Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: DOCTOR SLEEP

DOCTOR SLEEP joins the rare list of Stephen King adaptations, such as The Shawshank Redemption, The Mist, 1408, and The Green Mile as films that are far far far far far superior to their respective novels. Let me give you a little shocking revelation from my own mind of thinking: Like Stephen King, I am not a huge fan of Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining. And that was before I even read the book, which of itself, is a masterpiece. I will get to the problems of Kubrick’s film in a minute, but needless to say, Doctor Sleep makes it a better film. To support King’s recent quote, “It redeems Kubrick’s film.” While some may be put off by the films run time, two and a half hours, what writer/director Mike Flanagan does is takes an okay but very flawed book sequel, put the parts in it that worked, and improves and changes the parts that didn’t to make a very emotional and narratively satisfying film experience. I don’t know how many Stephen King adaptations there were this year, but Doctor Sleep is easily the best. Yes, better than IT Chapter 2. Again, I love Stephen King, I have read every book he has ever written, and don’t usually prefer the movies over the books, so consider this high praise.

Let me explain to you, without getting into book spoilers, why I don’t really care for the novel Doctor Sleep. Doctor Sleep has a great concept, but very poor and forced execution. Every pay off to every set up in the book feels very unearned, specifically the location of the climax and a certain family revelation/twist, that wasn’t needed and didn’t make a whole lot of sense. Also the ultimate fates of all the characters seemed a bit wonky. The movie fixes EVERYTHING. They completely remove that family revelation twist, the ultimate fate of the characters make sense to the events leading up to the end, and the location and climax of the film is earned and doesn’t bog down into fan service. While one big change (character fate) from the novel may get on some King fans nerves, I thought it should’ve happened originally when reading it for the first time, and was glad it was rectified here. In fact, the climax made me have the biggest smile on my face, because I realized how right Stephen King is when says “it redeems Kubrick’s film” and that many of you won’t understand it unless you have actually read The Shining or looked up what happens at the end of that novel.

What is the movie about? The movie serves as a direct sequel to The Shining as the beginning of the film takes place right after/during the end of that film. In fact, it takes a little bit to even get to adult Danny Torrence and find out how exactly those traumatizing events effected him as an adult. Does he still have his “shining” powers?And if so, what is he doing with them? How is he handling everything? Concurrently with Danny’s characterization/redemption journey, we are introduced to a set of villains who call themselves the “True Knot” and they are a vicious little group who go out hunting and killing young children who’s “shine” radiates brighter than most. The leader of that group, Rose The Hat, senses a young girl, named Abra Stone, and her “shine” is the most powerful she has seen in ages. But little does Rose The Hat know that Danny has been secretly talking with Abra for years and they will both need to team up to take her and the “True Knot” down once and for all.

Sounds unique and different from the concept of The Shining doesn’t it? It is, but like I said, the book is very uneven and muddles the execution of that concept. Thankfully, the movie fixes everything. While not a very scary movie, the film is shot beautifully, has great set ups and pay offs, the acting is top notch, and everything is emotionally satisfying, leading to a sequel film that I prefer over Kubrick’s film. Now, you are probably wondering why I don’t consider Kubrick’s film a “horror classic” while so many of you probably do. Read the book. Even before reading the book, the main problem with Kubrick’s film isn’t the completely different WTF ending, but mainly that everything happens way too fast for a 2 hr and 20 minute horror epic. The novel is a slow burn pot boiler, and takes its time to get to the bonkers and awesome climax/ending (probably the best ending King has ever written). The movie left me with a resounding “meh”. I didn’t much care for the hedge maze.

The character of Jack Torrence is abysmally mishandled in Kubrick’s film as well, his descent into madness and the hotel taking over his mind comes completely out of nowhere where the book beautifully makes him a more sympathetic and nicer person, his ultimate murderous temper tantrum tragically earned. The Kubrick film does have some great masterful visuals, but unfortunately the sum of those parts aren’t greater than the mishandled narrative. Jack Nicholson didn’t have much to work with, he just seems like crazy Jack Nicholson in the movie, Wendy, even though acted expertly by Shelley Duvall, felt like a forced weak and pathetic character, completely doing a 180 on her strong sense of worth in the novel, and Danny Torrence is aggressive underused in Kubrick’s film. Sorry, but even before reading the masterpiece of the novel I had a problem with the film. Reading The Shining just confirmed and contextualized those feelings.

The acting here is fantastic all across the board. Ewan McGregor is great as an adult Danny Torrence and displays great emotional “umph” when trying to deal with his “Shining” mind force (enter Star Wars joke here) powers. Newcomer Kyliegh Curran makes Abra Stone is much more detailed rich character than she was in the novel, but the scene stealer here is Rebecca Ferguson as Rose The Hat. Rose The Hat is honestly kind of a shitty villain in the novel. It seems that she is easily tricked and defeated in certain scenes in the novel and for me, she never displayed any emotions or actions that would make it seem like she could pull the rug out from under Danny and Abra’s feet. Same goes for her group, “the True Knot.” I never felt like any of them were a threat worth worrying over. Here, combined with Ferguson’s menacing and harrowing acting, Rose The Hat and “the True knot” are more of a forced to be reckoned with, even though one scene might make you feel differently. But when you realize the stipulations and who exactly is involved in that scene, you’ll figure out that it makes a lot of sense. Not to mention that scene has great tension and emotional stakes, so it cancels out my minor complaint altogether.

Also, one HUGE compliment I almost forgot to mention. As you know this is a direct sequel to Kubrick’s The Shining while being a sequel to the novel in general, so you get to see some old characters from the old movies. THANKFULLY the movie uses old school movie magic, and just cast new actors to play the old roles that look like the original actors, instead of shelling out a bunch of money to make people look like wonky CGI younger versions of Jack Nicholson, Shelley Long, or Scatman Cruthers. Loved that they did this, not a huge proponent of the de-aging tech, even though it looked pretty great in Terminator: Dark Fate, although that was only for like 30 seconds compared to the multiple minutes the characters are on screen in this film. Then again it isn’t surprising considering Mike Flanagan wrote and directed this little gem. I still need to check out The Haunting of Hill House on Netflix as I heard that is excellent as well. Not surprised of the praise, just haven’t gotten around to watching it yet.

Now, if you’ve seen any marketing for this movie, you’ll know that the spooky ooky and scary Overlook Hotel is brought back. The climax from the novel has a similar location, but if you’ve ever read The Shining and/or Doctor Sleep, you’ll know a HUGE difference from novel to film. All of that is rectified here, with an emotionally great and satisfying climax that doesn’t bog down in too much fan service, something I was dreading that was going to happen before the movie started. Writer/Director Mike Flanagan did a tremendous job with this film. This isn’t his first foray into Stephen King adaptations, he actually made a great version of Stephen King’s novel Gerald’s Game that debuted on Netflix one or two years ago, and everyone felt that that book was completely un-film-able, but he managed to do it. He does it again here. And while Doctor Sleep was easily film-able, he managed to do something rare, make the movie better than the sequel novel, and a movie that I felt was better than the original film. Very good work. And all work and all play make Zach a happy boy.


Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: PET SEMATARY (2019)

Sometimes no adaptation at all is better. Sometimes no remakes are better. Sometimes books are better. Well, actually, on that last one, it is most of the time isn’t it? I’m going to warn you now. I have read Pet Sematary, the novel, twice. I have seen the original 1989 movie and the 90s sequel with young John Connor. I’m going to make reference to the giant change that the marketing people decided to spoil in the trailers (they really shouldn’t have) and spoil some things the book has that the movie doesn’t. I WILL NOT SPOIL the absolutely brand new ending that isn’t in any of the previous adaptations. So if you want to go into this blind, don’t watch any of the trailers (the first teaser one should’ve been the only one released). Also, if you want to go into this really blind and maybe enjoy yourself, don’t watch the other two movies or read the book either. And certainly, don’t read this review. However, if any of you ever actually listen and agree with most of my reviews and are going to read my critique anyway, let me give you some advice. Just read the book. The book is a masterpiece on sorrow, grief, tragedy, with elements of the supernatural sprinkled about in it. It’s essentially a drama. It just happens to have horror and supernatural shit in it (kind of like Indiana Jones is mainly adventure film with some relgious and sci-fi undertones). It is one of Stephen King’s best books. This new movie, is a cookie cutter fast food cheap jump scare bullshit hollow entity that doesn’t have any of the substance or subtext the book or hell, even the original movie had, and is the first big disappointment of 2019 and one of the year’s worst films.

I guess if you are a dumb younger millennial and enjoy the stupid ookie-spooky “what’s that sound?” kind of shit, where they just put in a giant, loud, obnoxious music cue to incite you to jump in your chair a quarter of an inch…well, then this movie is right up your alley! I hope not, I hope you are smarter than that. I hope that when a movie adapts something beloved to you that, when you watch said movie, you make sure to look for and find all the instances that made the book great. And I’m not talking about every single little freaking piece of dialogue, or even all the scenes, just what is necessary to take the message, subtext, substance, themes, etc. etc. and translate it to the screen well. And I’ll admit it first, yes, I was about to boycott this movie because the 2nd and final trailer reveal that a certain characters demise in this is actually switched with another character, and I personally felt that would take out all the grief and sorrow themes the book handled so damn well. Well…that twist…is the least of the movie’s fucking problems.

And the switcheroo have ultimately been a problem if it had been done well. The movie is only 100 minutes (including credits) and there just wasn’t enough time to establish or set up characters and relationships, and when the tragedy strikes, there are no payoffs filled with grief, sorrow, or tragedy. I have said it time and again: set ups must have payoffs. If the set ups aren’t done correctly, your payoffs aren’t going to work either. The movie rush, rush, rushes everything just to get to that next cheap jump scare to make dumb people that fall for that crap feel like they spent their box office dollars well. It doesn’t work on someone like me that has grown up from that cheap horror crap and wants a frightening film with fucking God damn themes and subtext, like Hereditary or Us. I didn’t care about the characters here. I didn’t feel the love between the father and his son and daughter, the mothers relationship with her children is barely there if even at all, the Jud and Louis relationship that is done so well in the novel, isn’t even there. So when characters get hurt or die, I just didn’t care. I didn’t get choked up. Movies that do tragedy and grief well make you think about your own loved ones while you are watching the movie, and if the movie invests your time for you get to know the characters, you should care if they bite the dust.

I didn’t here at all. In fact, the main accident/tragedy in the book is done like a dumb Fast and Furious bait and switch action scene. It might’ve been more effective if I didn’t already know about the different fate of two of the characters. If the marketing team had just left it at that one teaser trailer…maybe the incident would’ve shocked me to my core, had my jaw drop, and intrigued me to want to watch further on why they had made that switch. But I already knew about it, and so the accident ended up looking like a CGI Vin Diesel crap fest. Even then, while I might’ve been shocked, the rest of the movie, before and after that incident, didn’t establish anything well enough for me to care about what happened. There are a BUNCH of things from the book that are missing from this movie that would’ve helped the movie become something more than just a cheap jump scare shit fest. For my Pet Sematary fans out there that have read the novel , here is what is missing I consider pivotal: Jud’s wife, more of Jud and Louis’s budding friendship, the backstory of the Indian Burial Ground, the relationship between Louis Creed and his in-laws (hell, you can even consider the relationship between him and his wife barely even there here), and the very pivotal funeral confrontation scene.

Oh…and the cat, Church, is completely mishandled here. In the book, he comes back different and weird, and he kills birds and squirrels and shit and brings them in, but he doesn’t attack humans and doesn’t feel like a huge threat. That’s why Jud recommends burying the cat there in the first place, because he know it won’t do any harm. The cat just feels off but won’t kill you. In the movie, he’s scratching and biting and just vicious and mean from the get go. They even make it look like Church plans to kill Gage at one point. Didn’t make much sense that Jud would recommend bringing it back to life considering that later in the movie he fucking admits that when he brought his dog back it was as mean as ever and they put it down soon after (in the book he reveals his dog ultimately died again at a much older age). Also, putting random creepy kids wearing creepy masks with an awkward unusual procession of a dead dog, doesn’t automatically make your movie creepy. It makes it awkward and makes you look like you are throwing in creepy for creepy-sakes. Make you look like bad filmmakers. The only thing I can truly give praise to is the acting. Especially John Lithgow as Jud. All the casting was quite good, they just didn’t have a decent screenplay or direction to bring it all together.

And the movies ending. Let’s talk about it as much as a can without spoiling a God damn thing. The book’s ending is pretty much perfect, in my opinion. Doesn’t wrap up everything in a nice neat bow, but is chilling, sad, and haunting. Makes you wonder what happens next. In fact, shit doesn’t really go down until the last 30 – 40 pages of the novel. All of that is gone here. Not even a trace. They trade it in for a horror action type scene that is just insulting to Stephen King and the fans of his novel. The last little thing before it cuts to black is extremely stupid as well. I can’t believe Stephen King is endorsing this film. If I was him, I’d hate it even more than he does with Stanley Kubrick’s adaptation to The Shining. And I know that Stephen King thinks his books is depressing and that the only reason why it was published was to get out of a dumb contract that a book company had him in. But over the years, it has become one of his most timely novels, depressing, but with a haunting message, and the best words and prose I’ve ever seen dealing with grief. This screenplay was written by one asshole, and directed by two assholes just trying to trick people into giving them their money. And I fell for it.

But please, please, please don’t you fall for it. If you really want to watch a film adaptation of Pet Sematary, just watch the 1989 version. Even though it really isn’t the best, it doesn’t hold a candle to how awful this film is. If you really want to do right by the story, just read the book. I know, who reads anymore these days right? But it is a fantastic read that I can’t recommend enough. This movie is dull. This movie is cheap. This movie doesn’t try to make you think. It tries to steal your money and your time. If you like your horror movies like you like McDonald’s or Taco Bell; buried in some greasy, ugly, unhealthy shit that you might enjoy after that 2 am buzz but will regret it with your anus in the morning, then this movie is for you. If you love the book, or hell, if you love the 1989 film, a fan of Stephen King novels in general, or if you like horror movies like you would love eating at an expensive, fancy, and delicious steak house, feeling alive again with all the trimmings, look else where. This movie was DOA and needs to be buried and never brought back to life again. I wish it could be erased from existence. Sometimes Thanos’ Snap Is Better.