Starring: Thomas Jane, Molly Parker, Dylan Schmid, Neal McDonough
Director: Zak Hilditch
Based on a novella by Stephen King, 1922 is the story of a farmer whose wife has brought a large parcel of land into the marriage, but which she wishes to sell. Since he can’t stop her, he plots to kill her instead, with the help of his teenage son.
I don’t want to say more than that about the plot, because I enjoyed the way that the story unfolded from there, and I’d love for you to have the same experience.
Having Stephen King’s name on the Netflix original movie might make you think that you know what this film is going to be like, but it’s perhaps not what you think. It’s a slow-burner, but not boringly so, and the attention to detail of life in rural America in 1922 feels really immersive and well-realised. It’s also a crime story, and not really a horror one, though it has a few horror elements. You get the sense that the horror aspects are ones that are natural to the criminal situation or are the product of a guilty conscience, so it’s not a film about a haunting or the supernatural, per se, as you might expect from having the famous authors name on it.
One thing that I really loved about it is that it feels like so many old stories of murders from the early part of last century, ones you might see on History programs. It feels like something that could have happened.
It’s also a film that rests on some really solid performances. I love the way that Thomas Jane grits his teeth and speaks to everyone politely but as though he’s barely suppressing a biblical rage. He’s a calculating man, and yet, he hasn’t counted on how wrong things can go. His wife appears like a woman with dreams, making dresses at home that show that she has dreams bigger than living on a farm, and yet, when she gets drunk, there’s a really ugly side to her personality that comes out. She’s a complex and interesting victim. And their son, a young man who still has the look of the child in his face, the pawn between the two.
I can be impatient with films that are self-indulgently slow, but this was evenly paced and always interesting. I wasn’t sure where it was going, and liked watching it unfold in ways I didn’t always expect. Sometimes it was horrifying, sometimes it was sad, but I loved the true crime, historical feel of this story, and am really impressed with Netflix current output. Perhaps Stephen King’s adaptations have found their home there? (See also: Gerald’s Game.)
See It If: you love historical or crime stories, with a little bite. It has a great, winding plot, a bit of terror thrown in, and excellent performances.