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It was a dark and stormy night.

Something Wicked

Plot Overview

The title is from the line, Something wicked this way comes, written originally by William Shakespeare and used here as Aristotle (in an inter­­title) puts it: “Fear is pain arising from anticipation of evil.” “Wicked” “inspired by true events” opens in medias res with aerial shots of a speeding train followed by its sudden emergence from a bend in a dark tunnel, cut to the scene of a train-car collision (“9-1-1.” ¶“Help. … There's been an accident. … Please come.”) We are then back­tracked “One hour earlier” to a family dinner where a father toasts his high-school–graduated, college-accepted daughter Christine (Shantel VanSanten.) Her boy­friend James (John Robinson) asks for her folks' “blessing to start our family together.”

The production summary of “Wicked” included mention of “gruesome secrets from their past.” Some are more easily discerned than others. The parents in with­holding their blessing so soon mentioned their own problems starting a family without the man having a good education. Makes sense: The girl should complete her college first. The boy working in a mill feels he might get left behind. Again, makes sense. James gets to be the “designated driver” that night, suggesting Christine's family might have drug and alcohol problems. Duh!

Okay, the question I have is: after we see all that (steam powered) machinery James works with at the mill, how he could be so inept as to stall the car on the train tracks? He rides a motor­cycle, for crying out loud. Cylists more than any­one are aware of their sur­roun­dings on the road.

final resting placeLet's do a little math. The dates on the parents' tomb­stone One year later read: “Doug 1956–2009, Ellen 1957–2009.” Christine had just been graduated from high school the night they died. She would have been 18 in 2009, so she'd have been born in 1991. Her brother Bill (James Patrick Stuart), we learn, was in the army when she was born. Say he was 18, in 1991. That means he was born in 1973. His mom was born in 1957. She would have been 16 when she had Bill, and Christine's dad 17. The movie doesn't tell us why they got married before his dad completed his education, but a mathe­matical possibility does suggest itself.

Christine confides, “My family was everything to me. I made a promise to my mom, and me too: I wouldn't be intimate with a guy until I was married.” Her confidante tells her that must be hard. We might see why her mom made her promise, so she wouldn't repeat the same mistake. Good motivation, though poor role model. Further­more, her brother Bill is given to philandering, and he seems to have married Susan (Brittany Murphy) under forced circumstances (they have taken Christine in now, too) resulting in a stressful marriage à la “The Tempest” by William Shakespeare, Act Four, Scene one:

If thou dost break her virgin-knot before
All sanctimonious ceremonies may
With full and holy rite be minist'red,
No sweet aspersions may the heaven let fall
To make this contract grow; but barren hate.

Christine and James are normal healthy adults planning a wedding. She makes him stop before they get “intimate.” Where does she find the strength? She's under the stress of a new (college) career, new home, loss of parents within a year, and add to that practicing abstinence with her fiancé.

Furthermore, she's being stalked by a mysterious hooded character, and calling the police—her brother's a state cop—only seems to add to the tension. She thinks it might be her dead mother trying to warn her off James, because the stalker leaves mystery graffiti: “messages that are from Shakes­peare's tragedies of evil deeds and doomed love.” Her mother was into Shakes­peare. Her sister-in-law Dr. Susan Webb is a shrink trying to help crazies, and we wonder whether she's neglecting her own family who “Ever since the accident [has] been displaying signs of post traumatic stress.”

Meanwhile, the camera slinks around to some spooky music until something wicked suddenly emerges just like the train from the tunnel, its tagged cars evoking the newest graffito.


Christine is attending Oregon University—the sets are noticeably shot at the University of Oregon (UO) in Eugene. College can be stressful, it's true, but usually not like this. I live in Eugene, have taken UO classes, and am currently enrolled in a movie class here. One might think that familiarity with the surroundings might make this film less fright­ening, but I find the opposite is the case.

For example, the authorities come and pull the mill owner's son Brian Ander­son from class to deliver him some bad news … right as the teacher is explaining what Macbeth symbolizes. Okay, given that Christine is being stalked by some­one who knows Shakes­peare, that makes us wonder, but then a lot of people know Shakespeare. Brian is taken out to a long hall­way that I recognize as being next to the gymnasium in the hall where the Oregon Ballroom Dance Club holds weekly dances. I helped the club get started, because I felt there should be a safer alternative for boys and girls to interact on a weekend night than the bar scene. Does this familiar setting increase my sense of security? Not when out the window, across the field, I know is the Pioneer Cemetery where conveniently Christine Webb's parents are buried.

Take this guy Brian. Apart from his undergoing psychiatric counseling, we sense that there is just some­thing wrong with the guy. It's classic, (Wisdom of Sirach 19:30) “A man's attire, and excessive laughter, and gait, shew what he is.” He doesn't wear a hard hat at the mill—nobody does, but the owner's son should set an example—, he has an incipient smirk when he's delivered bad news, and he tail­gates a motor­cycle, in his truck. Do we really need a shrink to tell us some­thing's off?

Now take James's and Christine's honeymoon in a secluded cabin. They drive to it up the McKenzie River, but they end up in Cottage Grove which is up the Coast Fork of the Willamette River. Locals will know that some­how the rivers got crossed, but every­one else will also see a river of sorrow where a river of joy shoulda been, i.e. “With mirth in funeral, and with dirge in marriage”—Hamlet, Act One, Scene two.

Pioneer Father Actress Brittany Murphy really enjoyed her time filming in Eugene for the friendli­ness of its people. Here's a picture of one of them, Doug a laid-back campus preacher. Behind him off to the right is a statue of the Pioneer Father, although he's hard to make out. He's looking across the street at a statue of the Pioneer Mother. In “Wicked” Christine suspects her dead mother is trying to intervene in her life, and we catch glimpses of a mystery woman some­times, off to the side. We also catch a glimpse of the Pioneer Mother off to the left in one scene, hard to make out, but the locals will pick up on it, and she is, after all, a dead pioneer woman.

Yes, we Eugenians like to honor our pioneer heritage. With the movie mentioning that: “One Hundred years ago people thought the mentally ill were possessed by spirits of the departed,” we might even have expected to see a shot of Centennial Bv.—there are other street signs shown—as it was named Centennial during Oregon's Centennial Celebration to honor the pioneers. But, no, they couldn't film Centennial Bv. in 2009, because the street had been renamed by then, even though Eugenians did not want to rename it. If you under­stand this bit of history, you'll under­stand some­thing more of this movie.

Campuses have been the focal points of protests from time to time, as well in other parts of the country, especially back in the 1960s when an elegant speaker for civil rights, Martin Luther King Jr. (MLK) was tragically slain by some­one who evidently disa­greed with him. That's really not the way to win arguments: (Sirach 20:4) “As is the lust of an eunuch to deflower a virgin; so is he that executeth judgment with violence.” A eunuch is a man who has been castrated. Trying to win an argument (“execute judgment”) by killing one's opponent is like a eunuch trying to deflower a virgin, the point is just not going to come across.

Anyway, the NAACP in Portland noticed that Eugene unlike many cities had not honored MLK by naming a street after him, so they came down here, found Centennial Bv. a major thorough­fare with­out many businesses on it to incon­ven­ience, and submitted a proposal to change its name to Martin Luther King Jr. Bv. The City Council sought public input. The public was largely against it in large part due to the existing pioneer connection. The council voted to delay renaming any street until they got public input with more suggestions on other streets that could be renamed.

Our "Diversity Expert," a colored woman from California, threw a tantrum at the council meeting, saying, “God will judge you!” The council reversed itself, and the street got renamed, but it was under duress, so we Eugenians don't get credit for it (We'd have got more credit had they followed my planned suggestion to change the name of MAIN Alley to MArtIN Alley.) The “Eugene Weekly” our alternative rag—you can see one of its red distribution boxes in the movie—printed an article “It's a Crying Shame” listing those of us who submitted opposing input to the MLK name. I was at the top of their list.

Since the release of “Something Wicked” was delayed until after the release of “Noah,” we have an opportunity to actually look at God's judgment (that one person thinks is coming to Eugene.) After the Flood, (Gen. 9:1) “God blessed Noah and his sons, and said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth.” The pioneers extending civilization out into the Pacific North­west was just an extension of following that command. I don't think God is going to punish us for honoring those who obey Him.

Dr. Ide writes, “many of the early records about Noah and his kin, such as The Generations of Noah, and the Book of the Generations of Adam … incor­por­ated accounts of infanti­cide, parenti­cide, and fratri­cide” (11). Some of that wickedness survived the Flood and might even be seen in this movie. God might judge us if we allowed it, more than over some stupid street name. God did pass on through Noah, (Gen. 9:6) “Whoso sheddeth man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man.” In those days before police and courts and judges, it was family members who avenged blood. Our offended council member might have considered, (Sirach 20:1) “There is a reproof that is not comely: again, some man holdeth his tongue, and he is wise.” For that matter Christine's parents might have done better had they postponed their remon­strances until after they were sober.

At the end of the movie “Noah,” his son Ham—Ham's descendants settled Africa—self-segregated him­self away from the others. If you notice a lack of racial diversity on the campus of Oregon University in this movie, it's because African-Americans didn't answer the call for extras, they self-segregated them­selves. What about that Diversity Expert whose job it would have been to see to multiple racial repre­sentation in this movie made in Eugene? She self-segregated her­self back to California in a huff long ago.

Production Values

“Something Wicked” (2014) was directed by Darin Scott. Its screenplay was written by Joe Colleran based on a story by Joseph Mungra. It stars Shantel VanSanten, John Robinson, James Patrick Stuart, and Brittany Murphy. The acting was okay, but nothing special, except for Brittany Murphy who really knew how to act and made the others look dim by comparison.

Fortunately, the film was not overly dependant on acting alone but was carried by: first rate pacing, editing, sets, makeup, and music. The camera sort of slinks around, and the music builds the suspense so the audience knows some­thing wicked is about to occur, but just when they let down their guard it jumps out at them.

The makeup faked me out. The girl being brought into the hospital after being hit by a train looked more like a pretty girl with grease­paint dabbed on her cheeks than someone who'd been in a wreck. But it's like the woman who sees a movie with her young son and tells him, ‘No, Johnny, it's just ketchup.’ She's done her job, and goes back to watching the film. Mean­while Johnny looks to see ketchup but all he sees is blood. The rest of the violent scenes portrayed blood and gore pretty realistically. I think that first instance might have been just to get us to let down our guard after having been jaded by too many slasher movies.

This movie's got the thriller part down so good I think other movie makers could take some lessons from it. After I saw Alfred Hitchcock's “The Birds” I found myself looking over my shoulder when I walked where I knew crows were guarding their nests. Now I might find myself treading across campus more care­fully. But that's my own personal issue. I just needed some work to compare this movie to, and if I compared it to genius, well, I think it's deserved.

When I described “Something Wicked” and “Noah” to my friend Doug, he said he might go see “Noah” but not “Some­thing Wicked,” because he doesn't like too much blood and gore. That's about the size of it: the end of the world comes, we can weather that, but going to college, that's really scary.

Review Conclusion w/ Consumer Recommendation

I rate “Something Wicked” a 6 out of 10 for a romance movie; the romance was there but just not memorable. More experienced movie makers would have succeeded with a more polished work. I rate it 10 out of 10 for an action/adventure/thriller, because they just don't come any better than this. Averaged, that would give it an 8 (if one can even reduce movies to a single number.) But then I have to give it a bonus point for educational value (in math, history, literature, geography, philosophy & psychology.) And although it won't in any way make up for the loss of actress Brittany Murphy shortly after the movie was made, the focused attention deserves another bonus point, so this one gets a 10 out of 10.

I remember when the Harry Potter movie hit town, the TV crew came by to inter­view a big screen consumer and walked up to me with their camera and mike. I had to tell them, sorry, I was there to see “Shallow Hal.” I would have liked to give them an inter­view, but I was too shallow for their medium.

When I walked out of the premiere of “Something Wicked,” I was happy to oblige the TV crew waiting there, with an inter­view. This one didn't just sail over my head. You may have more important movies on your itinerary, but if you give this one a shot, I doubt you'll be disappointed.

Movie Ratings

Action factor: Edge of your seat action-packed fun.

Suitability For Children: Not Suitable for Children of Any Age.

Special effects: Absolutely amazing special effects.

Video Occasion: Fit For a Friday Evening.

Overall product rating: Five stars out of five.

Suspense: Don't watch this movie alone

Works Cited

Scripture quoted from the King James Version. Pub. 1611, rev. 1769. Software.

Apocryphal scripture taken from The Septuagint with Apoc­rypha: Greek and English. U.S.A.: Hendrick­son Pub. Originally published by Samuel Bagster & Sons, Ltd., London, 1851. Print, WEB.

Ide, Arthur Frederick. Noah & the Ark: The Influence of Sex, Homo­phobia and Hetero­sexism in the Flood Story and its Writing. Las Colinas: Monument Press, 1992. Print.

Complete Works of William Shakespeare. Glasgow: HarperCollins, 1994. Print.