Fall, the time of year when leaves change color, the weather grows chilly, and the evil carnival, with the time travel carousel, comes to town. In this edition of 31 Days of Horror, it’s the frightening Disney film based on a Ray Bradbury novel, Something Wicked This Way Comes.
I love strange, bizarre things. I believe I developed this affinity as a kid growing up in the 80s. There is an entire catalog of 80s kids’ movies that are delightfully strange. I’m not sure if it was just the creativity of the day, or all of the cocaine, but there are many films marketed towards youth in the 80s that make you ask, this was for kids? I think Something Wicked This Way Comes fits the weird 80s kids’ movie category.
What It’s About
Will and Jim are neighbors, and the very best of friends. They live in a town that is a mix of Stars Hollow, Twin Peaks, and a Thomas Kinkaid painting. The town’s inhabitants’ lives are peaceful, idyllic, and slightly dull, until a carnival comes to town.
On the surface, the carnival appears just like any other, though I think the name, Darks Pandemonium Carnival should have been a tip off.
The odd looking carnival is actually an entity that survives by feeding off of the misery and pain of humans. When a curious Will and Jim stumble upon the carnival’s secrets, the nefarious carnival master, Mr. Dark, decides the boys must be eliminated. On the run, the boys must avoid capture, while coming up with a plan to rescue the town’s citizens who have already fallen into the carnival’s trap.
Moments That Make You Ask, This Is For Kids?
Though Jim and Will are noted as the main characters, much of the film focuses on Will’s father, who is the town’s librarian. Will’s father is an older dad, and because of his age, and heart condition, he feels like an inadequate parent. He can’t keep up with his energetic son and laments that he will most likely die sooner rather than later. At one point in the film, he sits Will down to have a heart to heart about the ways he has failed Will as a father and to discuss his more than likely demise. It’s a bit weighty for a kid’s film.
After their carnival snooping is discovered by Mr. Dark, Will and Jim flee the carnival grounds. As they are running away, they spot a guillotine. Upon further inspection Will sees himself under the guillotine blade. The blade falls, and Will’s head, eyes opened, terrified expression fixed on his face, falls into a basket. For a kid, this is traumatizing, nightmare producing imagery.
The demise of Mr. Dark is equally chilling. Held to the time traveling carousel via electricity, the carousel moves forward, causing Mr. Dark to rapidly age. It’s a disturbing, ghoulish sight as Mr. Dark degenerates into a rotting corpse.
Will is looking at his bed. The covers are undulating. After taking a deep breath, he flips back the covers and discovers that his bed is crawling with creepy, crawly, tarantulas. The tension build in the scene is perfection, and the reveal is wonderfully unsettling. I give the kid actors a lot of credit. Nowadays, the spiders would probably be CGI-ed in, but back then, I can only assume the boys had to allow a multitude of furry legs to climb all over their bodies. I wouldn’t be surprised if the fear in their eyes was real.
Another brilliant scene takes place in the library. It’s interesting how during the day, the library is a bright, cheerful, fun place, but after dark, the shelves, books, and staircases, turn sinister. The boys take refuge from Mr. Dark at the top of two book shelves. Able to locate their hiding spot, Mr. Dark slowly climbs the shelves. Instead of focusing on his body, or his face, the camera focuses on Mr. Dark’s black- gloved hands as they methodically ascend the shelves. It’s amazing how tense and fear inducing black gloves can be.
There are so many other bizarre events that could be discussed.There is the creepy little bow tie boy, the bleeding hand tattoos, the electric chair torture device, and the not suitable for children, naked guy, belly dancing scene.
This film teems with weirdness.
With its autumn setting, menacing characters, overall creepy vibe, and nostalgic 80s fun, Something Wicked This Way Comes is a worthy add to your Halloween watching list.