Wednesday, October 22, 2008

#100: Something Wicked This Way Comes


Something Wicked This Way Comes
Directed by Jack Clayton
Written by Ray Bradbury
Released April 29, 1983

So, when you're thinking of the Horror genre, pretty much the last name that comes to mind is Disney.

Granted, Something Wicked This Way Comes isn't full of the blood and gore that most of the genre has come to rely on. It's smarter than that, but that figures: it comes from the pen of Ray Bradbury.

At the film's opening, we meet Will and Jim, two mischievous small town friends and next door neighbors who seem to really have only each other. Jim's father has gone missing for years, while his mother barely notices him while she entertains strange men. Will's father, played by Jason Robards, wanders around haunted by an incident in Will's childhood, when he's not locked away in the town library feeling old and close to death.

We follow the boys and are introduced to an entire town full of regret and broken dreams. There's the ugly shrew of a teacher who used to be the town beauty, the cigar shop owner who is obsessed with money, and the crippled bartender who can't forget the days he spent as a college football star.

Then, a mysterious train comes to town in the night, bringing with it a surreal carnival owned by the shadowy (and aptly named) Mr. Dark, who employs a smoking hot fortune teller (Pam Grier). As the townsfolk begin to see their dreams realized (but not without a hefty price tag attached) by the carnival's attractions, the boys begin to witness its nefarious underbelly. One night they are discovered sneaking behind the scenes, and Mr. Dark knows he must destroy the boys before they bring his scheme to an end.

Story-wise, it's all a little thin, with no real explanation of where the carnival comes from or why it has returned to this small town. What is Mr. Dark looking for? Why must they travel at all, if what they offer is so enticing to any town where they set up shop? Of course, almost any movie falls apart under that kind of skeptical scrutiny, so I guess sometimes it's best just to let a premise be a premise.

If you're a parent looking for Halloween movies that aren't going to traumatize your children with violence, Something Wicked This Way Comes is a perfect alternative. Of course, there's still plenty of potential for psychological damage, like a late night spider attack, or Jonathan Price's dark, if unsubtle, work as baddie Mr. Dark. Price makes more out of a scene where he tears pages from a book than half of the antagonists in this month's movies.

There's a dramatic payoff on the carnival's carousel that would satisfy anyones taste for revenge, so I suppose if you do wind up watching this with the young'ns, you might want to be handy to cover their eyes.

For more on Something Wicked This Way Comes:
- Movie information at IMDB and Wikipedia.
- Buy the DVD.

The trailer:

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