Something Wicked this way Comes tells the story of two young boys who are thrilled to learn that a traveling carnival has set up shop in their sleepy town. It offers an assortment of rides and attractions but the carnival’s proprietor, Mr. Dark is offering more than just amusement: He is able to grant the unfulfilled desires of men but that doesn’t come without a price. When the lads catch on to Mr. Dark’s modus operandi, they realize they are in very serious trouble.
Based on the Ray Bradbury novel of the same name, Something Wicked this Way Comes is a mostly kid friendly horror picture. In revisiting it recently, I wasn’t as impressed with it as I once was. It still has some great scares within but it left me with the sense that something was missing the last time I watched it.
Something Wicked this Way Comes starts out with a creepy opening sequence: The credits come across the screen in blood red lettering combined with ominous music that leads the viewer to believe they are in store for an unsettling ride. Unfortunately, the heavy atmosphere that is established in the film’s opening quickly vanishes in favor of a lighter tone. The flick then proceeds to bounce back and forth between ominous and upbeat. The constant back and forth gets a bit frustrating at times.
The appropriately named carnival proprietor Mr. Dark will be terribly creepy to young and impressionable viewers but when revisiting the film as an adult, he doesn’t strike the same fear into my heart.
There is very little insight into Mr. Dark’s backstory, which can be creepy. But in this case, it does the film a disservice. Without knowing how he became what he is or why he is the way he is, it is difficult to find a reason to be particularly frightened by him. He’s got great potential as a villain but very little of that potential is successfully realized.
Something Wicked this Way Comes has a dated feel to it – more so than other pictures to come out of the early ‘80s. For having such a massive budget for the time (an estimated 19 million) one would expect special effects that don’t look so amateur and cartoonish. Some of that surely has to do with not wanting to scar impressionable audience members. But the film suffers as a result.
The underlying message of the picture is to embrace life and appreciate your lot rather than wish for what once was or might have been. That’s a good message that will always ring true. It does get a little overly sentimental at times but it’s a Disney movie, so I suppose that is to be expected.
This is the type of film that one must see at the right age to appreciate. Those who grew up watching Something Wicked this Way Comes will always have a special place in their heart for it but for someone that sees it for the first time as an adult, the flaws will be much more noticeable. If you haven’t seen this picture, it may be best to take a pass. You can definitely do better and there are plenty of kid-friendly horror films from the same era that have age much more gracefully.
Director(s): Jack Clayton
Writer(s): Ray Bradbury, John Mortimer
Stars: Jason Robards, Jonathan Pryce
Studio/ Production Co: Walt Disney Pictures
Budget: $19 Million