Wednesday, 18 December 2019

DOCTOR SLEEP




This four decades late sequel to one of the most iconic and beloved horror films of all time had no right to be as good as it turned out. I loved it.

It is to Kubrick's THE SHINING what PROMETHEUS was to ALIEN. Both films are followups to revered classics whose enduring power lies in their mystery, and the questions they left deliberately unanswered. Both films attempt to build upon the mythology of their respective originals by answering those questions explicitly, thereby stripping away much of the mystery.

It's a very risky thing to attempt, but the trick is in the writing. Where Scott and Co. failed (because PROMETHEUS' story is so trite and its characters so poorly conceived), King and Flanagan have triumphed, with an expanded mythology that adds depth and meaning to its source material, with strong characters (both old and new), real emotional beats and absolutely stunning visuals.




Perhaps the film works so well because its strongest moments aren't actually the money shots at the Overlook, but the two hours of story leading up to them. Oddly enough, DOCTOR SLEEP worked best for me as a tale of all out psychic warfare between rival factions, in the same vein as SCANNERS and THE FURY. And yes, as everyone has said, Rebecca Ferguson was on fire for every second of her screentime.

Mike Flanagan made so many bold decisions here that really pay off. The decision to recast, instead of digitally resurrecting Jack Nicholson, Shelley Duval and the rest, was an inspired one. No uncanny valley awkwardness here. STARRY EYES' Alexandra Essoe in particular just kills it as Wendy Torrence. Flanagan and cinematographer Michael Fimognari also very wisely went for a visual style that recalls Kubrick's, without aping it. It works.

After OCULUS, GERALD'S GAME and THE HAUNTING OF HILL HOUSE, Mike Flanagan has most assuredly secured a place for himself among the contemporary horror filmmakers to watch. I'm excited to see where he goes next.


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