“ I’ve got my land. I got my house. And—that’s pretty much it.”
—-Spoilers below this line—-
Directed by: Zak Hilditch Duration: 1h 42m
1922 is not about the jump scares, creepy or downright chilling. Scenes tend to be explicit in the sense of throat slitting, festering wounds, rats gnawing into flesh, decay, etc.
Wilfred James (Thomas Jane), realizing his wife intends to sell the lands, divorce him and take their only son, Henry (Dylan Schmid) to Omaha, sets out to plan a grisly murder. Discovering that Henry is sweet on their neighbors’ daughter, Shannon Cotterie (Kaitlyn Bernard) , he uses the newfound knowledge to manipulate young Henry into becoming an accessory of murder.
There’s a faux celebration of sorts which leads Arlette (Molly Parker) into a drunken stupor, allowing the 2 to plot and execute the murder. Arlette’s death isn’t a peaceful one. It’s messy, painful and despite the woman’s inebriated state, she fights back hard against her assailants but is no match for the sharp blade wielded by Wilfred and packed with pent up loathing. Arlette’s corpse is wrapped up in burlap and hurled down an empty well. Once the seed of hatred and corruption is planted, it spreads and affects not only Wilfred and his son but all who come in contact with the pair.
The movie’s pace had a natural flow. Some scenes were slow and drawn-out, focusing on an specific element while other scenes were fast-paced blurs. Events followed a chronological order and were tied to future events. The film adaptation remained nearly faithful to the novella written by Stephen King except the ending scene was altered to exclude the possibility that perhaps Arlette wasn’t real and Wilfred was indeed suffering from delusions.
Elements of Focus:
The rats are an element that represents plague of some sort. The rats are found eating away at Arlette’s mutilated corpse. They are found once more having severed one of the cow’s teats. Wilfred is later on bitten by a rat which results in the amputation of his hand. The rats are present whenever Arlette makes an appearance. Once more we see a hint of the rats, having gnawed at young Henry’s face after he commits suicide. Finally, we meet the rats during the final scene where they seem to have multiplied and are crawling all over the place. Arlette, Shannon, and the diseased Henry show up in front of an aged Wilfred. Wilfred seems to be both horrified and relieved that they are finally going to end his psychological/physical torture.
Was Arlette a product of Wilfred’s delusions ? We never see Arlette during normal circumstances. Arlette shows up when Wilfred is most likely experiencing a high fever and infection due to a festering wound. She shows up once more during Henry’s funeral but Wilfred is consumed by grief and by then, his health has deteriorated greatly. Rats were not uncommon during that time but we have no physical evidence Arlette is the one ‘harming him’. Wilfred could have easily climbed into madness after the murder of his wife or a combination of all of these factors. Henry shows up in the final scene with a knife and Wilfred is most likely documenting his life as a form of ‘farewell’. A kitchen knife, the same blade that murdered his wife and throat slitting would not be an uncommon suicide method for someone that is suffering from delusions, insanity or is sick with grief.
1. Wilfred was forced to sell his beloved lands, the very reason for the murder of his wife but they were so devalued by then that the livestock company gave him pittance.
2. Arlette’s curse or Wilfred’s guilt manifested as hallucinations – destroyed everything he held dear. A leak that wasn’t fixed led to the roof caving in which allowed the house to deteriorate from exposure and Wilfred’s health to decline.
3. Wilfred corrupted young Henry, thinking he knew what was best for his son but that corruption spread and Henry along with Shannon became wanted criminals which led to the death of the pair.
4. Wilfred went soot-free regarding the murder of his wife but he didn’t have a moment of peace. He was tormented by Arlette, the rats, the growing decay of the house, Henry’s estrangement and death and his own guilt at having committed murder.
5. Everything Wilfred James loathed or envied was ultimately destroyed.