2017’s been the year of Stephen King, and it’s been a great bit of fortune that fans have been given mostly great cinematic adaptations of his work. “1922” is a deliberately paced and ingeniously calculated drama that hearkens back to the classic Victorian era murder thrillers. King invokes the style of Edgar Allan Poe for “1922,” a Southern Gothic drama that’s heavily steeped in horror. While it’s been lumped in to the Stephen King horror category, “1922” is more an examination on the concept of greed, and how it can rot us from inside out. It’s more tragedy with a tinge of horror more than horror, despite how menacing director Zak Hilditch paints the twisted albeit beautiful aesthetic.
Stephen King and writer-director Zak Hilditch dwells not just on the crime, but the toll that crime can wreak on even the most amoral individual that’s ever lived. “1922” is a subtle, but altogether demented and gruesome picture of a man so set in his ways he’s willing to die for his lifestyle. Thomas Jane gives yet another mesmerizing performance as an old fashioned farmer and codger named Wilf James. Wilf is a man who loves his farm and loves farming. He wants to stay in his home tending to his crops and teaching his son the art of farming. But things come in to jeopardy when Wilf’s wife Arlette begins expressing the desperation for more, and for living in the city.
The fight eventually leads to Arlette insisting on a divorce, but Wilf tries to think of ways to keep his farm. When he realizes Arlette isn’t willing to let go of the land under his conditions, Wilf devises a plan to murder her alongside his son Henry. Henry had just fallen in love with a local farm girl, and when he finds himself in a relationship with her, he’s torn between loyalties. Director Zak Hilditch does not make the set up and fall out from the inevitable murder Wilf and Henry commit at all glossy or poetic. It’s a disturbing and despicable event committed by two men acting in haste. Once they realize that the covering up Arlette’s murder is growing increasingly troublesome, Wilf and Henry find themselves at odds with one another.
Despite depicting the farm world that Wilf is enamored with as a completely cluttered and claustrophobic backdrop, it also becomes a character that begins to slowly represent the decay and withering life that dwell within Wilf, and the body of Arlette that he and his son are concealing. Hilditch’s film emphasizes the horror of guilt, and how Wilf’s murder, and justification becomes almost impossible to ignore and gnaws mercilessly both at his conscious and sub-conscious. “1922” is almost never without irony as Wilf drops in to the pitfalls he attempts to avoid, and despite his best efforts, can never seem to outrun the lingering guilt and biting loneliness. “1922” is a compelling and gripping look at murder, the act and the aftermath, and its simplicity helps propel it in to one of the most sophisticated Stephen King cinematic adaptations.
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