Directed by Zak Hilditch
Written by Zak Hilditch (screenplay), based on a story by Stephen King
Starring Thomas Jane, Molly Parker, Dylan Schmid, Kaitlyn Bernard, Neal McDonough, Tanya Champoux, Brian d’Arcy James, Bob Frazer, Eric Keenleyside, Patrick Keating
Though 1922 is guilty of following a well known narrative and is full of Stephen King tropes, the film which is available exclusively on Netflix, does all of that extremely well. While there are few surprises to be had with the film, I found the journey to be well worth the time.
Thomas Jane offers up a slam-bang performance as Wilfred James, a simple farmer who chooses to lead a simple life on a farm inherited to his wife Arlette (played by Molly Parker). With his son Henry (Dylan Schmid), WIlfred is comfortable living out the rest of his days tending to the crops and animals on the farm. But Arlette has other aspirations and wants to sell the farm, uproot the family, and move to the big city. This doesn’t sit well with Wilfred and with some careful manipulation, he recruits his son to help him do away with Arlette. But once the devilish deed is done, the seeds of guilt blossom in the hearts of Wilfred and Henry, both dealing with these dark feelings in their own way.
The story is told with Jane as the narrator and though his thick drawl might come off as tiresome and comical, it feels authentic and gives real depth to this tale of murder and the heavy heft is weighs on a man’s soul. This narration, communicated as a confessional/journal, is not a foreign concept to Stephen King’s works. Some of King’s best stories have a writer as the main character and here, Jane communicates a simple man with simple goals in his written words. This is no elaborate plan hatched by a genius. But given the era the story takes place; Jane’s character is swift enough to get away with it. Of course, this being a King story, the supernatural creeps in and the viewer is left to figure out whether or not Wilfred’s woes are being caused by the ghost of Arlette or just his own guilty conscience. In the end, it’s not important, as the guilt is still the same. This is one of Jane’s best performances, playing a man with know-how rather than book smarts enough to get away with murder, but his talent really shines when Jane is overwrought with guilt, desperate for penance, and tired of fighting against the inevitable.
The production value and level of effects is high here. There are some truly horrific images of body decomposition, ghostly images, and plenty of nasty rats crawling on and in everything and everyone. Director Zak Hilditch knows how to slowly turn the screw and never was there a moment that I wanted the film to hurry up and get on with it. Hilditch makes 1922 a film dripping with dust and grime and one might want to take a shower after watching as Jane and Hilditch really do succeed in placing the viewer in a killer’s shoes. 1922’s strength, though, rests in Jane’s fantastic performance. Without that, it would have been just another murder story. While the other actors do their part, Jane is on display and doing his best in every scene and 1922 is memorable because of it.