It’s the month of tricks and treats and fabulous frights! Are you ready for a month of movie mayhem, my maniacal little monsters? To start it off right, we must pay tribute to ‘The October People’, with the Walt Disney production of Ray Bradbury’s creepy little tale Something Wicked This Way Comes. Now, for those who have not seen this Fiendish Flick, you may think, “Disney?! Pssh, Disney doesn’t do truly creepy.” To that I will point to an earlier era, an era when Disney had the nerve to innovate and experiment, and didn’t treat all children like adorable little morons. Made in 1983 and directed by Jack Clayton, Something Wicked This Way Comes is a prime example of this era.
Starring Jason Robards, Johnathan Pryce, Royal Dano, Vidal Peterson & Shawn Carson, Something Wicked is the story of Will Halloway and Jim Nightshade, 2 young boys bored with life in small town America who get swept up when a mysterious carnival comes to town. Enchanting the towns people, who begin to disappear shortly after their deepest darkest wishes are granted. The darkest secrets are revealed after nightfall at Dark’s Carnival. Will and Jim, hungry for adventure, decide to sneak away in the night and investigate what happens at the fairgrounds when the rest of the town has gone to bed. Wonderful, terrible things fill their sights, until Mr. Dark (Pryce) catches them peeping, and they have to hide or lose their lives.
There are tropes in films aimed at children that are used again and again; parents that don’t listen to their kids when they warn of eminent danger, bumbling villains that are sanitized so as not to be too scary, and family relationships that are far too superficial to be relatable. Something Wicked This Way Comes has none of these. Bradbury believed children could handle harsh truths, fear and even death. To read, or to watch stories that challenged their minds prepared them to be thinking adults, to find courage and wisdom, and to never let that creativity we all hold as children die. When Will Halloway tells his Father (Robards) that the carnies have deadly intentions, he listens. Mr. Halloway doesn’t have to save face after finally being convinced, he fights right from the start. The villain, Mr. Dark, is not foolhardy, or bungling. He’s powerful, and frightening, able to pull the years from your life right out of your soul, and has no qualms about pulling those years from the bodies of kids. The relationships in this flick also go deeper than the usual family strife of squabbling siblings, or parents on the edge of divorce. Tackling feelings of parental shame and self delusion, the relationships genuinely resonate. Along with the finer points of a sound story line, the film’s effects are still fascinating to watch, despite being before the era of CGI.
Start the scary season with this spooky classic, share it with the little hobgoblins in your life. They can handle it, I did. In fact flicks like this made me the horror lovin’ grande dame of dread you know and love, but most of all, it made me brave. The only thing I fear, my fabulous fright fiends, is that they will try to remake this film, and fail miserably; like Escape to Witch Mountain. What a putrid pile of….well, you get my drift.
Well that’s my Fiendish Flick pick for this week, tune in next week for some more spine-chilling cinema. -Ruby