Something Wicked This Way Comes Reviews
Something Wicked This Way Comes, a terrifying story of envy, celebrates the invisible dark side of want. Unfortunately the story was not able to fully flesh out director Jack Clayton's darker intentions for the story, as it was taken and "doctored" by Disney. Unfortunately that meant Clayton collaborator's Georges Delerue's superior score and the most adult aspects of the story were butchered. But what is left is a superb, atmospheric period film. The director, Jack Clayton, is by far one of the best filmmakers of the 20th century. Having years earlier helmed the scariest film ever made, The Innocents, Clayton was thoroughly prepared for this.
For one, the story shines where it exhibits the performance of Jason Robards. He plays a tired middle-aged man with the heart and soul of a child. The movie's brilliant trailer suggests the story follows him, but in the end the children are the true vehicles; which also brings me to another facet of the film: the children are great. One thing common in Clayton's films is great performances, which he believed, and I agree, to be the most important part of making a movie. No, I do not think it is the greatest film made by Clayton, but the 10/10 rating assignment is simply because what wasn't cut exposes a masterpiece of cinema.
We have two characters: Will and Jim. Will has a father, Jim doesn't. However, Will's father, Charles Halloway, feels that he might as well be invisible. His older age restricts him from doing what other dads do, and in effect he feels he has a failed as a father. Charles is obviously a great father, he's really cool and very smart, but in deep pain over an event in which he didn't save his son from drowning (someone else did), simply because he was physically incapable. Jim, on the otherhand, is jealous that his best friend has a father, even if he isn't physically ideal. His mother tries to recreate her husband by having flings with handsome men. When Mr. Dark arrives, he promises that she shall have her spouse return. But like, every desire, it is always just a short sensation with dire consequences. At the end of the film, Will's dad faces Mr. Dark, who as it happens, embodies his desires. He gives up being young again for his son. It'a a brilliant ending, most likely pure Clayton. Clayton was sidelined in production, so what can be seen of his original vision is in slices spread throughout the film, and the trailer was most likely approved and reviewed by Clayton. If you've seen any of Clayton's other films, it's much easier to identify what's Clayton and what's Disney meddling in places they shouldn't be. The film was, according to Wikipedia, "a dark thriller, which saw him to return to themes he had explored in earlier films - the supernatural, and the exposure of children to evil." Simply, it basically says that you were never innocent. In fact, innocence has never existed.
"Something Wicked This Way Comes" does the impossible - it captures the romanticized years of childhood with sweeping nostalgia while still managing to work as an encapsulating horror fantasy that, unsurprisingly, emulates the ghost stories kids tell each other over s'mores and freshly-cut grass on hot summer nights. Though produced by Disney, it is not a children's movie, rather a psychological, sometimes fantastical, drama for adults that combines real life horror with the outreach of the psychedelic macabre. It's uneven, but when "Something Wicked This Way Comes" works, it sticks with you, like a one-track-minded fly on the wall.
It takes place in flashback, living in the memory of its now-grown protagonists, Will Holloway (Vidal Peterson) and Jim Nightshade (Shawn Carson), who, as depicted in the film, are thirteen-year-old best friends living in rural, Technicolor Illinois. Life is carefree, made of the little quirks that become beautiful items of the past. But the most disturbing memory, the one that changes their lives forever, is the focal point of the film, being the arrival of Mr. Dark's (Jonathan Pryce) Pandemonium Carnival, which features strange wonders unlike any circus the two have ever encountered. After much snooping, though, the friends discover that the origin of the carnival is much more sinister than it first appears - and it may soon begin to affect their own lives.
"Something Wicked This Way Comes" combines horror and fantasy with a sensationally uncanny atmosphere, impenetrably unsettling in the most imaginative of ways. But I'm not so sure about the implementation of its children's movie tropes, which, despite being mainstays of Ray Bradbury's novel of the same name, feel slightly forced, as the film is produced by Disney who, unwisely, believed it would work out as a family night out (it was a flop, barely able to even make back half of its budget). Luckily, though, Clayton ("Room at the Top," "The Innocents") keeps the ambience mostly chilly and hallucinatory - it is nightmarish in a warm, childlike way, its scares comparable to something out of an impressionable child's biggest fears. Oddly enough, one could say that the film is touching, frank about the struggles of adulthood and attentive toward the sacred years of childhood.
Leading actor Jason Robards makes for a sturdy, reluctant hero, with Pryce and an under-appreciated Pam Grier working as quasi-villains whose mysterious personas are never much explained and therefore make them characters that linger in the memory. And that's what "Something Wicked This Way Comes" - it lingers in the memory, with its eccentric touches, its coming-of-age twirls, its fantasies, for better or worse.