Tag Archives: Stephen King

“Doctor Sleep” (2019) was ABSOLUTELY ****ING FABULOUS.

“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.

 

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“Show me a man or a woman alone and I’ll show you a saint.”

“Show me a man or a woman alone and I’ll show you a saint.  Give me two and they’ll fall in love.  Give me three and they’ll invent the charming thing we call “society.”  Give me four and they’ll build a pyramid.  Give me five and they’ll make one an outcast.  Give me six and they’ll reinvent prejudice.  Give me seven and in seven years they’ll reinvent warfare.  Man may have been made in the image of God, but human society was made in the image of His opposite number, and is always trying to get back home.”

— from Stephen King’s The Stand

 

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Photo credit: By Stephanie Lawton – https://www.flickr.com/photos/steph_lawton/7634622516/, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=50296410

Tis’ the season.

Isn’t this the coolest Halloween card ever?  The little skeleton guy dances.

Hope you guys have something scary planned for the month ahead.  I’ve got a short list of movies I’d love to make time for: “Dracula” (1939), “House of the Devil” (2009),  “Annabelle Creation” (2017) and “Mr. Mercedes” Season 3 (2019).  Yeah, I know that last one isn’t a feature film, but it’s a program of truly cinematic quality.  “Mr. Mercedes” has been the best kept secret in Stephen King fandom — no, its antagonist isn’t as flashy as Pennywise the Clown or The Gunslinger’s various nemeses.  But it’s a gorgeous adaptation of a King novel that might even be better than its source material.  Check it out, seriously — skip “American Horror Story” if you have to.

There are two movies I need to get to that have been recommended to me with a lot of enthusiasm.  The first is “In the Mouth of Madness,” 1994’s H.P. Lovecraft adaptation starring Sam Neill.  (I actually started it a few years ago after a friend in New York urged me to, but it just didn’t hold my interest.)  The second is 2001’s “Shadow of the Vampire,” which features Willem Dafoe doing Nosferatu.  (I only discovered just now writing this that John Malkovich portrays F.W. Murnau.)

I’ll tell you something else, too — I’ve checked out one or two short films on the free ALTER channel and they’ve been terrific.  Maybe I’m due for another visit there.

 

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Throwback Thursday: Carvel Ice Cream in the 1980’s!

I was actually very surprised when I discovered this week that Carvel Ice Cream wasn’t a small, local chain that inhabited only my native Long Island.  I hadn’t heard word one about Carvel since I was a kid; I always assumed that the strange, ubiquitous TV and radio ads for “Cookie Puss” and “Fudgie the Whale” were strictly a New York thing.  But there were 865 stores throughout the United States in 1985; my friend in Texas even recognized the name.

I think my confusion is easy to understand, considering the weird ads that I mentioned above.  The first thing that most people remember about Carvel usually isn’t the chain’s crude looking novelty ice cream cakes.  The first thing they remember is founder Tom Carvel’s voice, which you can hear in the videos below.  It … did not please the ear.  Polite people almost always describe it as “gravelly;” the less charitable remember it with descriptors such as “phlegm-filled.”

The latter folks are not wrong.  Seriously.  I cringed when I heard it as a kid, no matter how much I loved the store’s wares.  (And I did love it; it was an absolute treat when my parents took me there.)  It sounded like a man dying of a chest cold was trying to sell me ice cream.  I even remember my parents talking about it.

Carvel was a independent personality who insisted on recording the ads himself since 1955, and he recorded them unrehearsed — even going so far as to set up a production studio at his company’s headquarters, according to Wikipedia.   Carvel Ice Cream was a true small-business success story, and many credit the brand’s popularity with Carvel’s  extemporized, conversational voiceovers — even if they were awkward.

And that kind of makes sense.  The commercials were memorable.  Maybe the owner’s voice evoked images of Stephen King’s superflu in “The Stand,” but that didn’t dissuade you from visiting a store for its trademark soft-serve ice cream.  (You figured he wasn’t actually working the counter, where he could cough into your dessert.)

 

 

 

 

A short review of Season 1 of “Black Summer” (2019)

I don’t understand how “Black Summer” can be as good as it is.  It’s produced by The Asylum, the makers of low budget, direct-to-video ripoff films like “Atlantic Rim” (2013) and “Triassic World” (2018).  It’s a prequel to the horror-comedy “Z Nation” (2014-2018) — a show that was so bad I couldn’t make it through its first episode.  Yet “Black Summer” is inexplicably a great, albeit imperfect, TV show.  I’d rate it a 9 out 10.

I might be in the minority here; a lot of people are severely panning this show online.  And I do recognize its weaknesses — there is very little detail in its plot or character development … there is often even very little dialogue at all.  And even I recognized some plot holes.  (I’m typically a little slow on the uptake where these are concerned.)

But this bare-bones zombie story still manages to screen some likable characters, and then put them through a thrilling succession of hyper-kinetic chases and melees.  I was on the edge of my seat, and I consequently didn’t miss the methodical, detailed plotting of shows like “The Walking Dead.”  The season’s finale is crowned by an extended, eye-level, real-time action set-piece that ought to be considered a classic in the  zombie-horror subgenre.  It was mind-blowing. I just can’t dislike a horror property that genuinely scared me.

I could simply be out of step with everyone else; I often have different tastes in zombie fare.  I love Zack Snyder’s 2008 remake of “Dawn of the Dead,” which this series reminds me of.  And I also love similar overseas productions like Spain’s “[REC]” films (2007 – 2014) and Britain’s “Dead Set” miniseries (2008), while those amazing entries are hardly known among my friends.  I also cannot understand why many people who love George A. Romero’s and Robert Kirkman’s productions must always compare other films and TV shows unfavorably to them.  We can love both.  Why not?

Hey, if you don’t want to make my word for it, here is what Stephen King tweeted: “No long, fraught discussions. No endless flashbacks, because there’s no back story. No grouchy teens. Dialogue is spare. Much shot with a single handheld camera, very fluid.”

I obviously recommend this.

 

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