘s film is its chilling atmosphere and grand sense of place. This is a home bound by its isolation, its unforgiving stretches of flat open land, and tall stalks of corn. Here, madness brews in the heart of a man feeling kindredship with the soil he works upon, tilling the dirt and soon his own son into a harvest of evil. Based on a short novella and adapted by Hilditch, the movie extends a bit of that, nearing almost two hours, which drags it out a bit, but everything in-between has a slow simmer about it with some truly jarring moments. It’s never really much of a horror film, like Gerald’s Game, more psychological, stripping away all hints of sanity as the story progresses.
Wilfred is a challenging character, brutish and weighted, a slow talker with a Southern drawl deep and gravely, always seeming in control, hands in pockets, manipulating those around him. Lulling Henry into his scheme via his latest infatuation, the neighbor’s daughter Shannon Cotterie (Kaitlyn Bernard), he plots his deed with narrative venom and indeed, Jane is the best thing going for the film, soaked into the character like a worn pair of overalls, sinking into a sickness that presses upon him with earnest as time passes. Parker is also good as the embittered wife, though her scenes are brief.
1922 is heated story, a character study that works best when it lets Wilfred brew. Hilditch is pretty on the nose with the message, but doesn’t hammer it too hard, letting the slow breakdown of the farmer, like a haunted figure in an Edgar Allen Poe story, take hold and simmer. In that respect, there’s not much that will be all that surprising, but at least the film gives it enough style to make it work. A solid thriller, 1922 has plenty that will satisfy genre fans and should provided enough chills for a creepy night at the movies.
Movie description: 1922 is 2017 crime thriller about a simple yet proud rancher who conspires to murder his wife for financial gain, convincing his teenage son to participate.
Director(s): Zak Hilditch
Actor(s): Thomas Jane, Molly Parker, Dylan Schmid