It is not often that you see a horror movie released by Walt Disney Studios, in fact it never happens as the House of Mouse tends to focus on more family-oriented fare and so that makes this movie, Something Wicked This Way Comes, something of a rarity. Based upon the novel by Ray Bradbury and written by the author as well, the film blends those aspects of horror with childhood discovery and wonder and manages to do so quite splendidly. The end result is a film that captures the imagination, one that makes the viewer believe in magic but also cautioning one to be careful what they wish for. The film is presented as only Disney can and while at first it looks as if it is going to be one thing, once that train rolls into town, the movie becomes something else and you would not have it any other way.
The story concerns two children named Will and Jim, the latter being foolhardy and adventurous and the former the voice of reason and caution in the relationship. Both have issues with their fathers and it is that bond which makes then the very best of friends. That friendship is soon pushed to its limits when Mr. Dark’s Pandemonium Carnival rides into town as if by some dark design and sets up shop. For the boys, the carnival might have come and gone without them being put in harm’s way, yet it is their curiosity that gets them in trouble and finds them being hunted down by none other than Mr. Dark himself.
Of course, horror or not, every Disney movie has to end on a happy note and this film is no exception. That comes to pass with Jason Robards playing the hero and father to one of the boys, a man who is essentially broken and has been for some time, but discovers that he has much to live for in his son and that in the end, love always wins out. Robards is as commanding as ever, even with a role such as this that requires a little subtlety and the man proves that he is a master of craft, if there ever were one. Opposite him is Jonathan Pryce, a man no less brilliant and his portrayal as the villainous Mr. Black is downright frightening. While Robards is the unassuming hero, there is no doubt just who and what Mr. Black is and Pryce gives the performance of a lifetime, making Mr. Black one of Disney’s best onscreen bad guys up to this point in time. With a cast that also includes Diane Ladd and Pam Grier, the movie is filled with great performances and the cast being one of the better things about it all.
Despite being a Disney film and featuring no cursing, no nudity and very little blood, they still manage to make this film quite chilling with its moody atmosphere and compelling performances. For most filmmakers, it is an impossible feat to do so and it goes to show that despite whatever went on behind the scenes of this movie which was said to have a troubled production, the level of talent involved was indeed that – talented. Something Wicked This Way Comes is a scary and beautiful film and it is one that is filled with heart as well and its depiction of the classic battle between good and evil, while sometimes clichéd, is told to perfection.
4 out of 5