Directed by: Zak Hilditch
Written by: Zak Hilditch
Starring: Thomas Jane, Neal McDonough, Molly Parker
The connection of certain men with owning land can be quite frightening especially when taken to the extreme lengths shown in this Stephen King-adapted film. As 1922 posits, actions have consequences no matter how much you may try to run away from it.
As a man who has not accomplished much in life, Wilfred (Thomas Jane) lives with his wife Arlette (Molly Parker) and son Henry (Dylan Schmid). Wilfred and his family live on land inherited by Arlette and she’s tired of living out in the country and wants to sell the land in order to move to the city. Wilfred objects because a man’s pride comes with the amount of land he owns and he cannot stand city folk. With all of the power in the situation, Arlette decides to sell, which results in Wilfred going to some extreme lengths to stop her.
1922 contains standard horror fare with its scare sequences, but I found it intriguing how it looks at Wilfred as a man and how it dictates all of his decisions. Wilfred commits the ultimate unholy act of murdering his wife in order to keep the land, but the sense of pride came from something he never earned. It shows the lengths he would go to for land not in his name. Arlette selling the house commits the ultimate emasculating act on Wilfred, as he cannot control the land or even his wife. Having that control showed the strength of a man in the 1920s, and some regressive folks still believe that to be the correct way today. Wilfred does not even consider the option of going into the city or even entertain why his wife hates living in the country because he just cares about the number of acres he claims to own.
With this role, Thomas Jane really shows a different type of acting I did not know he could do. As Wilfred, he always has dirt on him as a farmer working out in the field and after he murders his wife, his spirit remains unclean as well. Jane utilizes a deep southern accent that works fairly well in the film as he tries to break away from his handsome face and create a character so infuriating that the horrific elements that happen next become satisfying.
That idea ultimately makes 1922 an interesting viewing experience, as most horror films attempt to create characters that we hope don’t die by whatever seeks to kill them. Wilfred truly has no positive qualities to him, so with each scare sequence, I found myself siding with the spirit of his dead wife trying to frighten him. It provided a different horror experience that I had no recollection of having before. Many of the scares come from the utilization of rats, as when Wilfred buries his wife in a well, her body gets eaten up by rodents. It makes sense that her spirit comes accompanied with a little army of them. It reminds me of Hitchcock’s The Birds, but in that film, the animals utilized never had a connotation of bringing harm to folks. Rats are universally hated and have been blamed for illnesses as extreme as the Bubonic plague. It shows the big mountain a film like Ratatouille had to overcome to make these creatures friendly. 1922 sought to undo all of that goodwill by making rats scary once again with how they gather as a group and the damage they can do.
Conventional but still thoughtful, 1922 provides some good scare sequences and inflicts it upon a character we don’t have sympathy for. Not a conventional method for horror films, but I appreciated how it took King’s material and brought it to the screen. Everything in the film comes full circle, especially with the cultural references that occur throughout the narrative. Jane gets dirty, rats get messy, and this film provides a good time with the timeless moral of the inevitability of consequences.