Post by Mark T. Locker.
In the late 1970s and early 1980s, Disney went in a darker direction than what we have come to recognize as Disney. From Escape to Witch Mountain to The Watcher in the Woods, Disney covered the weird and the creepy with a particular lo-fi flair. My favorite of these darker Disney days was always the adaptation of Ray Bradbury’s creepy Halloween story, Something Wicked This Way Comes. Disney even got Bradbury to write the screenplay.
The movie tells the story of two thirteen-year-old boys, Jim Nightshade and Will Halloway. In the autumn before their fourteenth year, a strange and mysterious carnival rolls into town in the dead of night. Dark’s Pandemonium Carnival is no normal carnival. It’s readily apparent that something sinister is going on there. People enter the mirror maze and don’t return. Dark’s Pandemonium Carnival feeds on the deepest desires of its attendees. Their old teacher yearns for youth. The cigar store owner dreams of riches. Mr. Dark can make their dreams come true, but at great cost. When Jim and Will sneak in after dark and see one of the carnival members turned young on an enchanted carousel, they realize that they’re already in too deep. Knowing the boys know too much, Mr. Dark sets out to find the two boys, by way of magic, treachery or whatever means necessary.
Part horror story, part reflection on youth and friendship, part story of an older father trying to reconnect with his young son, the underlying story is surprisingly deep and complex. But to balance all that out, there are lots of bad special effects. My 8-year-old called the creeping green magic of the Dust Witch “Scooby-Doo effects”. He’s right. This is a creepy but not too creepy movie, a great way to kick off October, the spookiest month of all.