Something Wicked This Way Comes (1983)

Genres - Horror  |   Sub-Genres - Psychological Thriller, Coming-of-Age  |   Run Time - 95 min.  |   Countries - United States   |   MPAA Rating - PG
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Review by Patrick Legare

Something Wicked This Way Comes is an often-underrated picture from director Jack Clayton (1961's The Innocents) that truly captures the mood and feel of the Ray Bradbury story on which it is based. However, style aside, the film unravels due to a plodding pace, particularly as it lags towards a predictable conclusion. Set in a small town in the early 20th century, two boys are excited by the unexpected arrival of an autumn carnival. However, the excitement is short-lived as the carnival leader (a strong Jonathan Pryce) and his minions provide a sinister sideshow: residents are granted one wish, for which they must later pay a terrible price. Jason Robards is excellent in the role of one boy's ailing father, who suffers terrible guilt that his old age and poor health make him weak in his son's eyes. Other performances are solid, with Pam Grier particularly striking in the role of the evil Dust Witch. The screenplay by Bradbury appears to have suffered from post-production tinkering to speed the film up. Most unforgivable is the lack of detail surrounding two characters -- a mysterious lightning-rod salesman and the carnival owner who claims to be one boy's long-missing father during the film's climax (a revelation that is never confirmed or elaborated.) The music score by James Horner (Titanic) is excellent and in keeping with the film's Bradbury-esque style. Special effects are extensive, but rather routine for the period in which the picture was made.