Something Wicked This Way Comes

Synopsis: One of Ray Bradbury’s most popular and intriguing novels of good and evil comes to life in this spine-tingling motion picture. On a grim and gusty October day in Green Town, Illinois, two young boys encounter a distressed man who foretells of danger blowing their way. Soon after, the town is visited by a seductive stranger named Mr. Dark and his Pandemonium Carnival. Terrifying things begin to happen when the adventurous boys stumble onto the carnival’s deadly and destructive secret!

Beware: SOMETHING WICKED THIS WAY COMES…and frightening surprises follow!
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Something Wicked This Way Comes 7.75

I’ve seen this title in stores for years but never knew what to make of it. It looked sort spooky, but it was also a Disney production. And an old one, no less. I half expected it to be a notch scarier than ‘The Love Bug’. confused

But, over the years, I kept stumbling on it (and its apparent sibling, ‘The Watcher in the Woods’). I got more and more curious about it. And then I got a great deal on it, so I took the plunge. It only took 15-20 years, but it was worth it.

Was it ever. laughing

It’s based on a Ray Bradbury novel (discovering this helped make up my mind about trying it out, actually) and it’s about two boys of a small town in what appears to be the post-WWI, but pre-WWII era. They lead very average lives, even though there is a certain complexity to their familial relationships.

And then the circus comes to town, spellbinding a number of the townsfolk. shock

In some ways, ‘Something Wicked…’ has a ‘Needful Things’-esque quality to it, what with the circus moving into town and offering to fulfill everyone’s dreams. Clearly, Bradbury’s novel came before Stephen King’s, so I wonder if King was inspired by it in some way; they’re not the same, but there are parallels between them. As a film, it’s superior to the latter – but ‘Needful Things’ was always a better book than a movie.

Visually, the film reminded me of the sober, more realistic, parts of ‘Mary Poppins’ (for lack of a better Disney reference); everything is shot as-matter-of-factly as possible, with muted colours but an old-school charm to it. It’s believable, but it hardly looks documentary-like – you know you’re watching a movie. It’s a pleasant quality, for some reason – perhaps because it delves into long-buried childhood memories of Disney live-action films.

It’s not an especially scary movie, perhaps because it’s mixed with the fantastical, but it certainly is spooky and there’s an ominous tone to it that may be unsettling to some (especially younger children). The circus is especially creepy, but I suppose that’s the whole point. This is the ideal horror film for those unaccustomed to harsher ones – it’s intense but not graphic or draining. I’d say that this is perfect for kids of about 10 years of age.

As the villain, Jonathan Pryce imbues his character with a confidence, an entitlement and authority, that wholly sells the danger that has come to town; this guy is truly not to be messed around with. Best of all, Price does it without hamming it up or being “too evil”. He plays his character cold, calculating and completely in control. For those two boys (and presumably, a similarly-aged audience), he must have been an overwhelming presence. shock

As one of the boys’ father, Jason Robards brought layers of conflicted emotions to his character. If not for his performance, the film would likely have had very little emotional resonance; he invested the film with a core that most of the rest of the cast were not capable of, despite their adequate performances. I can’t imagine anyone else in the role, and it’s one of my favourite performances of his – even though all the ones I remember were also as an old-school patriarch.

The build up is slow by today’s standards, but I like it that way: the best spookshows always creep up on you slowly, getting under your skin and immersing you in terror. A weaker horror film has to rely on quick cuts and loud noises to bring the scares. It doesn’t mean that there aren’t any dramatic moments along the way – there are. It’s just that the film takes its time setting all the pieces before taking us all the way; it drops little hints and allows little glimpses into its dark heart first. love struck

While I enjoyed most of ‘Something Wicked…’, the ending was a little facile for my tastes. Whereas the rest of the film has a certain complexity in the relationships and the outcomes of its protagonists, the last 10 minutes were basically a “let’s wrap this up and get on to the happy ending” sort of cop-out. It’s a shame really, because this was working out to be an unusually mature film for older kids. In fact, I would have given the film a strong 8.0 if not for that final letdown. confused

Still, overall, ‘Something Wicked This Way Comes’ was a very nice surprise. I will undoubtedly recommend this film in the future and plan on seeing it again. laughing

It really is too bad about that spoilsport ending.

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