‘1922’ is a Netflix Original Film adapted from a Stephen King novella so on that fact alone expect some dark and disturbing shit….. and if ‘Gerald’s Game’ is anything to go by, some moments may not be for the faint of heart. This is an astounding Stephen King thriller with elements of drama, crime, and horror woven in throughout. The story is told from the perspective of Wilfred James (Thomas Jane) who pens a letter confessing to conspiring with his son Henry (Dylan Schmid) to murder his wife Arlette (Molly Parker) back in the year 1922. Sounds simple enough, but then you consider the presence of Stephen King and know it isn’t going to be as straightforward as it seems. The most incredible elements beyond some great lead performances are the use of a chilling score and meticulous sound design as well as some haunting cinematography. Now the film does carry through a daunting sense of tension from beginning to end but where it falters is in a few sequences in the second act where some of the suspense drops as a result of scenes running a tad too long.
Across the board there isn’t a bad performance in sight, Thomas Jane is haunting as Wilfred to where from the moment you lay eyes of him you feel uneasy and know something is very off. His character straddles the line of being creepy and unsettling yet never gets to that over-the-top insane level and he pulls it off magnificently. The brutal nature of his performance would not have been as effective if it wasn’t for the stark contrasts with that of Dylan Schmid as his son and the relationship they shared. The way these two go back and forth with their vastly distinct personalities make for some great bonding moments leading to both characters experiencing plenty of growth in the long run. Schmid’s character definitely does have time to develop but at one point his characters development takes a back seat and he’s used as a vessel to fuel further development for Wilfred and i’m not quite sure it worked out as well. The supporting performances are all strong considering the limited screen-time they had so no complaints there.
One thing I love about the way 1922 uses sound design is that it takes note of the isolated farm setting and uses this to develop a range of setting-specific sounds that are just as haunting as the score. Whistling winds, crows, crickets, creaking wood, many scenes are made up of these and many other sounds that effectively get your heart racing and lock you in to the scene. Accompanying the atmospheric sounds is a heart pounding score that builds and builds just as the madness elevates with time. It’s a somewhat similar score to ‘A Ghost Story’ and despite being two very different films the approach serves both films excellently. The cinematography here elevates most scenes and frames some confronting moments to where they become genuinely horrifying. I wont get into the specifics of which elements are presented to a tee for the sake of preventing spoilers but when you are terrified you will know.
I touched earlier on the biggest negative but i’ll elaborate briefly here, essentially if the movie was cut down by even just 10 minutes max it would’ve made everything feel a little tighter and cut out some of the downtime. They’ve adapted a 130 odd page novella into an hour and 40 minute movie and from what I hear it’s done so relatively faithfully, but some sequences go on a bit too long predominantly in the second act leading to a tad of dragging. So that’s my biggest minor gripe i had with it but other than that i loved it. It had me hooked in on the story and seeing where things would go, it avoids being predictable like the plague which i loved, the performances are chilling, and the score and sound design elevates the terrifying nature of everything going on. If a slow building but intensely dramatic Stephen King thriller isn’t your thing then so be it but if you are a fan of King’s work and ‘Gerald’s Game’ was a bit too much on the disturbing side then this may be a better option.