Bottom Of The Well
by Brody Rossiter
Following the release of Gerald’s Game, Netflix’s second Stephen King adaptation comes in the form of 1922, a stark period piece built upon a marital feud and a callous murder. Wilfred James (Thomas Jane) is facing the loss of his wife, his son and his livelihood. After their relationship turns sour, Wilfred’s wife Arlette (House of Cards‘ Molly Parker) sets her heart on selling the family land and moving to Omaha – a prospect that doesn’t sit well with the grizzled farmer. Wilfred gradually hatches a sinister plan to murder his emotionally estranged wife in an effort to claim the land she owns. However, he can’t do it alone, and decides to draw his teenage son into the gruesome plot.
Director Zak Hilditch has cultivated an unsettling and oppressive picture that gnaws away its characters and the viewer. Wilfred’s antiquated and patriarchal refusal to allow his wife a sense of autonomy ends in violence. In turn, his brutality brings about the slow and torturous ruination of what little remains after her death. The landscape, relationships, the future, all are poisoned by the James’ terrible secret, and the rot quickly sets in.
The expansive widescreen shots are juxtaposed with close-ups situated amongst the tall corn, the darkened rooms and shadowy recesses, simultaneously creating a sense of both isolation and claustrophobia. The film’s foreboding soundtrack (composed by Faith No More’s Mike Patton) of screeching violins, sharp whistles and rattling percussion ensures a sense of unease perpetually lingers over events, hinting at the dread which grips Wilfred’s psyche tighter and tighter by the day.
Thomas Jane’s disturbing and physical performance is perhaps the most intriguing of his career, and one which will hopefully find him in equally challenging roles in future. The drawling Wilfred is the architect of his own deeply psychological disintegration and proves a captivating character through which to experience the narrative’s menace. 1922 is a slow-burning and vengeful picture, where rats hide in the walls and echoes of the past grow increasingly inescapable. While a demonic clown may well steal the limelight in 2017, King’s tale of one family’s collapse is lurking in the shadows, time to uncover its horrors for yourself