Wednesday, 1 September 2010

By the pricking of my thumbs, something wicked this way comes...

'Your torments call us like dogs in the night. And we do feed, and feed well. To stuff ourselves on other people's torments. And butter our plain bread with delicious pain... Funerals, marriages, lost loves, lonely beds - that is our diet. We suck that misery and find it sweet.'
The best line from the best scene of Something Wicked This Way Comes, delivered with perfect malevolence and menace by Jonathan Pryce as Mr Dark. I used to have nightmares about Mr Dark. I can't remember how old I was when I first saw the film, but I can't have been much older than Will Halloway or Jim Nightshade are in the film. I remember being particularly haunted by the scene in the library - by the fact that Mr Dark finds the boys despite their best efforts to hide and takes them back to the carnival. The spider scene always scared me too.

Watching it now for the first time since then I was really impressed by how effective the film is. Pryce is awesome, as is Jason Robards who plays Will's father and goes head to head with Mr Dark in an effort to make up for not being the dad he feels he should have been. The scenes I remember being scary are still pretty terrifying now - particularly the spider scene. Not to sound older than my years, but it would all be done on a 'puter these days.

The script, by Bradbury himself, brilliantly weaves the concerns and arcs of both the child characters and the adult characters together without over-complicating the story. And it's directed by Jack Clayton who also directed The Innocents (one of the most beautiful and haunting horror films ever made) and applies the same atmosphere of creeping dread here. He also came from Brighton, which is probably of no interest to anyone except other Brightonians.

There are also elements I think I may have subconsciously stolen for some of my own work. The way magic works in the film is certainly familiar and the 'wishes gone bad' formula is at the heart of Jenny Ringo and the Monkey's Paw. There is also something of Mr Dark in the Magician character in my film, and Mr Dark's carnival is not too dissimilar to the Magician's theatre. They are both populated with the ghosts of past victims.

For some reason it doesn't appear to have ever been released on DVD in the UK, but you can get it on Region 1 and it's certainly worth seeking out.


Steve Miller, Writer of Stuff said...

I re-read "Something Wicked This Way Comes" every October... and if I didn't have a constant backlog of movies to write about, I'd probably watch this film every October as well. It's a great adaptation of one of my favorite books. Well worth going out of one's way for.

Chris Regan said...

I'm ashamed to admit I've never read it! Something I seriously need to put right.

Anonymous said...

One of the finest books ever, it captures the imgination and stays with you all down the years. I also read it when October comes around.