Morbidly Beautiful

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Netflix’s adaptation of Stephen King’s “1922” is a haunting and exceptionally acted morality tale about the consequences of our actions.

[Note: This review contains plot spoilers.]

Stephen King has had no shortage of novels and novellas that have been adapted for the big screen, with many of  adaptions elevating the standard for modern horror movies.

1922 was first released as a novella in 2010 and now has finally graced the silver screen with a contract with Netflix, adding to the many horrific masterpieces on the site.

The story centers around Wilfred James (played by Thomas Jane), a farmer that recruits his teenage son, Henry (Dylan Schmid) to murder his wife and Henry’s mother, Arlette (House of Card’s, Molly Parker) for financial gain. The murder is completed perfectly with the body safely concealed and the local authorities believing the father and son’s cover-up.

Yet, Wilfred beings to experience strange occurrences on the family’s farm, each incident growing more and more gruesome as he is reminded every single day of his brutal crime.

Jane’s portrayal of the farmer turned wife-killer is something to be commended. His first-person narration throughout 1922 is the perfect insight into Wilfred’s warped mind, the gritty and mumbling tone presenting to the audience what a bitter and self-absorbed man he is. On top of this, Wilfred takes no responsibility for the murder he committed, referring to his decision to kill as the work of ‘another man’ inside of him, blaming his actions and feelings on this ‘other man’.

Whilst his father denies his evil, Henry doesn’t seem to understand it at all. Schmit portrays this innocence with grace, as his character kills his mother so that he may remain with his girlfriend, Shannon (played by Kaitlyn Bernard), unable to comprehend the consequences of his actions or weight or the importance of his options.

The innocence and recklessness of young love are further represented as Henry and a pregnant Shannon run away from home, becoming a Bonnie and Clyde-like duo before both meeting their ends.

More than anything, 1922 presents the consequences of one’s actions — whether it be via lawful punishment, financial ruin, death, or, in Wilfred’s case, insanity.

Wilfred’s descent begins with the loss of his mind as he is taunted by Arlette’s ghosts and the phantoms of his farm, followed by the loss of his beloved farm — the same farm he killed to keep before ending up in the exact situation he would’ve been in even if he hadn’t killed Arlette.

In a Tell-Tale Heart type situation, Wilfred meets his end…but not before losing everything he had — his home, his son and his mind — as consequence for his actions. As Wilfred’s says to himself, “In the end, we all get caught.”

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