Tuesday, November 12, 2019

I've Seen the Future, Brother, It Is Redrum

"That's odd. The blood usually gets off on the second floor." 

Try as hard as I might that line from The Simpsons' Shining parody was always skittering around the edges of my brain while watching the 40-year-delayed sequel Doctor Sleep, until eventually, like that indefatigable blood itself, I couldn't hold it back any longer -- it came pouring out everywhere all over everything. So heavy is the weight of iconography attached to the Overlook and its dark descendants -- they cannot, they will not, be contained. 

At times that spooky weight worked in Sleep's favor -- when we do finally make it back to the Hotel, as we must, you do feel the same passage of time that Adult Danny Torrance (Ewan McGregor) seems to -- we too now have creaks in our musty bones and crevasses around our exhausted eyes; the  radiators are quaking and the little boys in chunky astronaut sweaters are no more on either side of the screen. It goosed its old riffs good. But more often than not I felt Doctor Sleep crumbled under the weight of its impossible expectations and the blood, loosed, drowned the poor dear. 

It's not a bad film. (Rebecca Ferguson, that queen, certainly does her best.) But it actually doesn't even entirely feel like a "film" to me -- it feels more like a miniseries, something director Mike Flanagan has proven himself a sturdy captain of with his Haunting of Hill House series for Netflix, about to disclose its own second anthology. On Netflix Doctor Sleep could have been another hour or two longer and I would've gobbled it up with absent-minded and perfectly mild satisfaction on my face -- dull-eyed and entertained.

On the big screen though, as those familiar strings descend and the REDRUMS pile up and multiple actors are forced to do their best Jack Nicholson and Shelley Duvall impersonations, I don't know, I just kept being forced into the corner of thinking upon other people's really strange and daring creations. Flanagan is a good, solid filmmaker who in 2019 can't possibly live up to the shit Stanley Kubrick pulled with that 1980 film. It's a task for a crazy person; Mike Flanagan isn't that.

The film's better than it has any right being -- Flanagan's made a career out of that exact sentiment time and time again. There are scenes of genuine fucked-up-ness in Doctor Sleep that a totally by-the-numbers person wouldn't have accomplished. But there's nothing truly scarifying, and there's not much that I think will stand as its own legacy, un-borrowed from betters. Even the film's grossest practical effect is a thing Flanagan himself pulled with his last King adaptation Gerald's Game (which remains  at this point the best thing he's done).

Doctor Sleep is an entertaining tribute to a monumental thing. It's a bowl of colorful fruits laid out in front of a forever monolith, one that reaches black to the stars and blots out so much that came after --the gods will not be angry for this sacrifice. But I'd rather we build our own gods, defiled and deranged and pink with present tense, to suit our modern purposes. The blood came and went awhile back; I long for some new flesh. 


Tom M said...

Side note: Julian Morris is appearing in this play in LA. One of the male characters spends a lot of time, at least in earlier productions, unclothed or barely clothed. He seems to fit that character but can't tell who he is playing. You might need to fly to LA. https://latw.org/event/hard-problem-event-201920

Anonymous said...

I went with no expectations, suddenly on a whim with two friends. I had not read the book, and had very little knowledge of the story. I saw Kubrick's The Shinning at a midnight tech screening in a theatre on the East Side the day before it opened in NYC. The theatre was packed with excited invited friends and friends of friends. The excitement was palpable. Most of us had read the book. Those first notes from the score and that winding road started everyone out on the edge of their seats. We were all about " ok, we're ready, we want it, scare the shit out of us". Then in the course of the next probably 2 hrs and 20 minutes the excitement drained out of the theatre like a slow leak in a balloon. Honestly by the time we got to the last scene in the hospital which Kubrick cut a few days after it opened, nobody cared. It was an amazing disappointment. In the passing years I've come to respect that Kubrick took King's book and made something else out of it, and perhaps with that time I can acknowledge that it's a way better film than I gave it credit for at the time.Kubrick made something different, maybe better maybe not. But I've never liked Nicholson's over the top performance because he seemed insane to me from the beginning and more ham than psycho. So I was pleased and surprised that Dr. Sleep didn't worship at Kubrick's alter, but instead paid tribute where tribute was due but then became a straight forward well done horror film with a few good jolts and the condensing of what could, as you've said been a mini series, into pretty much a coherent whole. I thought Ewan McGregor's son of Jack Torrence carried the film into the reality of a wholly plausible and damaged human being. In short, I really liked it, surprised as I was. I hope it makes money, but there were only about 8 people in the small theatre I saw it in. I'm rooting for it.

Glenn said...

I have liked Mike Flanagan's films and I have nothing against him, but it's like... you're no Kubrick. I haven't seen the movie yet, but everything I have seen strikes me as this being the film THE SHINING would have been without Kubrick at the helm. It looks generic. It doesn't look like something that lives up to that reputation which is probably why it has flopped.

dre said...

This REALLY should've been a Netflix mini-series. At this point, if it ain't a superhero movie, I think it would be more beneficial to bypass the big studios--no matter how much they offer--because you're going to eat it at the box office.