Written by Zak Hilditch from the short story by Stephen King
Directed by Zak Hilditch
Starring Thomas Jane, Molly Parker, Dylan Schmid, Kaitlyn Bernard, Brian d’Arcy James and Neal McDonough.
1922 is a new film from Netflix Originals and is based on the short story of the same name by Stephen King. The film has a very simple and straight forward premise, which can actually be misleading because there are so many layers to this story that are subtle and well-crafted.
The film stars Thomas Jane as Wilfred James. It opens with an older Wilfred checking into a hotel room with a gun and some paper and writing his confession to the murder of his wife Arlette in 1922. As he sits down to begin writing his story, he hears a sound in the walls and there is palpable terror on his face.
As Wilfred begins to tell his story, we are introduced to his wife Arlette (Molly Parker) and his son Henry (Dylan Schmid) at their home in Hemingford Home, Nebraska (a location familiar to Stephen King fans). Wilfred is a proud man and immensely proud of the life he’s made and the home he provides on his 80 acres of land. When Arlette’s father dies, he leaves her his 100 acres of land and Wilfred begins to plan for a future where he leaves it to Henry. Unfortunately, Arlette has other ideas.
Not satisfied with living on a farm in the middle of Nebraska, Arlette has her sights set on moving to Omaha and trying to convince Wilfred and Hank to go with her. Wilfred flatly refuses and Arlette decides that she wants a divorce. She’s going to sell her father’s land and leave with Henry. Knowing that the company that buys the land will poison the water for his crops, Willfred comes up with a plan. Knowing that Henry has fallen for his friend Harlan Cotterie’s (Neal McDonough) daughter Shannon (Kaitlyn Bernard), Wilfred convinces Henry that the only way that he and the girl can stay together is if they kill Arlette.
Henry reluctantly agrees and the two murder Arlette and throw her body into an abandoned well on the property. After convincing everyone that the woman ran off, strange things begin to happen on the farm, prompted by an army or rats that have made their way into the well and are feeding on and living in Arlette’s body.
Jane is amazing in the role of Wilfred. He has successfully embodied a character that can be both charming and sadistic at the same time. His need to convince himself and his son that they are doing the wrong thing for the right reasons lead them both down a spiral of death and misery.
The performances are great from everyone involved and the simplicity of the overall story allows for some great character development. Zak Hilditch has done a great job of fleshing out the characters and giving them character arcs that let viewers feel different emotions at times for each one. If there was one thing that I took issue with was Arlette’s overall turn. There were moments when she seemed to be reduced to a cartoon villain or wicked stepmother and those moments seemed to come out of nowhere.
Other than that, the film worked for me. It was a subtle, psychological thriller where everyone in it was flawed and tainted by the decisions made by Wilfred for the sake of his land. It is definitely worth seeing.
1922 premieres on Netflix October 20, 2017.