I remember getting excited about seeing “Day of the Triffids” (1962) for the first time. It was the early 2000’s, and the advent of DVD-by-mail services enabled me to hunt down all the various apocalyptic sci-fi movies I’d heard about as a kid — including a few that I’d only seen portions of, because I’d tuned in late. (The local video stores I’d grown up with had some of these films, but not all — and my interest in the sub-genre was truly exhaustive.)
“Day of the Triffids” was mildly disappointing. It was positively lethargic for an end-of-the-world monster tale, even if those monsters were slow-moving plants. (It’s a good bet that John Wyndham’s 1951 source novel did a better job with the story concept.)
I ordered this DVD through Blockbuster Video. Here’s a little movie industry trivia for you — Blockbuster briefly had a DVD-by-mail offer that was better than the one pioneered by Netflix. (You actually got more movies out of it, and you got them quicker.) But this was around the end of the prior decade; Netflix had already won the war for the home movie market, while Blockbuster was suffering its first location-closing death rattles. And the DVD-by-mail business model was itself becoming largely obsolete, anyway — the twin threats of Redbox kiosks and online movies saw to that.
“Doctor Sleep” (2019) was ABSOLUTELY ****ING FABULOUS. I had high hopes for this movie after seeing the trailer — yet it exceeded my expectations. I’d easily rate this a 10 out of 10.
This is a story-driven horror film just brimming with blackly creative ideas and weird world-building — I haven’t read Stephen King’s source material, but I feel certain this was a loving adaptation of the 2013 novel. It is also genuinely touching at times. (I was trying to explain to a dear friend recently about how King’s work can surprise the uninitiated — the monsters and devils typically occupy only a portion of his imaginary landscapes. The remainder is inhabited by good people who are bravely doing the right thing.)
All of the movie’s story elements are painted vibrantly by Mike Flanagan’s beautiful screenwriting and nightmarishly trippy directing. The film’s action and often incongruously bright visuals are reminiscent of Stanley Kubrick’s visions in “The Shining” (1980), to which this film is truly a worthy successor. (Flanagan was the director and screenwriter for last year’s fantastic “The Haunting of Hill House.” The qualities that you loved about the Netflix show can also be found in “Doctor Sleep” — in some ways, they are very similar stories.)
Rebecca Ferguson is mesmerizing as the story’s antagonist, Kyliegh Curran is pitch perfect as the young anti-hero, and Ewan McGregor is predictably terrific.
The only quibbles I had were minor — there was one plot device (presumably from the novel) that didn’t translate well to the screen. It concerns how the bad guys replenish themselves … I’ll bet it worked well in King’s prose, but it seemed corny and cliche when visualized on film.
You could also argue that “Doctor Sleep’s” constant references to “The Shining” were pretty heavy-handed. But that didn’t bother me too much … I arrived at the conclusion that “The Shining” and “Doctor Sleep” were really two halves of an epic supernatural road trip. Your mileage may vary.
One final caveat — this film does portray violence against children. It isn’t extremely graphic, but it’s still especially disturbing. (It technically isn’t gratuitous, I suppose, because there is an in-universe reason why Ferguson’s tribe of villains targets the young.)
This is easily the best horror film that I’ve seen in years. Go see it.
Veterans Day 2019.
Photo: Members of a Joint Service Honor Guard participate in the Veterans Day wreath laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia, Nov. 11, 2014. Photo by Master Sgt. Adrian Cadiz.
“When in doubt, keep your mouth shut.”
— New York aphorism
Dark Horse Comics.