Nostalgia is a tricky thing. It makes the past way more idyllic than it was, and helps us to forget the bad. So many of us view our childhoods through nostalgic lenses. Living through childhood, however, has its darkness. The world is filled with the unknown, the strange, the frightening. Few movies capture the terror of childhood the way SOMETHING WICKED THIS WAY COMES (1983) does.
The movie is based on a novel by Ray Bradbury. Bradbury was one of the masters at capturing the wonder and terror that comes with a small town childhood. One can see Bradbury reflected in the 13 year old Will Halloway. Halloway spends his days getting into minor mischief with his best friend Jim Nightshade. The two have a nice childhood in their small Midwestern town where everyone knows everyone else. The comfort of the familiar is broken when Mr. Dark’s travelling carnival comes to town. During the day its your standard faire with unusual sideshow acts, games, and the expected rides. But there’s something odd about Mr. Dark’s carnival. People who enter the hall of mirrors are different when they leave. The carnival games grant deepest wishes. The carousel is like a fountain of youth. People are finding their heart’s desire at the fairgrounds. As any viewer of this genre knows, though, nothing comes without a price. Will and Jim discover some of the secrets and have to run for their lives, literally and figuratively. Along with learning the secrets of the carnival, the boys learn there are people in their safe small town they can’t count on, surprised by those they can, and learn their own inner strength.
SOMETHING WICKED THIS WAY COMES is a rare horror film produced under the Disney Studios name. Yes, it was produced with children in mind, but that doesn’t mean it’s sugary fluff. It’s genuinely creepy but skirts the edge of showing too much or getting graphic. The boys give solid performances, but the shining stars come in the secondary roles. Jason Robards gives a layered performance as Will’s older father, torn between his guilt at not being able to do the things with his son that a younger father can and his knowledge of the true nature of the carnival. Jonathan Pryce is delicious as Mr. Dark’s embodiment of pure evil. All in all, while it isn’t breaking any new ground, it’s a generally satisfying movie.
The film isn’t set up for embedding, but the full film can be watched for free on YouTube.
Question of the night–do you have a favorite fair food?