31 Horror Films #22 Something Wicked This Way Comes 1983 Dir. Jack Clayton

Last year I did a series of daily micro blogs going through the history of horror films by year. This was meant to give people an example of the high points of the genre. This year I'll be doing the same thing, but going off the beaten path to provide some films you may not have heard of. These films may not be up your alley, but they're all interesting.

Something Wicked This Way Comes 1983 Dir. Jack Clayton

In the 1970s and early 80s Disney was on the ass end of the pyramid animation-wise. They had produced several interesting animated features like Robin Hood and The Aristocats, but nothing on par with their earlier classics. Their live action films were just as much of a grab bag, with somewhat memorable children’s fare like Escape to Witch Mountain paired with redundant concepts like Herbie goes to Monte Carlo. One gets the impression that Disney was throwing anything at the wall and seeing what stuck and because of this climate of uncertainty, the house of mouse, like many other studios during this period were willing to take risks. One of these risks was a film adaptation of Ray Bradbury’s Something Wicked This Way Comes. Though the production was developed in 1977 it didn’t shoot until the early 80s, owing to changing tastes in studios and trouble between Bradbury and the director, Jack Clayton. Regardless of the trouble, Something Wicked This Way Comes is an effective horror film brought to us by the same studio that gave us Hannah Montana.

The film follows the boyhood exploits of Jim Nightshade and Will Halloway as they run afoul of a sinister carnival who grants everyone’s secret wishes, but not without a price. Jonathan Pryce plays the carnival leader, Mr. Dark with driving purpose like a snake in pursuit of his prey. His Mr. Dark is paired perfectly with the tender and bookish portrayal of Charles Halloway, by veteran actor Jason Robards. These two characters wage a war for the very soul of these two young boys and it is tense and brilliant to watch. While a few of the darker parts from the novel were omitted, the film has some fantastic scenes of its own. When Mr. Dark is looking for the boys and asks Will’s father who they are showing their tattooed faces one each of his palms is a scene that gives me chills to this day.

Something Wicked This Way Comes is a risky and dangerous entry by Disney into the world of darker fare; one wishes they still had the balls to give us something this fresh today. It is a film that deals with mature and perennial subjects, of mortality and youth and of good and evil. Something Wicked This Way Comes is a favorite that can be enjoyed by the whole family, it speaks to adults as if they were children and children as if they were adults, terrifying and thrilling both like the promise of Mr. Darks Carousel.

See the trailer HERE