Ray Bradbury’s Something Wicked This Way Comes

Jack Clayton’s Something Wicked This Way Comes is Disney at its darkest and is a ton of spooky fun. Based on a novel by the great Ray Bradbury, here adapting his own work for the screen, it tells of a sleepy, picturesque Vermont town sometime in the 40’s, a place where not much of anything really happens until a mysterious travelling carnival shows up one night via train with little notice, as if borne on the very October wind that howls over the region itself. Their arrival peaks the interest of many townsfolk, especially two young boys who grow quickly suspicious of this outfit, especially its outwardly affable yet intangibly sinister ringmaster, a fellow called Mr. Dark (Jonathan Pryce). Pryce is an actor who has mastered the art of coming across as nervous, stressed and vaguely sympathetic but guards an untapped darkness beneath his terse half smile and he’s positively terrifying here, another sterling villain in his rogue’s gallery of a career. I won’t spoil what this carnival is really up to, but suffice to say it isn’t just to hand out cotton candy and wow the locals with their sideshows and Ferris wheels. There’s an innate, elemental supernatural force at work in each of these carnies, they’re like a pack of ravenous wolves that feed on the human element of both wish and wonder, collecting souls in the process. Most malicious of their group is a mute, animalistic sorceress called the ‘Dust Witch’, played by the always awesome Pam Grier in the kind of dark, fairytale oriented role that she doesn’t get casted in too often, she’s scary, sexy and severely compelling. Also terrific is Jason Robards as one of the boy’s father, his deep, clear speaking voice goes a long way with Bradbury’s wonderfully ornate poetic, prose. It’s a dark, sumptuous jewel of a spooky season watch, with heavy, hazy small town nostalgia captured in elegiac, wistful words by this legendary author and a genuine sense of both eerie wonder and horrifyingly immediate danger. Great stuff.

-Nate Hill


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