Review: 1922

Director(s)Zak Hilditch
Principal CastThomas Jane as Wilfred James
Dylan Schmid as Henry James
Molly Parker as Arlette James
Release Date2017
Language (s)English
Running Time 101 minutes

As someone who actually enjoyed 1922 (the novella), I was fairly excited when I saw that Netflix was going to distribute the adaptation. I’m even happier to announce that this adaptation is not only one of the better King adaptations out and about, but is also an effective horror movie in its own right. The story follows Wilfred James, a farmer whose way of life is under threat when his wife, Arlette, threatens to sell their farm land and leave for the city. Wilfred views land as an extension of ones worth and pride. Losing it is no real option. It gives him both the ability to take care of his family and represents the only thing he can leave his son, an extension of his name, and thereby another source of pride. Fearing that his wife will make good on her word, he decides to commit the cardinal sin and permanently remove her from the situation. However, he soon learns that everyone pays for their actions one way or another.

The framing device the movie uses to tie together all its events is Wilfred in the present day recounting his experiences fighting his wife, deciding to get rid of her, and the subsequent horrifying experiences he has to go through. The movie is a case study in the deterioration that accompanies sin. Even if no one is around to judge you, you know what you did. Your sub-conscious never forgets even if you can put your actions out of your mind. The way the framing device cuts in with the progression of the main story accentuates this feeling by giving the audience first-hand feedback on how the actions ended up impacting Wilfred in the future. As a result, watching him deal with the guilt of his action is both satisfying thematically and visually. The further he falls into the cycle of guilt , the more his world starts to visually crumble. You can always tell the state of his psyche based on the environment around him. It doubles as a cool representation of his inner thoughts and a source of visual scares.

Thomas Jane does a great job as Wilfred. You can see his resolve in his voice and demeanor. He comes off as someone on edge who’s forcing himself to stay rigid and coherent for the sake of his pride. Everything is worth it if he can succeed in his job as a farmer and in his duties as a father. His lineage determines his value as a human being and anything that could harm it is an attack on his very sense of self. It’s why his guilt manifests in such a strong and profound way. It’s because his perception of his worth has shifted, even if he can’t immediately tell it has.

My issues with the movie have more so to do with the original source material and not the adaptation itself. I think the adaptation does a great job at conveying the same sense of paranoia the novella had. The issue is that like the novella, there are some story moves that ruin the ambiguity of whether or not supernatural elements are actually at play. The story wants it to be ambiguous, but the way that it progresses makes that an impossibility. I wish the adaptation just edited certain moments in a different order because it would resolve the ambiguity issue. I also think there are certain additional sequences in the story that hurt the theme and characterization of Wilfred. I was sad to see them kept in the film adaptation. But if you enjoyed the full novella, then this should definitely please you.

Report Card

TLDR1922 is a twisted tale chronicling a man’s descent into depravity. By prioritizing his interests and being unwilling to compromise, he ends up slowly losing his sense of self. Though the ending kind of misses the mark, the movie should satisfy fans of dramas and psychological horrors.
Grade A

Go to Page 2 for my spoiler-full thoughts!

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