1922 Thomas Jane, Dylan Schmid, Molly Parker. Directed by Zak Hilditch. Not rated. Available October 20 on Netflix.
The flurry of recent Stephen King adaptations has included high-profile successes (It, Gerald’s Game) and failures (The Dark Tower, The Mist TV series), but the new Netflix original movie 1922 is unlikely to fall in either category. It’s a solid, straightforward thriller that gets the job done without much fuss, and it lands somewhere in the upper-middle of all King movie adaptations. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, as King’s stories are almost always sturdy foundations on which to build, and writer-director Zak Hilditch stays pretty close to King’s 2010 novella.
In 1922 Nebraska, surly farmer Wilfred James (Thomas Jane) conspires to murder his wife Arlette (Molly Parker) with the help of his teenage son Henry (Dylan Schmid), to prevent Arlette from selling off their land and destroying their way of life. Father and son are both haunted by the murder, and their lives take increasingly tragic turns as time goes on. Although Hilditch pares down the psychological insights of King’s story, Jane’s performance, all mumbles and clenched teeth, conveys Wilfred’s guilt and anguish, and the jolts of horror are deployed at proper intervals. The methodical pacing falls apart a bit toward the end, but by then, Wilfred’s grim fate is already sealed.