Come one, come all! To my very first book & movie article for horror-writers!
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 awhile. 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 longwinded prose. Regardless of the odd 6 line sentence, the story itself and the world that was built was quite mesmerizing.
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 (in particular his tattoos being ‘animated’), 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 I feel in the context of the publication date we I’m going to let it slide.
The novel also takes on quite a few themes; some underlying, some expounded by characters (mainly by Will’s father, who is surprisingly badass 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 characters.
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 purpose. 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
Editor’s Note: This was written in 2019 before John Schaefer showed his whole ass by being a seditionist idiot. I just wanted to finally post it.