Come one, come all my citizens! Welcome to my very first book & movie article for the Republic!
This book literally fell into my lap (ok, it fell on the floor) when I was
browsing through the rows of my favourite bookstore (shout out to Book
Trader in Brockville!). This was my second venture into Bradbury (the first
being Fahrenheit 451) but one that I have had on my list for a while. At
200-odd pages, it’s not a long read, but can be a laborious one at times if
you are not used to Bradbury’s long winded prose. Regardless of the odd 6
line sentence, the story itself and the world that was built was quite
Going to try and keep this spoiler free so, bear with me folks…
Something Wicked This Way Comes (Novel – 1962)
For those unaware, this is a classic ‘Carnival Comes to Town’ story that
turns dark real fast. Written in 1962, it begins with the two main
characters and best friends, thirteen year-old Will Halloway and Jim
Nightshade. When a carnival arrives early one morning, the boys quickly
discover that things aren’t quite what they seem. This story does not rely
on creepy clowns, but instead on a sadistic show master, the cruel intentions of the attractions, and the toying with human desires.
The way Bradbury describes the characters paints a vivid picture,
which is quite welcomed. In particular I loved the descriptions of Mr. Dark
(the ‘animated’ tattoos being a standout), and the descriptions of
certain scenes which really give you the sense of dread the boys are
feeling. There are a lot of things in this novel that one would consider
tropes nowadays, but if you take the publication date into account you can get a feel for how scary these would be as brand new ideas.
The novel also takes on quite a few themes; some underlying, some expounded by characters (mainly by Wills father, who is surprisingly bad-ass in his own right). Good vs Evil, childhood vs adulthood, immortality, and perspectives on life are all present here. Some of this comes in the form of the aforementioned long-windedness, but this also really adds depth to the novel.
Overall, the portrait this book paints is incredible, and it’s a real shame
my version of the novel has Ray Bradbury’s face taking up most of the cover and not the illustration that depicts many of the books scenes and
There is not much else to say without revealing plot points, so if you like
a good dark fantasy that has a few moral messages behind it, then I
recommend it. Bonus points for being a quick read.
Something Wicked This Way Comes (Movie – 1983)
This brings us to the 1983 movie adaptation of the same name. Directed by
Jack Clayton (The Great Gatsby) with the screenplay co-written by Ray
Bradbury this film does a solid job of respecting the source material.
First things first, I am not one of those that requires a film adaptation to
be word for word of the novel. But I do hate unreasonable changes that make no sense other than a screenwriter who thinks they could have written the source material better. Do I sound bitter yet? Well, luckily there is not much of that here. There was a film adaptation in 1972 but was not well received. You know what they did? Changed the main characters names. Ben Hopewell instead of Will Halloway? Frig right off.
I digress. This film has many mild changes that were fun to notice but did
not detract from the overall experience. Other things did seem slightly
lazy. For ex. I understand if they couldn’t get or didn’t want to specific
song outlined in the novel for the carousel (Funeral March by Chopin) but at least have the playback reversed like it is supposed to as it does serve a
The characters here are well represented, and for the most part are faithful to the source material. I did find some things were exaggerated, or perhaps just highlighted for the purpose of the movie, such as Jim’s role as a foil for Will’s character, but it is effective in conveying some things
lost without the written word.
The filmmakers did take some creative liberties with the ending of the film, combining some scenes and removing one in particular. But I ain’t mad. It was effective and to the point and going along scene for scene with the novel may have dragged things a bit.
The one thing I do love about comparing books to their film counterparts is
how things are interpreted visually. Seeing how different characters or
settings look can really put a new spin on the way you see things. The first
thing that stood out to me was the time period.
While reading the novel I visualized a late 50s / early 60s aesthetic, whereas the film goes for more of a 30’s look. This does make sense as the original idea for the story came from Bradbury’s childhood when he was 12, which would put us right in 1932. I also need to point out that Mr. Dark’s ‘animated’ tattoos looked better than I anticipated. Not to mention the superb acting of both Jonathan Pryce (Mr. Dark) and Jason Robards (Charles Halloway).
Again, as to try to keep this spoiler free I will not divulge much more. But
if you liked the novel I definitely recommend the movie. At 97mins it keeps
it short and sweet and stays close enough to the source material as to be a
nice companion to it.
Although the original reference comes from Shakespeare’s Macbeth, the
metalhead in me would not allow me to go this whole time without mentioning the incredible 1998 album by Iced Earth (which has 0 to do with Bradbury’s work). If you love dark power metal with lower-range vocals, and you especially have a soft spot for power-ballad type songs (minus the love story bits) then this album is for you. A classic of the genre and the
subsequent tour gave us one of the best live metal albums of all time. CHECK IT.
Novel – 3.5/5
Movie – 3.5/5
Album – 4.5 / 5