Ray Bradbury is arguably America's greatest living short fiction writer. Since the Forties, he has created fantastic tales of science fiction, fantasy and horror that never seemed to stray too far from our familiar lives. He was particularly adept at capturing the innocence and vibrancy of youth, and that is readily apparent in his novel-turned-screenplay Something Wicked This Way Comes.
Two young boys are drawn to a mysterious traveling carnival that has arrived in their town. Mr. Dark (Jonathan Pryce) is the ringleader, and promises the boys and others that he can make their childhood fantasies come true...for a price.
Disney would never make a movie like this now. It's dark, scary, and very well done. Bradbury adapted his own work for the screen, a surprisingly rare occurrence in filmmaking and a credit to the movie. There are some great performances from the young actors, as well as screen legends Pryce and Jason Robards.
Unfortunately, very few Bradbury adaptations have proved effective. This is by far the standout work. All his odd characters and visual cues are on full display here; the theme of the novel is the basic struggle between good and evil, and director Jack Clayton captures that without being too overbearing. Like Monster Squad and Gremlins, this is a film that has strong ties to childhood and the wonder we had for the world around us. It's great at any age.