Something Wicked This Way Comes conjures up a dark fairytale about aging and coming-of-age, with creepy delight.
Something Wicked This Way Comes is a supernatural dark fairytale and coming-of-age story that is based on the novel of the same name written by Ray Bradbury in 1962. While it follows the original main plot line, the existential themes and allegories of aging and coming-of-age are less prominent in this reimagining. But the main parts still shine through and with more fantasy darkness added, focusing on the fairytale vibe, this film of fears and hopes is a wonderful watch for both young and old viewers.
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Will Halloway lives in a small town with his father Charles and his mother. His best friend is Jim Nightshade and when Halloween is nearing, a mysterious Carnival comes to town with the evenly mysterious Mr Dark and his magical carousel. That Halloween everything is about to change and an epic battle between good and evil is about to start with Will, Jim and Charles right in the middle of it all.
Why you should watch it
Something Wicked This Way Comes is a film stemming from the darker period of Disney where films for children were in fact scary. Although the novel isn’t per se for children, but written in a style that is more suited for adults or older teenagers, the film is more aimed at a younger audience. It starts out a bit slow to explain the relationship between 13 year-old Will and his 54 year-old father and his 13 year-old best friend Jim. While in the book only Charles’ age is cause for fears, the film gives his fear more background to relate to. It’s now not only his fear of growing older and miss out on a lot of things when Will grows older, but now the fear of death is also prominent.
When the Carnival arrives the pace picks up and different events turn the story into a dark fairytale with an evil man, a witch and a magical carousel. The deepest fears and desires are preyed upon by the Carnival in a magical but threatening way. It’s only up to Charles, Will and Jim to stop Mr Dark from destroying their town. The perspective lies more with Charles and less with the inner struggles or feelings of Will. It’s a magical adventure and good versus evil story that gets the focus.
Also the voice-over of Will who tells the story says it’s mostly a story about his father. Not only kids can go through a rite of passage or are coming-of-age, there a many stages in life that one has to take and Charles goes through this one very thoughtfully and being aware of it. While the film and the adventurous eerie atmosphere is more suited for children, the storytelling feels more grown-up. The ending is also focused on Charles and his catharsis.
Because the themes of growing up and growing older aren’t that intertwined as in the novel, it feels more simple. And the way the fantasy parts and the themes and coming-of-age parts are woven together is also less intriguing or insightful than in the novel.
Still, the film has a lot to offer. The Carnival and Mr Dark come to life in a very threatening way. The mysterious atmosphere is great and the vibe scary enough for kids. The relationship between Charles and Will and Jim is best shown in the library when also Mr Dark shows up to seduce and or threaten Charles. The structure is clear and the storytelling is enticing. It’s a wonderful watch for the whole family, especially in the Autumn and during Halloween when the vibe of the film reflects the chilling vibes outside.
My favorite part
The scene in the mirror maze is a great scene where the themes of the story fall into place. The way the story focuses on Charles, despite that it is a film for kids, is very interesting and strangely will also speak to a younger audience, because what he experiences is tightly bound to Will and Jim. Did you know that Don Coscarelli wanted to film Something Wicked This Way Comes, but couldn’t because Disney owned the rights. So he reimagined his own phantasmagorical dark coming-of-age story that was Phantasm (1979).
Scare factor: ★★☆☆☆
Gruesome factor: ★★☆☆☆
Entertainment factor: ★★★★☆
Read more about Something Wicked This Way Comes:
Cast and crew
Something Wicked This Way Comes is directed by Jack Clayton. The film is based on the novel Something wicked This Way Comes by Rad Bradbury in 1962. Screenplay is written by John Mortimer and Ray Bradbury. It stars Jason Robards (Charles Halloway), Vidal Peterson (Will Halloway), Shawn Carson (Jim Nightshade), Jonathan Pryce (Mr Dark), Diane Ladd (Mrs Nightshade), Pam Grier (Dust Witch), Bruce M. Fischer (Mr Cooger) and Royal Dano (Tom Fury). Narrated by: Arthur Hill.
Duration: 95 minutes. Music: James Horner. Cinematography: Stephen H. Burum. Edited by: Barry Mark Gordon, Argyle Nelson Jr. Produced by: Peter Douglas. Production companies: Walt Disney Productions, Bryna Productions. Distributed by: Buena Vista Distribution.