There was a time when I considered Stephen King as the master of the short horror story. In fact, regardless of genre, he was a master of that form. That time has long passed though. He still puts out some great short stories, but they're not as effective, or short, as they used to be. 1922 is one such tale, having started life as a novella in the collection titled Full Dark, No Stars (alongside Big Driver, Fair Extension, and A Good Marriage, with only one of those tales still waiting for the inevitable adaptation from page to screen).
This is the tale of a family set to come apart. Wilfred James is a proud and hard-working farmer, unwilling to accept that his wife, Arlette, wants to sell their land and move elsewhere. With his son, Henry, on his side, Wilfred eventually sets out to do the unthinkable in order to maintain the status quo he wants in his life. Believing he has thought of everything, Wilfred soon starts to encounter a few wrinkles in his plan. Before you can say "tell-tale heart", things start to get increasingly strange and tense on the farm.
Adapted and directed by Zak Hilditch, 1922 is far from the worst of the many Stephen King movies we have had over the years. It just has the same problem that many others do. It's been a while since I read this tale, but I felt that the film added a fair bit of extraneous material that took time and focus away from the enjoyably simple central idea. You also get that sense of familiarity that comes with most King tales.
The cast help though. Thomas Jane is excellent in the role of Wilfred, a weak man who thinks he can sort all of his problems with one deplorable act, and Molly Parker does well in the role of Arlette, a role that obviously requires a lot less screentime. Dylan Schmid is their son, suitably changed by the fateful night that has him assisting his father in a heinous crime, and he also does good work. While the supporting cast features roles for Brian d'Arcy James (a standard friendly sheriff), Bob Frazer, and Kaitlyn Bernard, the only other standout is Neal McDonough. He's not used well, but he's Neal McDonough, able to make a strong impression even in the most minor of roles.
Competently put together, the production design, audio, score and all other technical aspects feel on a par with one another when it comes to a level of quality, it's just a shame that this never feels as if it gets into gear. Letting everything unfold at a languid pace, and with Jane's character rarely giving in to external displays of his internal stress and struggle, Hilditch arguably makes the mistake of treating the whole thing too seriously. I wouldn't want it filled with humour, don't get me wrong, but moving between the real horror of the premise and some more entertaining moments of mania could have allowed for even more full-blooded scares, complementing the growing dread and misery that fills up the second half of the film.
I wouldn't recommend this to anyone, apart from the kind of people who may want to watch every Stephen King adaptation ever made (aka masochists), but I also wouldn't strongly warn people away from it. Some will end up loving or hating it much more than I did, but I think it's fair to rate this as absolutely average as average can be.
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