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  Something Wicked This Way Comes Storm Fear
Year: 1983
Director: Jack Clayton
Stars: Jason Robards Jr, Jonathan Pryce, Diane Ladd, Royal Dano, Vidal Peterson, Shawn Carson, Mary Grace Canfield, Richard Davalos, Jake Dengel, Jack Dodson, Bruce M. Fisher, Ellen Geer, Pam Grier, Brendan Klinger, James Stacy, Angelo Rossitto, Arthur Hill
Genre: Horror, FantasyBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 2 votes)
Review: Will Halloway recalls the time when he was a boy (Vidal Peterson) in the small town of Green Town, Illinois, son of an ageing father (Jason Robards) who felt he was growing too old to keep up with him. But the community had many regrets that hid behind its sunny facade and now, with October turning the leaves on the trees to oranges and browns, there was something approaching that would exploit these feelings of lives unlived with terrible consequences. That Autumn, Will and his best friend Jim Nightshade (Shawn Carson) would be stalked by a mysterious carnival of people who could grant any wish - at a price...

One of many flops from Walt Disney productions during the eighties, Something Wicked This Way Comes was also to suffer the indignity of being considered a fumbling of one of the greatest works in American horror literature. Ray Bradbury had written the script for this adaptation and versions of the material had been planned from directors Gene Kelly and Sam Peckinpah, not to mention a more obvious choice in Steven Spielberg, but it was Jack Clayton who had finally made good on that promise. Though how good was it? The casting seemed perfect, but it was about the only thing that really satisfied.

Disney wanted something more family friendly for their money, and so when Clayton finished his version, there followed a year of reshoots, re-scoring and re-editing to make it more palatable for a wider audience, much to Bradbury's dismay as he saw his pet project warped out of recognition. Yet in spite of its reputation as a messing up of a classic novel, there were sequences here and there which did it justice. On the other hand, there were parts which were patently filmed without thought of how hokey they would look, especially the spider attack, where the two child stars are all too clearly older, or the hall of mirrors close to the finale, a painfully corny bit of business.

So what did capture the spirit? As the leader of the carnival which arrives in town at three o'clock in the morning, Mr Dark was perfectly suited to the stylings of Jonathan Pryce, all charm and menace and cunning. The carnival pinpoints the townsfolks' most painful memories or laments and gives them the appearance of fulfilling their long sought after wishes, except what they are really getting is a chance to appear in the carnival: as one of the exhibits. Only Will and Jim, sneaking around at night and spying on Mr Dark, realise what is really happening, which brings them to his attention; fatherless Jim especially, as he wants to be older and the mysterious merry-go-round can render the riders older or younger depending on which way round it spins.

The boys have one ally, and he is Will's librarian father Charles, which brings out the film's theme of reconciliation between fathers and sons as these two reach an understanding thanks to Mr Dark's machinations - not intentionally, it must be noted. If there's one sequence that makes one wish for a better adaptation, it's the library confrontation between Mr Dark and Charles where the old man is offered the chance to become younger. Robards and Pryce are absolutely superb here, relishing Bradbury's poetic, resonant dialogue and finally bringing to life a film that has been thus far a fair but unsatisfying facsimile, evocatively summing up the tension between childhood fears and adult ones. The cast were ideal, and who knows maybe Bradbury's original intentions might have resulted in a better rendering, but this Something Wicked has to be judged a curate's egg, which is a regret not even Mr Dark could do anything about. Music by James Horner.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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