1922 follows a farmer, Wilfred (Thomas Jane), who decides to coerce his son, Henry (Dylan Schmid), into killing their wife and mother (Molly Parker), respectively, in order to retain the land they live on. Following the murder, the alliance between father and son deteriorates as the townspeople become increasingly suspicious. Wilfred's willpower to fight the insurgence of the investigation and his son's alienation begins to fragment, as he feels increasingly haunted by the specter of his dead wife and the rats that feast on her corpse.
I half-expected 1922 to be directed by Frank Darabont, because the film falls somewhere between Pet Sematary and Shawshank Redemption. But perhaps that is just a handful of qualities that my mind is connecting where it shouldn't. We have the Stephen King correlation, Thomas Jane (The Mist) in the lead role, the supernatural element and the somber tale narrated to the viewer. But let's be clear...Pet Sematary is far scarier and Shawshank Redemption is a far better script. So where does 1922 sit on the scale of King adaptions? Basically, somewhere in the middle, favoring the top half.
In many ways this film is a re-imagining of The Tell-Tale Heart by Edgar Allan Poe. Wilfred is a character study on the self-awareness of greed and guilt. Greed, at its highest peak, helps create excuses and reasons for why you have to do whatever is necessary to get what you want, because it is what you need. But then the greed fades as satisfaction rolls in, and guilt takes its place, which in turn reveals the error in your judgment under the influence of greed. From that perspective, 1922 is a dark tale for something that is very real.
Thomas Jane gives one of his best performances ever. The perennial scifi/horror actor isn't exactly known for his outstanding onscreen prowess, but in this case he embraces the character and becomes Wilfred. Molly Parker's tortured and divisive role, however limited, is perfectly portrayed, while Dylan Schmid plays the regressing teen in flawless tandem with Jane.
Across the board, the film matches much of the best King adaptations. So where does it fall short? Despite a few moments that feel awkwardly proposed, the film was perfect...beyond being doomed from the beginning. The story just falls flat. We get little tension for the well-being of Wilfred because we know from the beginning he is writing some kind of confession as he narrates the tale. The supernatural elements are limited, and the moments we get are, again, Tell-Tale Heart-esque. The rats as the muse of the undead was a great touch, but it wasn't enough to carry the horror.
The film was never designed to be completely horror. It's a dark, brooding drama more than anything. And that's why I felt that it fell somewhere on the spectrum between King's dramatic interpretations and his horror adaptations. Ironically, in many cases, the more dramatic the tale, the better the adaptation. So, as mentioned before, the scale of drama to horror, and its correlation with quality, lands 1922 somewhere above average. And that makes it a fine film to watch, but it will never compare to Green Mile or Shawshank, and it won't compensate with scares you could better get from It or Sematary.