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First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes…a bloody corpse down a well and a tin full of dark secrets in the garage.

Two of the four novellas in Stephen King’s Full Dark, No Stars, first published in 2010, have been adapted to film and are now available for your viewing pleasure on Netflix. Both films portray seriously dysfunctional relationships. Both may cause you to eye your significant other over the dinner table with a newfound wariness…and make an appointment with a relationship therapist just to be on the safe side.

1922 (2017)
Alternate Title: Love Rats!

The expression “You reap what you sow” comes horribly true in 1922, a horror-thriller starring one rightfully vengeful corpse and waaaay too many rats (although, in my opinion, even one rat is too many rats.)

Thomas Jane (so excellent in his role as the loving but ill-fated dad in The Mist (2007), another Stephen King adaptation) plays a very different kind of husband and father. Wilfred James is a farmer in Hemingford Home, Nebraska, a sun-weathered, proud man who speaks painfully through a tightly clenched jaw. Stuck in a joyless marriage with Arlette (Molly Parker), he is more in love with his farm and the 100 acres that Arlette inherited from her father than he is with his attractive, sullen wife.

When Arlette decides that she has had enough of being a farmer’s wife and wants to sell up and move to Omaha, Wilfred tries to convince her to sell him the land and let their son remain with him. When she refuses, he decides that he won’t take no for an answer. After roping his 14-year-old son Henry into a very messy and brutal crime, he sets into motion a series of tragic events that almost (not quite, but almost) makes you feel sorry for him and his son.

There are parts of this film that are not for the faint of heart. (For example, I could have very happily gone my entire life without seeing a rat emerge from the mouth of a corpse.) It was hard to watch the scene where Arlette discovers that her marriage is definitively over. That being said, whoever’s job it was to throw the buckets of blood had a lot of spare time on set as there isn’t too much gore. My favourite part of the film was the scene in which the exes once again come face to face…very creepy. So effective.

The Diagnosis:
It wasn’t released with all that much fanfare but it is a solid film with great performances – especially the nearly unrecognisable Thomas Jane. Don’t miss this one before Netflix puts it out to pasture.

A Good Marriage (2014)
Alternate Title: A Serial [Killer] Monogamist

After 25 years of marriage, Darcy Anderson (Joan Allen) thinks that she knows her husband Bob (Anthony LaPaglia) pretty well. Unlike Wilfred and Arlette James, the couple are happily married with a beautiful home, well-adjusted adult children who love their parents and still enough of a spark left that the marriage bed is never cold for too long. It is, as the title suggests, a good marriage.

From the opening scene of a woman being stalked by an unseen predator, however, the viewer knows that this isn’t a Mike Leigh film about normal happy married people approaching the twilight years of life. We suspect that Bob is not quite as affable and friendly as he seems long before his hapless wife discovers a hidden tin in the garage. Now that she sees both sides of the coin, she must decide what she does with her newfound awareness…

LaPaglia seamlessly switches between his dual (and very convincing) personas and Joan Allen is perfectly cast in her role as a loving wife and mother faced with the terrible knowledge that she has been married to an imperfect stranger for 25 years. I really enjoyed both their performances and the film.

The Diagnosis:
Stephen King has stated that the character of Bob Anderson was inspired by Dennis Rader, the infamous “BTK Killer”, whose wife was married to him for nearly 30 years and yet claimed that she had no knowledge of his crimes. It is a novel premise – what would you do if you found out something truly terrible about the person you loved? – and makes for a compelling film.

  • Vanessa Cervantes