Doctor Sleep


Viewed – 06 November 2019

I consider The Shining one of the best movies ever made, so this follow-up, based on Stephen King’s own best seller was something I never knew I wanted. King famously hated director Stanley Kubrick’s 1980 adaptation and so this movie interestingly brings King’s sequel to life as well as heavily referencing Kubrick’s movie.

Ewan McGregor plays Dan Torrance, the grown up version of that kid in the original, who has battled his ‘shining’ affliction to see the dead, with alcohol. However when a young girl named Abra begins communicating with him through her own psychic gift, Dan is drawn into a battle against a mysterious group of travellers (lead by Rebecca Ferguson) who pray on those that shine.

The way characters, separated for miles connect and come together during the story was what drew me into this. The movie uses imaginative ways of making the various locations and characters feel connected and only builds and gets more creative the closer they get to one another. The story also fleshes our the ‘shining’ ability as well as further exploring characters and moments from the first movie with spot-on re-creations and occasionally uncanny look-a-likes. Rebecca Ferguson is dangerously sexy as Rose The Hat and McGregor is also very good, even if he’s often outshined by Kyliegh Curran as Abra.

Although I’d have liked the movie to be less the supernatural drama it is and more a full-on horror, the story was (mostly) involving enough to make up for a lack of genuine frights. Director Mike Flanagan (Gerald’s Game) uses many creative visual flourishes to make what on paper could get a bit silly – highly entertaining and I found myself invested in Dan and Abra’s plight. This is how you do a sequel to such a legendary movie … build on a great concept yet take nothing away from the original.

Verdict: 4 /5

It Chapter Two


Viewed 01 October 2019. Cinema

I only have vague memories of the original made for tv two parter in the early nineties – but I strongly recall being underwhelmed by the second part. However having liked the first in this re-adaptation, I sat down to this with anticipation and optimism. Twenty seven years after the events of the first movie, following an incident involving a young man as well as several disappearances of various children, it’s time to get the losers club back together in hope of putting an end to that f***ing clown, once and for all.

In the hands of the same director and with solid choices made when casting the adult counterparts of the first movie’s young cast, I was quickly drawn into this again. It’s filmed with panache and no end of style. Like last time there is a focus on character that works brilliantly, with a welcome dose of flashbacks to the young cast delving deeper into the gang”s friendship where clearly additional scenes were filmed rather than just copy and pasting from the last movie. It helps build up each individual character and made me care for all of them – very important when Pennywise turns up to deliver a wealth of set piece scares.

It’s here with a reliance on said set pieces that the movie falters, and it quickly dawned on me the approach here was maximum frights instead of gradual menace, meaning some of those scares just aren’t earned. It helps that the set-pieces are often imaginative and visually freaky – there’s just so many of them it does get exhausting. Thankfully performances across the board are great, with names like Jessica Chastain, James McAvoy and especially Bill Hader all delivering.

This may be a sequel that considers bigger is necessarily better … more subtlety and a stronger sense of mood (with a need for about 30 minutes chopped from that run time) would have made this equally as good as the first movie. As it stands, this makes up for such shortcomings by still being solid entertainment that’s well acted and brings the story to a (albeit drawn out) decent enough conclusion.

Verdict: 3.5 /5

Pet Sematary


Viewed – 10 April 2019. Cinema

I went into this with expectations dialled down mostly because I don’t consider the 1989 adaptation of Stephen King’s novel all that great. However, a remake is a chance to improve upon a concept so there’s every reason to hope this one fairs better. A doctor (Jason Clarke) and his family move to a rural town and soon befriend the kind old man across the road (John Lithgow) who eventually introduced them to the Pet Cemetery in the woods, located on the family’s land. However following an unfortunate incident involving the pet cat and a lorry, the old neighbour suggests burying the animal beyond the pet cemetery. So of course, the cat comes back and sets in motion a spiral of increasingly macabre events.

Pet Sematary

The movie quickly resorts to cliches like ‘we should never have moved here’ way before that sort of thinking seems reasonable. Also, John Lithgow surprisingly fails to have the screen presence of the originals Fred Gwyn with delivery for such iconic lines as ‘the soil of a man’s heart…’ and ‘sometimes dead is better’ coming off rather half-arsed. However Jason Clarke is decent aided by a memorable turn from Jeta Laurence as his daughter. Flashbacks to the wife’s memories of twisted-spine sister ‘Zelda’ is also cranked up in the freakiness and jump-scares department and really, turns out to be the movie’s most disturbing aspect. Also changes to the final act help explain-away some of the more ludicrous developments of the original, but also come off as even sillier somehow.

So this remake wasn’t terrible and at times genuinely scary, but like the original … I can’t help but feel that the concept is overall flawed.

Verdict: 3 /5

Pet Sematary


Viewed – 23 January 2017  Blu-ray

I seem to be doing a Stephen King season lately with my viewing, and with this fondly remembered entry from 1989 I was very excited to check it out again.  It tells the tale of a family who move into a house located near a busy main road where truckers drive seemingly with no awareness of their surroundings.  A kindly, elderly neighbour (the late Fred Gwynne) befriends the family and soon tells them about the aforementioned Pet Cemetery, a place where for decades children have gone to bury their pets.  However something sinister lies beyond the cemetery, that of a sacred Indian burial ground – and we all know they’re never good places.

Pet Sematary

I was surprised how well I remembered this adaptation and it certainly has a slightly goofy charm along with it’s intriguing concept.  Acting is serviceable and a little cheesy in places (especially Fred Gwynne not that far removed from his turn as Herman Munster in The Munsters TV series).  Yet it certainly has it’s moments; the child actors especially stealing the show, with the stand out being toddler Gage who turns rather iconic in later scenes.  Also it’s got effectively freaky flashbacks / dream sequences that send shivers (creepy sister ‘zelda’) and a few solid set pieces with effective gore.  Yet the movie didn’t entirely get under my skin, not helped by questionable motivations of certain characters (despite warnings and shit-going-down) which ruins the movie’s second half.  Yet for one of those 80s horrors that has for some reason always stayed in my mind … I still had fun with this.

The Blu-ray, part of a ‘premium collection’ boasts a very detailed and vibrant picture that I wasn’t expecting.  Sound is delivered in the original 2.0 stereo or a very effective and immersive 5.1 DTS HD Master Audio (just hear those trucks shake the room).  Extras aren’t exactly plentiful but we do get a commentary from director Mary Lambert as well as welcome featurettes on the making of as well as Stephen King himself.  The set also boasts a nice slip case and art cards.

Verdict:

(the movie)  3 /5

(the Blu-ray)  4 /5

IT


Viewed – 19 January 2017  Blu-ray

Stephen King has always been a great writer of children characters, often portrayed as outsiders and free of that Hollywood cuteness we often see.  They’re relatable and often complex on a par with their adult counterparts.  This latest adaptation, a sort of remake of the 1990 two part TV movie and a closer interpretation of King’s book has a group of school kids all seemingly haunted by visions of the same creepy clown.  It begins with the disappearance of one kid’s younger brother and soon these kids find themselves thrown together to face an evil that has lurked in the town for decades.

IT

Although at first a scary movie in typical sense, with an over-bearing orchestral score and a reliance on jump-scares, this thankfully focuses on character for the most part and presented this viewer with children to really care about and rout for.  There’s overly-vicious bullies seemingly out to beat up any nerdy kid for no apparent reason, and parental supervision is either completely absent or abusive.  So demonic clown Pennywise is free to lure in his next victim and only the ‘losers club’ can do anything about it.  Bill Skarsgård, at first a strange casting for the role previously filled by genre favourite Tim Curry … is a revelation; creepy, unpredictable and mischievous, whilst at times genuinely frightening.  The way the movie has Pennywise playing of certain kids fears is well done even if that ‘hair in plug hole’ sequence seemed plucked from another movie.   With that said, the movie isn’t afraid to go for the jugular and some of the violence is pretty brutal even when aimed at children (that opening scene).  So I was impressed at how this movie simply went for it, wasn’t trying to tame itself for a wider audience and piled on the scares and gore to full effect.  It’s also surprisingly effective as a coming-of-age story, leaving quite an emotional impact on me towards the end.  The young cast also do a great job, especially Sophia Lillis (looking like a younger Elizabeth Olson) and Jaeden Lieberher.

Director Andrés Muschietti (Mama) has delivered a thrilling and freakily effective experience that’s despite a few clichés is well cast and left this viewer thirsty for more.  Let’s just hope ‘chapter two’ isn’t the let down the second half of the original movie was.

Verdict:  4 /5