Tag Archives: Mike Flanagan

Doctor Sleep (2019) Review

Time: 151 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Violence, horror, drug use & offensive language
Cast:
Ewan McGregor as Dan Torrance
Rebecca Ferguson as Rose the Hat
Kyliegh Curran as Abra Stone
Cliff Curtis as Billy Freeman
Carl Lumbly as Dick Hallorann
Zahn McClarnon as Crow Daddy
Emily Alyn Lind as Snakebite Andi
Bruce Greenwood as Dr. John Dalton
Director: Mike Flanagan

Struggling with alcoholism, Dan Torrance (Ewan McGregor) remains traumatized by the sinister events that occurred at the Overlook Hotel when he was a child. His hope for a peaceful existence soon becomes shattered when he meets Abra (Kyliegh Curran), a teen who shares his extrasensory gift of the “shine.” Together, they form an unlikely alliance to battle the True Knot, a cult whose members try to feed off the shine of innocents to become immortal.

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Doctor Sleep was one of my most anticipated movies of 2020, however the filming of it seemed to have gone so well that the release date was moved up to 2019. Mike Flanagan has been proving himself as a really solid horror director with movies like Oculus, Ouija: Origin of Evil, and with Gerald’s Game he showed himself at being great at adapting Stephen King’s work (which is now being praised as one of the best Stephen King movies). So, he was definitely a person who could at least handle the challenging task. On top of that, Ewan McGregor and Rebecca Ferguson would be part of the cast, and they’re very talented actors cast in some very prominent roles in this movie. So even though The Shining sequel on paper seemed like it would be a disaster, the talent behind it and the fact that it would be based off one of King’s books at least showed that it had potential. Doctor Sleep actually manages to surpass expectations and is one of my favourite movies so far this year.

First of all, I think we need to talk about the obvious, the fact that Doctor Sleep is sort of a sequel to The Shining. A lot of people will be expecting it to be just that, a Shining sequel. However, it’s a completely different movie and plays completely differently, it’s definitely standalone and its own thing. The movie is lengthy at 2 hours and a half long, and for quite a large part of the movie it’s quite slow and that may lose some people. For the first 40 minutes it’s spending time with Danny Torrance (played by Ewan McGregor), showing him in his adult life decades after the events of The Shining. I really do appreciate that they didn’t just try to jump to the horror scenes and have a fast moving plot, they actually took the time to establish him in his current state. I know that a lot of people will be bugged by this, but I wouldn’t wish for this bit to be cut down at all. Once it starts bringing in the antagonists of The True Knot into the forefront, that’s when the movie really starts to pick up. Generally though, Doctor Sleep takes its time telling its story, and I really appreciated that. I noticed that there was a lot of concern is that it’s just riding the coattails of The Shining, and that’s definitely not the case. While there are characters from that first movie/book that appear and are mentioned, it generally stays as its own thing. It’s really only the last 30 minutes where it goes to the Overlook Hotel, so there’s 2 whole hours of the movie having to stand on its own first. I know some people may be bugged by these scenes but I personally liked the callbacks, it doesn’t quite go overboard as they could’ve. Now I guess you could watch Doctor Sleep without watching The Shining and be completely fine with it all, but the last 30 minutes aren’t going to mean that much to you if you don’t. As for accuracies to the book, I haven’t looked into it too deeply, but I did hear that the movie stays mostly true to it until the last act.

The cast are all great in their roles. Ewan McGregor is solid as Danny Torrance, who was traumatised for decades after the events of The Shining and becoming an alcoholic like his father Jack. The first 40 minutes of the movie is dedicated to following him and showing what happened with him before the plot kicks in, and McGregor’s performance is a big part of why it works so well. Danny’s recovery arc is also handled very well throughout the plot, especially in the third act. Kyliegh Curran was really impressive as Abra, a girl who is very powerful with the Shining ability that Danny and the main villains of the movie take notice of. She also gets to show herself as being very powerful with her abilities and Curran was very convincing in these scenes. There are also the antagonists who work very well within the movie, they are called The True Knot, who are a group of people who torture and kill people with the Shine so that they can feed off it and live for a very long time. It’s led by Rebecca Ferguson as Rose the Hat, who nearly steals the movie and I can see her becoming an iconic horror villain with some time. Ferguson plays Rose and she’s absolutely captivating whenever she’s on screen. The rest of the True Knot with the likes of Zahn McClamon and Emily Alyn Lind aren’t quite given the same level of attention or depth but are also given some distinct personalities and characteristics. Something that is effective is that the movie bothers to actually make them human and show their perspective on things. It makes them feel more real and not just one dimensional villains who do bad things because the plot demands it. Other supporting actors work well, like Cliff Curtis, Bruce Greenwood, and more. I won’t get into too much about what his role is or what happened with him in the story, but Jacob Tremblay is in a small portion of the movie, yet managed to be a standout with his performance being a large part of the reason why his scene worked so well.

Mike Flanagan by now is more than familiar with the horror genre at this point, and once again he does a great job at directing. It’s stunning to look at and the visuals are great and creative, I wasn’t prepared for how some of the scenes would play out. There’s particularly a very trippy sequence maybe halfway into the movie involving Rose the Hat, and it was one of the highlights of the movie for sure. While I guess there are scenes of horror, I didn’t necessarily feel this was a horror movie all the way through, though I was fine with that. There’s surely no obnoxiously handled jumpscare here, so that’s a win. With all that being said, by far the most horrific scene in the movie was the one involving Jacob Tremblay, you’ll know what I mean when you see it. Even if you wanted to make just an adaptation of Doctor Sleep only keeping in mind what happened in The Shining book, there’s no way that you can just ignore Kubrick’s version, it’s become so incredibly iconic at this point. This movie tributes The Shining quite a lot in how it’s directed, especially in the way a lot of it is shot even before the plot gets to the Overlook Hotel. Personally I feel these moments are earned. The only aspect that really bugged me are when they flat out have flashbacks to scenes from the original movie but recreate them with different actors and all that. They were really distracting and honestly just weren’t needed, anyone who saw The Shining or even vaguely knows about it already knows about many of the iconic scenes and didn’t serve the movie in any way. With that said, it only happened a couple times thankfully. It plays a small part in the movie, but the Overlook hotel was recreated well, pretty much as close to the Kubrick movie as possible.

Doctor Sleep is a solid follow up to the original Shining, while managing to really stand on its own. Mike Flanagan’s direction was excellent, the cast were great (especially McGregor, Curran and Ferguson), it’s captivating and character driven, and although the movie is lengthy, it really utilises that longer runtime well. Considering the massive task they had and all the things they had to get right, I think they really pulled it off.

Hush (2016) Review

Time: 81 Minutes
Age Rating: 79a0443c-3460-4500-922d-308b655c1350[1] Sadistic violence
Cast:
Kate Siegel as Maddie Young
John Gallagher Jr. as The Man
Michael Trucco as John Stanley
Samantha Sloyan as Sarah Greene
Emilia Graves as Max
Director: Mike Flanagan

A deaf writer (Kate Siegel) who retreated into the woods to live a solitary life must fight for her life in silence when a masked killer (John Gallagher Jr.) appears at her window.

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Mike Flanagan is one of the best horror directors working at the moment with Oculus, Ouija: Origin of Evil and would go on to direct Gerald’s Game (and is going to direct Doctor Sleep, the adaptation of the sequel to Steven King’s The Shining). Hush is no exception, its another solid and gripping horror flick from the director. Home invasion horror movies aren’t very uncommon but Hush still manages to be executed in a good way, being rather effective and tense, and it definitely deserves a lot more attention.

Hush is a straightforward horror movie, a masked killer is trying to kill the vulnerable but capable protagonist, conflict ensues. They don’t dwell too much on setting up the characters than it has to, but it’s not like things feel underdeveloped, its developed as much as it needs to be. The movie doesn’t do innovative things for the home invasion subgenre, but it still has its creative moments. It does have a unique aspect to it, with the protagonist being deaf, it could’ve just been a cheap gimmick to make it somewhat stand apart from all the other thrillers but the execution of the movie is done in a way that it doesn’t feel like that. There isn’t much dialogue in the movie, after the first scenes of the movie, it’s pretty much almost all visual from then on, and with that its done rather effectively. Hush is only 82 minutes long which was really the perfect length, it doesn’t drag on for an unnecessarily long time and the characters and story are simple enough that it doesn’t require a longer runtime.

Kate Siegel was great, likable and engaging as the lead, she has to do all the character work with pretty much just her body movements and you could really buy her as a deaf person. She was believably vulnerable and yet believably capable of surviving everything the antagonist throws at her. The unnamed masked killer, played by John Gallagher Jr. was good as well. He gives off an unnerving and creeping vibe, even when he has a mask on and is quite effective, despite not really having any reason or motivation behind his actions and goals in the movie. Those two are really the only notable actors, the other actors are fine enough in their roles but really their characters are just throwaways.

Mike Flanagan is no stranger to making horror movies, so it’s no surprise that he directed Hush well. As previously said, a lot of the movie relies just on visuals, and Flanagan was great at visual storytelling here. The tension is also done really well, you’re not quite certain which way things are going to go, there’s a real sense that our main character might not make it out. It also does not hold back at all with how brutal and violent the killer can be, really emphasising how dangerous he is.

Hush is quite an overlooked solid horror flick ever since it came out in 2016. It’s not like one of the greatest horror movies or anything (and I probably wouldn’t even say it’s one of Mike Flanagan’s best) but it is quite good and worth the watch if you like horror movies. It’s a decent and creative little thriller that deserves a little more attention than it’s being receiving.

Gerald’s Game (2017) Review

Time: 103 Minutes
Cast:
Carla Gugino as Jessie Burlingame
Bruce Greenwood as Gerald Burlingame
Chiara Aurelia as Young Jessie
Carel Struycken as “Moonlight Man”/Raymond Andrew Joubert
Henry Thomas as Tom
Kate Siegel as Sally
Director: Mike Flanagan

When a harmless game between a married couple in a remote retreat suddenly becomes a harrowing fight for survival, wife Jessie (Carla Gugino) must confront long-buried demons within her own mind – and possibly lurking in the shadows of her seemingly empty house.

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I had been hearing things about Netflix’s Gerald’s Game for a while. Mike Flanagan has been directing a lot of solid horror films with Oculus, Hush and Ouija: Origin of Evil, so naturally his involvement with the film immediately that had my interest. Add on top of that Carla Gugino, Bruce Greenwood and the fact that they are adapting a Stephen King book (that I’ve admittedly never read) and you’ve got some great stuff. And indeed, Gerald’s Game is a really effective movie, one that’s simple yet very effective.

It’s an adaptation of a story by Stephen King and once again I haven’t read it, but I heard that it’s not one of King’s finest work. That didn’t seem to stop Flanagan, however, how seemed to be able to make it one of the better Stephen King live action adaptations. On the whole, Gerald’s Game isn’t really scary to me, save for a few moments. It is more of a psychological thriller (for the most part at least) and is very captivating from start to finish. It’s pretty much focussed on our main character trying to escape, while going through some hallucinations (won’t go into detail about them because I didn’t know much and was surprised by some things). On the whole, it had my attention and was really effective. There are some faults with Gerald’s Game however. There is quite a lot of exposition in the movie, and there are lots of flashbacks showing the backstory of Gugino’s character which is necessary to the story and it ties into the present storyline but it does drag a little in terms of pacing. Then there’s the ending which I do have mixed feelings about, it’s not just too long, without spoiling anything it feels a little forced and doesn’t work with the rest of the movie at all. The movie is an hour and 43 minutes long and outside of the flashback and exposition scenes which does bring the pacing down, it works. However a shorter run time probably would’ve made it work much better.

A performance that didn’t and still doesn’t get enough praise is Carla Gugino here, who is great here. Much of Gerald’s Game is basically based around her being handcuffed to a bed and is relying on her to carry the movie and she absolutely delivers. Honestly she is one of the best parts of the movie, her character has to go through a lot. Bruce Greenwood was also good and deserves some praise as well as the husband of Gugino’s character of Jessie. So often Greenwood has been in very supporting roles (being quite a character actor), and while he is that again here, here he gets some chances to shine. Most of the movie is just focussed on these two, but other performances by a few people like Henry Thomas, Kate Siegel are decent enough as well.

Mike Flanagan knows how to direct horrors and thrillers well and he does it once again with Gerald’s Game. There are also some great used of shadows, lighting and colour at certain points. There is one scene in the third act which is particularly intense and without delving too deep into it, it’s very hard to watch. There is no music played throughout the entire movie and it really benefited from it.

Gerald’s Game is a pretty good movie, it’s an effective thriller with an excellent lead performance from Carla Gugino and Mike Flanagan’s great direction. It is however brought down a little by the overuse of exposition, a little too many flashbacks and the ending which doesn’t quite work. With all that said, it may end up being one of the better movies based on a Stephen King novel. If you like horror thrillers, Gerald’s Game might be what you want, give it a watch if you have Netflix.