The Dead Punish The Damned in “1922”
By: Josiah Akhtab
The 2017 Mystery/Crime film “1922”, based on the novella of the same name by Stephen King, proves to be mildly scary but teaches a powerful lesson. . . “in the end, we all get caught.”
Directed by Zak Hilditch, the movie revolves around a farmer and his wife who have a disagreement over land that’s been willed to her by her parents. The husband wants the land, yet the wife wants to sell, so the husband plans to murder her, and convince his son to help him.
The plot didn’t elicit so much as abject horror but a subtle, psychological, and mildly horrific breakdown of the protagonist. It also doesn’t focus so much on the deed committed, but the aftermath of the deed, suggesting that living with the crime or heinous act is worse than death itself.
Though the viewer may get where the plot was going, it was only mildly efficient in driving the point home, as it didn’t have enough of that finality viewers are accustomed to seeing in horror films that use religion as the nail in the coffin.
The acting by Thomas Jane (Wilfred James), Molly Parker (Arlette James), and Dylan Schmid (Henry James) help tremendously in the efficiency of the horror and suffering. They played their respective roles almost to perfection, reflecting the mindset of a typical person who lived in the early twentieth century.
The writing also accentuated the horror throughout, allowing the actors to give the viewers that feeling of this-is-the-end and eternal-damnation-is-upon-you. It also placed the viewer in the mindset of the protagonist, took viewers on the reflective narrative, and revealed how the psyche of the character became unhinged over time.
The high-pitched, slow playing music proved to be on-point throughout the film, as it provided viewers with the sense that something terrible was going to happen. The music also keyed viewers in on important moments, revealing the mindset the protagonist was in when he prepared to do the deed that led to his suffering and damnation.
The tone of the film did well to give viewers a sense of the world they were stepping into, giving the sense of poverty with religion as the only salvation, as well as the coming of the industrial age.
As the farmers tried their hardest to hang onto property they felt was theirs, the tone of the film showed their familial lives slipping away as well.
Setting played well to heighten the tone; the cloudy skies, barren fields, and frigid winters all played to reflect the emotional state of the protagonist.
The setting likens the season to the character’s life after the deed is done, heightening his sense of suffering, and instilling that tone of finality when he starts to see the dead.
Great cinematography helped the horror aspect along, with the angling of the cameras revealing what the character wouldn’t say.
Throughout the film, the cameras focused on the character’s facial expressions, revealing the lines around the eyes, and the fear within them as they struggled to get away from the thoughts that haunt them.
Overall, the film wasn’t as scary as anticipated. Though it had some moments that would make viewers cringe a bit, it didn’t do an excellent job of providing that sense of “judgment-day-being-upon-you.”
Though the character gave a confession, it didn’t seem that the stakes were high enough, and the deed heinous enough, to transfix the viewer entirely.
Rotten Tomatoes critics rated the film at 88%.
Hollywood reporter John Defore stated, “[the] film is not lurid in its scares, and instead depicts its protagonist’s suffering mostly as a slow rot.”