It’s a cold ass snowy Saturday night and while many are coming home from the bar, laying with loved ones under warm sheets, or simply trying to find something decent to watch on TV because they can’t sleep on this winter wonderland night in our city I figured I would write some stuff about a couple things I saw on the big screen this week. Don’t get me wrong, I would rather be laying in bed with a loved one or someone I remotely care about myself but I’m the videostore guy so fuck it, this is what I do. Got my hot tea, opinions with nerd thoughts, and a working computer infront of me so let’s do this.
So this past Thursday I closed the shop and went to the pub for my after work beer as always. I was thinking about seeing Doctor Sleep but knowing it was a 9pm screening and it would be 2 and a half hours long I was not sure. As always I let the beer make the final choice. I know it sounds bad but after a long day of dealing with amazing movie nerds at the videostore I’m kind of drained and the thought of going to see a movie surprisingly can seem like work in the late hours. So the beer was being sipped and as I stared away at the liquor bottles behind the bar I soon realized my beer said…””My friend, you love the Shining. I know you are scared to the follow up but it is something you must face. And face alone you will.”
Down goes the drink. I soon call a cab and jump in telling my friend and amazing bartender Joe at the pub “I’ll be back after the movie, watch my work stuff.” As the cab was driving into downtown Edmonton I was trying to get myself more and more excited. The history of The Shining is interesting from my own personal point of view. As a kid in the 80s the first time I got to see it was on late night TV which still had commercials but never censored back then. So seeing the crazed demise of Jack Torrance home alone at midnight on a tube TV at 11 years old was a mind fuck. And that god damn hotel was a trip.
Now as I sat down in the theater alone with about 20 other people around and prezel bites in hand (was not feeling the popcorn that night) I kept telling myself do not excited for this movie. We know the history. When it comes to the Shining there are three versions you can like, love, or hate…
Basically the book is a brilliant read that proved King was more than a one or two hit wonder. The Stanley Kubrick film is a god damn masterpiece even though Stephen King for the last 40 years still hates because it was not the book. And then there was the 90s mini series which even though is closer to the original novel is honestly quite forgettable. I’m not saying it’s bad but when people bring up The Shining in conversation we focus on Jack Nicholson, not the amazing Steven Webber from Wings. Fact.
So here we are. Back in 2013 King writes the sequel or follow up for The Shining called Doctor Sleep which follows the grown up and very troubled Danny Torrance. We knew sooner or later the movie rights would become a thing and it would be made. The question was who could possibly do the book, keep Stephen King happy, convince him that even though he personally did not like Kubrick’s film us,as filmgoers, know it’s a god damn classic and need that world back, adapt it to a script, and satisfy both fans of the book and the 1980 film. Again notice how I did not mention the 90s miniseries there? Not to be a jerk about it because many great people worked on the production back in the day but it was truly kind of forgettable. I’m sorry. Anyways, where was I? Oh Ya! Who could make this project work…Mike “Magicman” Flanagan.
Mike Flanagan has been killing it in the genre world as a director for the last decade. Many new and upcoming artists in the film industry seem to wanna get their start there but then move on and separate themselves from that style of filmmaking ASAP. But not Flanagan. Now I never met the man and if I did I was drunk in a pub at Fantasia Fest and have no recollection but I have a feeling this person adores, loves, and respects the horror genre and therefore wishes to make the best work he can to continue to bring crediblity to it. Again I could be wrong but tonight as I type I’m pretty sure the booze is telling me a clear tale of the man’s motives. Mr. Flanagan started with Oculus which was a brilliant indie horror film with mood and creepy vibes that in my memory had under 5 jump scares during the entire runtime. For a movie that came out in the last decade that’s insane. The man actually relied on something called “plot, characters, and atmosphere”. Crazy I know. He then also made a little gem called HUSH. Damn…the tension in that fine film was a good watch after a night at the bar. And last year he took on the daunting task of not only writing all 10 episodes but directing everyone as well for THE HAUNTING OF HILL HOUSE. That is freaking insane. Look, I love David Fincher’s MINDHUNTER but even he only directed a few episodes, not all of them. And yes, the climax of HILL HOUSE was “meh” which Flanagan has apparently agreed with and wishes he could have changed but it DOES NOT change the fact the man can direct creepy slow burning vibes focused on complex characters. And then let’s not forget this son of a bitch (said lovingly) also dipped into the world of Stephen King previously with GERALD’S GAME. Wow…what a damn uncomfortable not pulling any punches adaptation. But surprisingly I’m gonna bring up, in my opinion, his craziest move as a director that made me think…”this guy has some balls”.
No my friends, Mike Flanagan’s most daring move to show us he was a solid director was his choice in deciding to a prequel for one of the worst horror movies to come out in recent years, OUIJA. Now it was a fine movie if you were 10 years old and had never seen a horror movie before but for most of us it was hot garbage on fire. But yet he managed to give us a back story of a film that was tense, strong, and pretty damn entertaining. So ya, I think choosing him to tackle Stephen King’s Doctor Sleep was the right choice. Now on to the actual movie.
So I have never read the novel DOCTOR SLEEP which I was okay with because I find comparing the two might have taken the fun away of enjoying a movie on it’s own. So as I sat in the theater and the lights went down I had no idea what to expect. Right off the bat though I knew Ewan McGregor was a great choice for grown up down and beaten, alcoholic Danny Torrance. The opening 30 minutes to the casual viewer seems like not much happens but we get to know the character of Dan. Honestly as a guy that has atleast one drink a day to stay sane I was personally feeling bad knowing that Dan has a harsh and sad drinking problem. Oh ya…like father, like son. He can’t help but hit the pub, drink, and wake up next to random people the following morning. For me I have never had that last problem or I would not be typing this right now. Anyways, Dan is a wreck with his past still haunting him from the Overlook Hotel from all those years ago. Infact I’m guessing the booze, drugs, meaningless sex is his way of getting rid of that garbage and more importantly numbing his ability to feel “the Shining”.
But like with any addiction to escape the world of problems it never works. Especially when you have the gift of connecting with the dead. In Dan’s case he still talks to our old Shining pal Dick Hallorann (originally played by Scatman Crothers and now by Carl Lumbly who freaking kills it). Now Dick tells Dan there are others out there with the same power and what he did for Dan he now needs Dan to pay it forward and do good with his power, not piss and moan, and drink his life away. Damn, this movie made me look at my life more than I ever wanted to.
So Dan does what most would do in life. He goes completely off the grid. Finds a quiet town where no one knows him and restarts his life. He ends up taking a job helping the elderly in the last stages of their life. But with his power and getting sober he now starts using that gift to help people in their final moments on this planet find peace letting them know that death it is not the end and all will be okay. Honestly, these moments had me loving the movie pretty hard. Very beautiful and emotionally hitting as we all would kill to have that last moment relief going through our heads as we lay there taking our final breath. “It’s gonna be okay. Don’t be scared. It’s just one last sleep”. Man, heavy damn shit. Loved these moments.
Okay, but let’s be honest. This is Stephen King so for the story to keep moving there has to be some serious evil out there and god damn is there. Enter Rebecca Ferguson as ROSE THE HAT. I’m not saying young ladies might dress as her next Halloween as our next horror movie baddie but I would not be surprised. She is simply evil and horrible as all hell and that’s a huge compliment. I could not take my eyes off of her in this role. She is the leader of a group of “immortal” gypies that travel around trying to find people with the gift of “the shining” to hunt, kill, and steal their energy so they may continue to live forever. What makes it more fucked up is the ones with the greatest shining power tend to be children. Yes, murdering kids in mainstream cinema is back and does it ever pack a punch. I love how much she owns this role and will be expecting bigger and greater acting gigs for her in the future. Rebecca, I salute you from the videostore madame. Bravo!
Gonna be honest. When it comes to kid actors in horror movies they usually suck and take me out of the moment. With DOCTOR SLEEP I’m so grateful and happy to say this is not the case. Abra Stone is huge part of the story as she is gifted with the most powerful form of “the shining” and desperately wanted by ROSE THE HAT and her merry band of killers. Using her gift she contacts Danny and the two must deal with the evil group together. Playing Abra is a fairly newcomer actress named Kyliegh Curran and boy oh boy is she great. Keep in mind she is not just a supporting actress in this. She has to carry this film as much as OBI WAN McGregor for it to work and I’m happy to say, for me, she did. Young Kyliegh hit all the right emotions for me in her role and I expect more great roles in the future.
Now remember I’m not at critic but just guy with a videostore and a website who can not sleep because my nightmares make me see Llyod The Bartender walking into my shop with over due movies. So I’m not gonna give too many more plot details because just go see the dame movie BUT I do wanna talk about the last 40 minutes of the flick or the final act I suppose.
Holy hell did I nerd out all alone in the theater during the final run of the flick. We all knew the OVERLOOK HOTEL was gonna play a big role once again. But what I was not sure of till we got there was it gonna be a love letter to Kubrick’s film or a middle finger from King saying…”nah, I still hate your movie”. Well I was so happy to see and to say that it looks like Mike Flanagan pulled off the incredible by giving fans of King and Kubrick both their dues and lovely respect. The detail they put into the OVERLOOK when we get there is incredible. I have no idea if it was all green screen or built on set but comparing the 2019 film to the 1980 film is unreal. To see Danny sitting at the same bar as Jack gave me goosebumps. To have Danny standing on the same staircase as Wendy was awesome. Again, there is good fan service and bad fan service and this was good.
Look, I’m typing and feeling my bed wanting me to come see it fast because I have a videotore to open in a few hours like hours so I’m just gonna say the following my friends…
King and Flanagan have done a great job continuing the legacy of THE SHINING. Even if King hates the 1980 film (get over it man, it’s a brilliant) they pulled off a great companion piece to his original story and I highly recommend you go see it. Yes, it’s 2.5 hours long but IT CHAPTER was 3 hours and it was weak sauce compared to this big time. What IT was lacking in direction and serious sense of tone DOCTOR SLEEP is completely on point and deserves to make more money than CHAPTER 2 of IT ever should. It won’t I’m guessing but I can promise you this…you will be more happy with this film after it ends.
Just do yourself one favour. DO NOT compare The Shining to Doctor Sleep because the 1980 film has had almost 40 years to become part of our pop culture world. I’m not saying Doctor Sleep will one day be as beloved as Kubrick’s film but I’m just stating that as an unexpected sequel it’s a solid film with solid acting, atmosphere, creepiness, drama, cinematography, and overall payoff that you should be wanting to add this title to your collection the minute you can. Never forget of the horrors and haunting of the OVERLOOK HOTEL. And from a personal point of view after I left the film I ended up walking back home in the middle of the nght in the cold rain for 45 minutes and that still did not ruin my thoughts of my choice to let a beer tell me to go see a movie alone on that cold ass Thursday night.
REDRUM indeed. Doctor Sleep is a winner. And like the Kubrick film it’s a slow burner filled with great characters, troubled issues, dealing with the past, and even though today’s modern audience might bitch that it’s too long, not scary, no jump scares, blah, blah, blah, I truly think as a film it’s a damn great visit and atleast does not have our main baddie turn into a melted pie plate after 3 hours with your ass simply getting sore in a theater as a climax. As always thanks for reading and please tell me your thoughts on this flick next time you come say hi at the video store. Much luv.