Film Review: Doctor Sleep (Dir. by Mike Flanagan)


 

If I asked you about Stephen King’s The Shining, would the book or the film come to mind?

DoctorSleepPosterWhen it comes to adapting Stephen King’s stories to film, it’s not an easy feat. King himself had a problem turning his own short story “Trucks” into something good when he directed Maximum Overdrive. For every great film like Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining, or It-Chapter One, we occasionally get a misstep like The Dark Tower or It-Chapter Two.  As King can sometimes get wordy in his books, I’ve felt the best adaptations were the ones where the director’s own vision came into play. Kubrick made a number or changes to King’s story, including the Grady twins and the hedge maze, which were never in the novel. The film is so widely recognized that most people recall events in the movie, rather than the book. That’s the effect Kubrick had. 

With Doctor Sleep, Mike Flanagan once again proves he’s a fantastic fit for King. The film moves at a great pace, with great performances by Rebecca Ferguson and newcomer Kyliegh Curran. In an age where audiences are typically quiet, the applause that occurred in scenes during last night’s preview screening were great to hear. The film manages to pay homage to Kubrick’s The Shining and King’s Novel of Doctor Sleep while still completely showcasing Flanagan’s vision. Of course, we already knew this from Flanagan taking on King’s own Gerald’s Game and Netflix’s The Haunting of Hill House.  One might even argue that for this film, we may in time recall Flanagan’s tale more clearly than King’s.

Doctor Sleep takes place after the events of The Shining, with Dan Torrance (Ewan McGregor) suffering from the same demons that plagued his father, Jack. Although the keeps to himself, he drinks too much, gets into brawls, and is unable to hold down decent work. Dan is also haunted by the Overlook Hotel, and the power that drew the souls to him known as The Shining. The Shining (or just the Shine) is a coveted power in King’s lore. When a group of nomads that feed on the Shine (in a way that’s reminiscent of Mick Garris’ Sleepwalkers) discover a girl with the same ability, Dan is brought out of hiding. 

Fans of the original Kubrick film will see there’s a lot of love here. You’ll be able to count some of the references to The Shining, from objects in a room to different locales. For casting, Flanagan uses a mixture of old favorites and new faces. You’ll recognize some of them right from the start, such as Bruce Greenwood and Violet McGraw. Others, like Jacob Tremblay (The Predator) are welcome additions. Rather than relying on footage from the original Shining, Flanagan recreates certain elements with new cast members, which I felt worked extremely well here. I’m not sure how others will take it.

Ewan McGregor is good in the role of Dan Torrance, which feels more like his Mark Renton character from Trainspotting than anything else to me.  This isn’t a bad thing, but it works. The film truly belongs to both Rebecca Ferguson (Mission Impossible: Fallout) and Kyliegh Curran. Ferguson’s Rose the Hat is a wicked villain, and she carries the role with a sinister, yet stylish flair. Ferguson has some of the best scenes in the film, particularly when paired with Zahn McClarnon (Midnight, Texas and Westworld), who plays Crow Daddy. Kyliegh Curran chews up the scenes she’s in, easily handling screen time with McGregor and Ferguson like a pro. Rounding out the cast are Cliff Curtis (Sunshine), Carl Lumbly (Mantis) and Emily Alyn Lind (The Babysitter). 

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Dan Torrance (Ewan McGregor) can’t run from his past in Mike Flanagan’s Doctor Sleep.

As for the fear factor, there is some terror in the hunt for Abra and the way that the group interact. Doctor Sleep doesn’t have much in the way of jump scares, but makes up for it with some tense moments. I didn’t feel as scared as I did with It-Chapter One, but I cared enough about the characters to worry about how the story was going to turn out. That might be a turn off for those expecting to watch the movie from between their fingers or run out of the theatre screaming. If you enjoyed Flanagan’s other works, such as Hush or Oculus, you’ll be fine.

Speaking of Hush, Doctor Sleep lacks a Kate Siegel cameo. Flanagan is Siegel’s partner in crime (and husband). Together, they’ve been in almost every film they’d done. I’ve gotten used to going “Oh, there’s Kate!”, while watching his films. It’s not an issue at all, but it would’ve been cool to see her.

The camera work for Doctor Sleep is very even, though there are a few special effects scenes that really stand out and picked up some applause (or gasps) once they were over. The one main drawback I had with the film was that it was a little difficult to keep up with all of the locations and time periods early on. Even though everything’s clearly labeled, it took me a moment to recognize just where and when things were occurring. Not a terrible thing, though.

Overall, Doctor Sleep is an easy film to recommend. It has some great performances, and manages to be a great follow up to The Shining, while showing a lot of love for the source material.

Doctor Sleep hits cinemas on Friday, November 8th, and I’ll make a return visit.

 

 

 

Horror Film Review: Cujo (dir by Lewis Teague)


Cujo is a such a depressing movie that I can barely stand to watch it.

Cujo, of course, is the 1983 film adaptation of the book by Stephen King.  The book is about a dog that not only gets bit by a rabid bat but also gets possessed by the spirit of Frank Dodd, the serial killer who played a major role in The Dead Zone.  The film abandons the subplot about Frank Dodd and, instead, it just deals with a rabid dog that kills a lot of people and who eventually traps Donna Trentonn (Dee Wallace) and her young son, Tad (Danny Pintauro), is a car for several days.

I have to admit that I’m really not the sort of person who should be watching a film like Cujo in the first place.  When I was growing up, I was terrified of dogs.  According to my family, I was bitten by one when I was just three years old, not that I have any memory of that actually happening.  So, up until I was 18, I couldn’t handle being around them.  Whenever I would walk home from school, I would run across the street if I heard a dog barking at me from behind a fence.  If I was out with my family and I saw a dog approaching, I would hide behind the nearest big person.

I did have one good experience with a big dog when I was about ten years old.  My family was up at the lake and this big, black dog started following us around and it was so friendly that I couldn’t help but relax around it.  My mom was like, “See, Lisa Marie, not all dogs are bad.”  We went to get lunch, leaving the dog behind.  When we returned, the dog was there.  He was excited to see my mom.  He was excited to my aunt.  He was excited to see my sisters.  Then, he took one look at me and started to growl.  I was frozen in fear, just standing there as the dog slowly stood up.  My mom immediately stood in front of me, trying to block the dog’s view while I ran back to car.  Of course, that didn’t work.  The dog started barking and then took off running after me.  His owners then showed up and grabbed the dog just as it was about to lunge at me and then they didn’t even bother to apologize!  Instead, they told some story about how some other girl had thrown a rock at the dog and, as a result, the dog always growled at “little girls.”  They acted like it was no big deal.  (My aunt later told me that she had to grab my mom’s hand to keep her from slapping the dog’s owner when they tried to blame me for what happened.)  For months afterwards, I had nightmares about that dog.

Fortunately, enough time has passed that I’m no longer petrified in fear of dogs though they still make pretty damn nervous.  That said, Cujo, with its growling and killer dog, is exactly the type of film that’s designed to prey on my deepest fears.  And yes, the movie does scare me but I have to admit that I don’t really care much about the people who get killed by Cujo.  Instead …. I feel bad for Cujo.  Yes, even though Cujo scares me to death and I’m not a dog person in general, this movie depresses me specifically because of what happens to the dog.

When we first see him, Cujo is happily chasing a rabbit.  When he gets bitten by a rabid bat, he whimpers a little and I have to say that it breaks my heart to hear it.  I mean, Cujo is just such a cute dog!  And, to be honest, he seems like the type of big dog who maybe could have convinced me that not all dogs are bad.  (There’s a part of me that really wishes that I could relax and love dogs as much as everyone else does.)  But then he gets bitten by that bat and poor Cujo!  Rabies is a terrible disease.

Cujo is a good, straight-forward horror film, one that gets the job done without all of the padding and blather that you sometimes have to deal with when it comes to Stephen King film adaptations.   (Thankfully, nobody casually talks about Shawshank Prison or taking a trip to Derry or any of that other nonsense that seems to come up in most King films.)  Dee Wallace gives a good performance as Donna Trenton, who is trapped in the car and desperate to save her child.  King has said that he felt Wallace deserved an Oscar nomination for her performance and he’s probably right

But my God, I just cannot watch this movie without crying afterwards.  I just feel so bad for that dog.

6 Trailers For Halloween


Happy Halloween!

Well, the big day is finally here and that means that it’s time for a special Halloween edition of Lisa Marie’s Favorite Grindhouse Trailers!  Below you’ll find the trailers for some of my favorite horror films!  Let’s take a look!

  1. Suspiria (1977)

That I picked this trailer to start off this special edition should come as a surprise to no one.  While I don’t think the trailer really does the film justice, Suspiria is still one of my favorite movies of all time.  Don’t talk to me about the remake and we’ll get along just fine.

2. Zombi 2 (1979)

Also known as Zombie Flesh Eaters!  This is the Lucio Fulci-directed classic that launched the Italian zombie boom!

3. The Beyond (1981)

And, as long as we’re talking about Fulci, there’s no way that I could possibly leave The Beyond‘s trailer out of this post.

4. Martin (1978)

Some people, undoubtedly, will say, “Martin but no Night of the Living Dead?”  Well, we’ll be featuring Night of the Living Dead later today.  Martin is one of George Romero’s best films and it’s still criminally unknown.  Check out the trailer but definitely be sure to track down the film as well.

5. Halloween (1978)

Naturally.

6. The Shining (1980)

Stephen King might not like it but Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining remains one of the best horror films ever made.  It’s one of the few films that continues to scare me after multiple viewings.  (It’s those two little girls in the hallway.  They freak me out every time!)

Happy Halloween!

The Mangler, Story Review by Case Wright


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Sometimes you just can’t win! You need to make a few bucks and you take a job at a cleaners, but the laundry press is possessed by a demon and starts killing everyone and the Christmas party is BYOB. This is the premise of The Mangler.  This laundry press gets exposed to a bunch of different bloods – animal and virgin human, which summons a demon to possess the laundry press. The laundry machine goes a killing spree, but my collars have never looked crisper!  I always liked this story because it’s so awesomely bad. It’s really corny and silly, but unintentionally so.  It would be great as a Rifftrax.

As I was reading, I couldn’t help thinking, Self, it really is EASY to summon demons in Maine.  It makes you wonder why anyone visits or lives there?  Sure, the fall foliage is nice, but you’re always knee deep in clowns, werewolves, vampires, large rats, ghosts, creepy college students, aliens, more ghosts, the devil (kinda), cultists, creepy rednecks, slime beasts, and pederasts.  I’ve been to A LOT of Maine and I will attest that the above villains are truly a nuisance and they are all close talkers!

The Mangler is a fun read because it turns into a quick-paced detective story.  The cops Hunton and Jackson become ghost busters and try to get the demon out of the machine. I know it’s a short story, but they really embrace the whole – it’s a demon laundry machine really fast.  There’s no time where people are like, What? This is stupid! Really stupid!  It starts getting really goofy when the machine chases its victims down a gnaws them to death.

At the end, I know it’s not supposed to be a comedy, but it chases the cops around and eats one of them.  It’s just kinda silly.  Of course, this story is really needed as unintentional comic relief because some of the other stories are just so depressing in Night Shift like “The Last Rung on the Ladder” ….ughhh- best cure for a happy thought.  Really, if you think you’re a bad sibling, read “The Last Rung on the Ladder” and you’ll feel waaaaay better about yourself.

The Mangler is not his best story- it’s actually really dumb, but it reads like a fun bad movie.  It’s the Sharknado 1 of Stephen King if not ALL literature. In short, it IS entertaining. You have a big iron up to no good and two incompetent policemen trying to save the day.  It needs a SYFY run desperately! Happy Horrorthon!

“I Am The Doorway”, Story Review by Case Wright


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How free are we?  “I am the doorway” by Stephen King is an early work. It was published in 1971, when he was just 24. For context, we’d just gotten back from the moon 2 years prior.  The stories in Night Shift were gathered from this time period.  “I am the doorway” was published by Cavalier (see above).  I always thought that was odd not that Stephen King was getting published, but Cavalier?  Cavalier was a “Men’s” magazine.  I always thought that was strange and must be unique to the 1960s and early 1970s where people paired their Men’s magazines with literature and poetry.  Shel Silverstein wrote poetry for Playboy.  I guess that’s where The Sidewalk really ended?

The stories in Night Shift, and “I am the doorway” revolve around free will and how free we actually are by outside influence.   The occult is present of course, but that’s tangential.  The real meat of Stephen’s stories is always about the people living with the monsters.  In these early stories, it’s the people who are the monsters.  Either people are pulling their strings, life is pulling their strings, or monsters.  This was his life.  He was newly married, he had kids on the way, and he was working jobs from substitute teaching to laundry to meet the bills.  Very few of us are free and if you think you are one of the Select, stop paying your credit card or student loan for a couple of cycles and get back to me.

The will once given up can’t be retrieved, you’re trapped like Richard in Quitters Inc..  Blood called to blood in Jerusalem’s Lot from generations forward, poking free will right in the eye. In Salem’s Lot, Ben Mears described his oddly fortuitous meeting of Susan Norton – Ben Mears’ love interest- as if the “universe were making some sort of cosmic bread.” When the will is taken away, it can be retrieved with a cost like in Jerusalem’s Lot or in this story “I am the Doorway”. The main point is that if we give into the darkness like the teenagers did in Night Surf, we are gone for good.  The will itself is like origami beautiful, fragile, and unique to the individual.  The will is cajoled, stolen, sold, and bought back.  The will for King appears to be akin to the soul.  Perhaps that’s why giving up one’s will to a higher power is so challenging and difficult to do?

“I am the doorway” is told as a first person narrative by Arthur who was an astronaut to Venus.  He gets exposed to alien cooties and starts to morph…grossly.  He develops eyes on his hands, which allows the aliens from Venus to see into our world.  Although he is disabled, when he falls asleep, the Venusians hijack his body and make him kill with lightning bolt powers.  The first victim is a child.  He understands that the Venutians will invade using him as a portal somehow.  Maybe he could try Atkins and get really small? To stop the invasion, he tries to burn the eyes off of his hands with Kerosene, but 7 years later, eyes open on his chest or as Stephen King would write “Sometimes They Come Back”.

Arthur can get his will back and stop the murders and the invasion, but the price will be the highest he can pay.  Like Arthur, we have these external forces in our lives.  Whether we are really free or not, I don’t really think so.  Some will is great to be abdicated.  You give some freedom for the best moments in your life: marriage and children.  Both take up time and limit your freedom (no spur of the moment Vegas Trips and getting out the door can be interminable), but they complete a part of yourself that was missing and desperately needed to be found and they kinda look you and act like you, or the UPS man. Maybe giving up some of our will is the only way we can grow? Perhaps the doorway for us is to wisdom.

Quitters Inc, Story Review, by Case Wright


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Smoking is a nasty habit.  I did smoke for 10 years and quit.  I didn’t do it any other way than to stop altogether.  To this day, when I smell one, I want one- except for Dorals because they’re gross.  Don’t let anyone tell you different; it is an addiction.  Richard Morrison, the protagonist, is a advertising man who shared my addiction.  Richard is in nadir of his life.  His son is severely mentally disabled and lives at an inpatient school, his wife nags him constantly, his overweight, and Rick smokes.

He smokes until he meets Jimmy McCann who tells him about Quitters Inc.  It’s strictly word of mouth and free.  Richard attends Quitters Inc.  Once you commit, you can’t leave.  It’s free because the founder, a mobster, bequeathed his fortune to get people to stop smoking the way the mob does they threaten you, your family, harm you, harm your family, or all or some of the above.

Richard learns that he will be under surveillance and if he smokes they will beat his wife. If he smokes again, they will beat his son and do escalating harm to his family and himself.  They even go beyond smoking and threaten to cut off his wife’s finger if he doesn’t lose weight.  Quitters Inc. runs life choices.

This is one of Stephen King’s early works and it’s written very tight. There’s no extra words or passages.  It reads like it went through many edits to purposefully ratchet up the tension.  You feel for Richard because he’s trying to succeed, but like all of us, he comes close to failure.  Every time Richard fails, you feel it in the pit of your stomach because you know the retribution is coming for his family.

The odd part of the story is that his life improves when Quitter’s Inc takes over.  You wonder if maybe free will is not for everyone.  In Richard’s case, free will destroyed his health and free will got him to accept unknown entity into his life that harms his family.  Freedom isn’t free, but giving up free will isn’t free either.

Jerusalem’s Lot, Book Review, By Case Wright


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Jerusalem’s Lot is a short story by Stephen King that is a prequel to Salem’s Lot. Salem Lot was reviewed by Lisa! Lisa’s Salem Lot Review is Right Here! REALLY!  I want to make another thing clear: I didn’t read the story this time. I listened to the Audiobook … again. The performance is by John Glover and it’s really like a radio show.  John brings it! It’s a one-man-show with different voices and gravitas.  John Glover is truly a national treasure!!!

The story takes place in Jerusalem’s Lot, Maine in 1850 and is told as a series of journal entries by Charles Boone and few by Boone’s manservant/pal Calvin McCann.  Boone inherits his ancestral home in Chapelwaite, Maine just two miles from the eponymous Jerusalem’s Lot. After he moves in, he starts to hear what he believes are large rats crawling in the walls. It turns out they’re not rats, but ghosts of the damned!  The longer that Boone is in the house, the stronger the ghosts become.  This is common in Stephen King’s early works.  In “The Shining”, Danny Torrence’s ESP abilities acted as a battery that charged up the ghosts of the Overlook Hotel so that they could interface with our reality.  It was weird that the ghosts wanted to kill Danny; they surmised that his death would give them permanent entry into our world.  This is kinda silly because wouldn’t that make him a Dead Battery.

As Charles stays, the Ghosts leave him and Calvin maps and notes guiding them to the nearby town of Jerusalem’s Lot.  It is revealed that Jerusalem’s Lot was a town founded by Charles’ distant ancestor John Boone who became a devil worshiping sex pervert.  I used to visit Maine a lot in my younger days and sure there isn’t always a lot to do, but who knew that these Maine residents were only a missed Red Sox game away from creating an inbred demonic sex cult?!  Sex cults are in now check out Lisa’s NXIVM Lifetime movie  HERE!

John’s demonic sex cult got sought to manifest a gigantic intergalactic demon worm to the Jerusalem Lot Chapel by reading from an evil book called “Mysteries of the Worm” by Nicolas Sparks and then have red punch and bundt cake. They were apparently successful because the town is deserted. Boone discovers that Boone’s descendants act as a doorway for the inbred demonic sex cult to return because blood calls to blood! Bwhahaha.  This is idea of evil deeds being inherited. This is the entire plot of Bag of Bones.

Charles sets out to destroy the book because he doesn’t want the world to end or have a “Notebook” sequel in circulation.  Does Boone save the day? Buy the audiobook!

Night Shift as a whole is a brilliant collection of short stories from a time when Stephen King had just been able to support himself and his family with his writing.  His stories are leaner and heavily edited, making them a lot of fun to read because there’s no extraneous elements.  I will likely review many more short stories from this book and this period because they are some of his best work.  Happy Horrorthon!