Growing up, the Disney movie “Something Wicked This Way Comes” was one of my favorites. It scared the heck out of me every time I watched it and I still find it very enjoyable to this day. It is for this reason I put off reading the novel it is based on for so long. Books, with very little exception, are always better than the movies and I did not want the book to ruin such a wonderful movie.
I am pleased to report that was not the case. Disney remained very faithful to Ray Bradbury’s novel and the parts that are different — which I’ll go over in a moment — are true to the spirit of the book and Bradbury’s intentions. Both are wonderful and utterly beautiful for their own reasons.
Both follow the story of two young boys in the early 20th century who are best friends and live next door to each other. They are as different as night and day. Will Halloway is fair-haired, thoughtful and quiet while Jim Nightshade is dark, loud and full of adventure and mischief. Both have issues with their father: Will’s is very old and has trouble relating to his young son while Jim’s is absent. Their lives are turned upside down when a carnival arrives in town and strange, scary things begin happening to the townspeople because of it.
Disney added several characters to the film that do not exist in the book — such as the former football star who is an amputee — and beefed up the roles of others. While much of the evil is more subtle in the novel, the Disney movie takes a more cause-and-effect approach to show the malicious intent of Dark and his carnival. The lightning rod salesman, Tom Fury, plays a pivotal role in the plot of the movie that is absent in the book, but the story makes sense either way. It’s difficult to explain without giving it away and I despise spoilers.
The book, on the other hand, delves into the feelings and thoughts of the characters more, especially Will’s father, Charles Halloway (played brilliantly by Jason Robards in the film). While the film touches upon father/son relationships and they remain a very important aspect of the plot, I feel the bulk of the film focuses on the battle between good and evil while the book leans more towards stuff like time, mortality and the fears of fatherhood.
The film is delicious, gothic- flavored candy while the book reads like sweet poetry in its descriptions, with a little shiver down the spine. I love them both for different reasons and think both deserve five stars.