Fredverillo, CC BY-SA 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Marvel Comics. Variant cover.
Fun fact — “alien DNA ” and “demon sperm” were both plot devices on “The X-Files” (1993-2018). The former was part of a background story arc throughout most of the show’s seasons; the latter was the subject of a Season 6 episode entitled “Terms of Endearment.” (Aside from being a great episode, it’s notable because it stars horror icon Bruce Campbell.)
Stella Immanuel may be an irresponsible quack, but she really knows her sci-fi television.
Dark Horse Comics.
Photo by Jörg Blobelt.
“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.
“The Meg” (2018) is an easy movie in which to find flaws. They’re many, they’re egregious, and they’re consistently front and center. The biggest flaw for me is its truly terrible script; it’s like the screenwriters weren’t even trying here. (At one point we see a character simply grunt a response to another during an exchange, as though the screenwriters were too disinterested to write a line of dialogue.) The movie’s other weaknesses include the occasionally spotty CGI and some head-scratching science.
With all of that said, however, I still had fun with “The Meg.” (The title refers to a prehistoric shark called megalodon, which our protagonists inadvertently release from a newly discovered deep-sea trench.) I’d rate it a 6 out of 10 because it was a fun enough summertime monster movie. It’s clunky stuff, but it’s passably enjoyable lowbrow entertainment for fans of creature features.
I like Jason Statham too. (This is the first film I’ve seen him in since 2004’s “Cellular.”) He certainly isn’t a bad actor, even if his lines in this film should have had him inwardly cringing. He’s got presence and charisma.
I’m not sure I would actually recommend “The Meg,” but I didn’t hate it.
I just cannot be partial to slasher films. It’s never been my preferred horror sub-genre to start with, and, at this point in my life, these movies have become so predictable and devoid of story that I often find them boring. There are exceptions — some of the the original “A Nightmare on Elm Street” films (1984- 2003) and “Child’s Play” (1988) were grotesquely creative and had terrific supernatural setups that were well executed. But even the attraction of John Carpenter’s original “Halloween” films (1978, 1981) is still mostly lost on me.
With all of that said, I’ll still say that my horror fan friends were right when they told me that 2018’s “Halloween” was a superior sequel. It looks a lot better than the segments I’ve seen of of the campier followups in the 1980’s and 1990’s.
It’s far better filmed and directed, it’s occasionally scary and it benefits from a very good cast. (Jamie Lee Curtis is of course quite good as the film’s heroine and perennial “final girl.” I’m also always happy to see Will Patton on screen, and I like Judy Greer a lot.) The script occasionally shines unexpectedly, too — the screenwriters have a truly impressive talent for making minor characters vivid with funny throwaway dialogue. (One of the three screenwriters is actor-writer-comedian Danny McBride, who I liked quite a bit in 2017’s “Alien: Covenant.”)
I’d be lying, however, if I told you that I wasn’t occasionally bored by this latest “Halloween” — simply because its basic, boilerplate plot and conclusion seem endlessly redundant with those of other slasher films. There are few surprises toward the end — one “gotcha” moment was especially nice — but the overall story is just too tired. I’d rate this film a 7 out of 10 for its merits, but I can’t actually get excited enough about it to recommend it.