Something Wicked this Way Comes is a horror/fantasy/coming of age tale based on the book of the same name by the amazing Ray Bradbury. Jim Nightshade (the dark) and Will Halloway (the light) are twelve years old best friends who find themselves in a struggle of good vs. evil. Jim lives in a single parent home with his neurotic mother (Diane Ladd) whereas Will lives with loving parents (Jason Robards and Eleen Geer). This leads to Jim being the more rebellious of the two, and Will being more honest and soft-spoken. When the carnival comes into town, the two discover it’s sinister secrets which puts them in the cross hairs of it’s owner and proprietor, Mr. Dark (Johnathan Pryce). After sneaking in, they discover some of the dark delights offered, like a carousel that can restore youth by going in reverse, a witch (Pam Grier) and living tattoos on teh skin of Mr. Dark. Knowing the carnival is set to feed on the misery of the town, the boys are hunted by it to keep them quiet.
At the heart of the story is Mr. Holloway’s battle with aging and feeling rather useless while looking back on a wasted life. As the town librarian, most of his life was spent reading books and in someways he lives vicariously through Will. As the children turn to him for protection against Mr. Dark, the film becomes a showdown between the two for the boys souls with Mr. Dark offering to restore Mr. Hollways youth in return for the children. Robards and Pryce are very talented thespians, which helps bring the film a touch of elegance. The finale which is set in a hall of mirrors, doesn’t really deliver, and honestly fizzles out, but the rest of the film compensates for this.
Despite a troubled production history, Something Wicked This Way Comes is a solid film. I wouldn’t say the film is a favorite but it is one I have very fond memories of watching as a kid (today was the first time I’ve watched it in twenty-two years, where does the time go?). It’s been almost as long since I last read the book, but I recollect the source material being very similar to the screen adaptation. I also like the use of character actors in the film, like Royal Dano and Pam Grier; the talent is off the charts, especially since this is a horror film made by Disney.
Something Wicked this Way Comes is a film about the magic and terror of the Halloween season. The feelings of youth the romanticism of the autumn season and the attractions it brings along with a portrait of small town life filled up with people who are themselves filled up with regrets and longings are summed up perfectly within this story. Something Wicked this Way Comes also gets brownie points for being the last serious attempts by Disney to put out dark material. There are talks of a remake coming down the pike with more emphasis on the source material.