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Overall Rating

Awesome: 16.67%
Worth A Look83.33%
Average: 0%
Pretty Bad: 0%
Total Crap: 0%

1 review, 12 user ratings

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Something Wicked This Way Comes
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by Jay Seaver

"Wicked spooky!"
4 stars

It's been argued that one of the unplanned side-effects of the PG-13 rating is that it more or less put the kibosh on movies like "Something Wicked This Way Comes"; it's become such a hard target to hit that the last non-Harry Potter movie that tried to give kids an honest scare - the Guillermo del Toro-produced "Don't Be Afraid of the Dark" - got slapped with an R rating ("Super 8" was less targeted to kids than the parents who remembered its ilk). 'Tis a shame, for while "Something Wicked" isn't perfect, it tingles the spine nicely.

It starts, as these movies often do, with two young boys in a small town. Will Halloway (Vidal Peterson) is the bespectacled son of librarian Charles (Jason Robards), while Jim Nightshade (Shawn Carson) is being raised by a single mother (Diane Ladd), his father having quit town years ago. They get into mischief - in this early part of the twentieth century, boys were allowed and expected to do so - but are generally good kids. This autumn, a carinval has come to town, which is odd (carnivals are summer events), but their snooping soon suggests that Mr. Dark (Jonathan Pryce), the proprietor, is up to something unusually sinister - but who will believe the wild stories of two kids?

Not that they'd necessarily be able to explain it, even after everything went down. Whether it occurred while penning the original novel or while adapting it into a screenplay, writer Ray Bradbury leaves a great deal of Mr. Dark's motivation and mythology to be inferred. A great number of eerie, creepy, and downright chilling things happen, but as was often his wont, Bradbury focused less on explanation and the mechanics of the plot than he did on emotion and broad themes. In this case, everything is about how wallowing in disappointment and regret is self-destructive, and if you can't explain just what the deal is with the Dust Witch (Pam Grier) that way, well, that's too bad.

Happily, the individual moments are often as strong as the story running through them is flimsy. Bradbury and director Jack Clayton set up the adults and the weaknesses that will allow Dark to get his hooks into their souls with simple efficiency, and do a very nice job of articulating both the worlds of adults and children, which overlap but are never quite the same. When the time for a scare comes, the filmmakers have several types at their disposal - the horrible thing that happens entirely off-screen; the moment when the kids and the audience know something has happened but not quite what; the confrontation between two actors both just firing on all cylinders; and the big, effects-laden climax that's maybe a little more horrific than an audience expects from the Walt Disney Company. The pace may seem a little relaxed by modern standards, but the movie can certainly push some buttons.

And while not as slick as what kids may see thirty years later, it's a pretty great-looking movie. Both the town and the carnival look habitable, as opposed to pristine or exaggeratedly run-down, and have a nice feeling of being "sometime in the past" without fetishizing it. Clayton and cinematographer Stephen H. Burum do a great job of making the action in the dark look great, and the sky is wonderfully active and foreboding (not the easiest thing to do in those pre-CGI days), and the effects, while not flashy, are very well-done.

It's also a very good cast. Peterson and Carson are a notch or two above the Disney kids you often see in these movies, but it's Jason Robards and Jonathan Pryce who really shine. Robards is terrific as the indulgent father who still carries some authority; he's young-at-heart but still feeling his age. Pryce, meanwhile, is cool malevolence - he's certain he has nothing to fear from these kids but sadistically cuts loose during a confrontation with Robards.

Breaking it down as an adult, its flaws are quite apparent, but so are the many things it does very well. And I've got no doubt that it's still able to scare kids the age of its main characters quite well, and they really don't get enough of that.

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originally posted: 06/21/12 09:45:45
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2014 Fantasia International Film Festival For more in the 2014 Fantasia International Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

3/24/20 dupadoit i like it 4 stars
9/14/17 morris campbell good but the book is better 4 stars
12/19/07 Shell Awesome movie... you never outgrow it 5 stars
7/06/05 Indrid Cold Surprisingly unsettling for a "children's film." Very well done horror/fantasy. 4 stars
1/01/03 Jim Dark, spooky, and disturbing. Disney would never make a film like this now. 4 stars
1/13/02 Andrew Carden I Think That Awesome Is A Bit Too Good Of A Rating, but Still Very Good. 4 stars
5/08/01 Gracy Lionheart Trippy movie...loved the feel of it. 4 stars
3/18/01 Dr. Herb Bock Classic good vs. evil 5 stars
4/08/99 Dave Good movie> Nicely done. 5 stars
3/11/99 Bats As off kilter as Bradbury's writing style. Cool! 4 stars
11/23/98 wayne Surprisingly dark for a Disney film. 4 stars
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  29-Apr-1983 (PG)
  DVD: 03-Aug-2004



Directed by
  Jack Clayton

Written by
  Ray Bradbury

  Jason Robards
  Jonathan Pryce
  Diane Ladd
  Royal Dano
  Vidal Peterson
  Shawn Carson

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