Doctor Sleep (2019)

directed by mike flanagan
intrepid pictures/vertigo entertainment

As a no-longer-practicing alcoholic, I found a lot of S. King‘s The Shining sequel Doctor Sleep all too grimly realistic, even if I felt the underlying tale of the “psychic vampires” who sustain themselves by torturing children to death – no, really, that’s the impetus of the plot – to be kinda, you know … dumb. But I guess if you’re going to revisit Danny Torrance and his psychic abilities, you may as well retcon your story to broach lucrative sequel territory. All right, that’s unfair, and I know it; the novel was way better than I expected it to be, even with its jaw-dropping deus ex machina. Flanagan’s adaptation actually handles the ending a lot better, and likewise is much more enjoyable than I thought it would be – as I felt it was going to be kinda, you know … dumb. Never getting particularly scary, this film’s paltry ROI makes it a box-office failure, especially glaring when compared to the likes of the recent Pet Sematary and, especially, IT TOO. Which is kinda … you know.

why did i watch this movie?

After all those 13th flicks and a detour into Once Upon a Time in … Hollywood, what the hell.

should you watch this movie?

It – sorry, this production – would’ve worked just as well as a Television Event.

highlight and low point

The atmospherics are pretty good and the FX aren’t half bad, and a crucial segment contains an effectively startling moment or two … but as usual, condensing the Kingly sprawl into even a lengthy picture (150 minutes, in this case) tends to lessen some of the impact. To wit: the reason grown-up Danny’s abilities contribute the eponym is largely ignored. The use of stand-ins for Nicholson and Shelley Duvall amused me.

rating from outer space: C+

Altered Skin (2018)

written and directed by adnan ahmed
indiecan entertainment/federgreen entertainment/empirical films/md productions

The first film I’ve ever seen lensed in Karachi, Pakistan, this Canadian production tells a tale of a drug company withholding research on a potential cure for a rapidly spreading virus in order to maximize profits on its patent treatment, and also probably to enhance the corporation’s market value prior to its sale. So while the premise is hardly farfetched, the disease in question, which produces implacable cannibal hordes reminiscent of those in 28 Days Later (but much slower, of course), stretches the bounds of credulity a bit. Disclaimer: I am not a molecular biologist or immunologist or whatever, so hey, maybe quickly mutating viruses could have such an effect. Anyway, it’s all enmeshed in a conspiracy to prevent the Liberal Media from interfering with Big Pharma’s imprimatur. I may be putting my own spin on that, sorry.

why did i watch this movie?

“While caring for his ailing wife, an American engineer in Pakistan stumbles upon a deadly pharmaceutical conspiracy.”

should you watch this movie?

Though the zombie approximation of the mysterious illness isn’t the freshest concept, given the corporate American drug/healthcare/insurance complex, along with the questionable government administration or oversight of same, themes here may be of interest nonetheless.

highlight and low point

Authority barely exists in this pic’s verisimilitude, which I will accept as representative of actual reality. A telling quotation: “You know, if you could ever fix a problem by denying it ever existed, this place? Would be a fucking Utopia.” The unshakeable probity of the protagonist might be a touch overdone, but as a questionably allied henchman of the curative cartel accuses, he IS essentially acting out of selfish interest, so that’s really just a bit more food for thought.

rating from outer space: B+

Us (2019)

written, produced and directed by jordan peele
monkeypaw productions/perfect world pictures

First off, this film was not what I’d expected – which was basically another version of The Strangers and its ilk. It’s much weirder than that, however; Us is one strange flick. Unlike Peele’s first production, Get Out, this one kinda clutters the frame with signifier draped on allusion wrapped in metaphor, and it’s a bit of a muddle. (One could put almost any spin on what it “means” and find a way to support the claim.) It’s also too often funny to be as scary as it wants to be, though at multiple times it conveys a great unease vividly laced with desperation. Laden with references to a smattering of other movies, though, this picture is yet another example of that apparently inescapable factor of contemporary culture. Guess we just can’t not do that any more, even with so much original creative spark seemingly on hand. For me personally, not being much of a cinephile, yawn, whatever.

why did i watch this movie?

Get Out was not only terrific, but thought-provoking, a rare combination. So although the early media campaign for this one didn’t make it appear to be anything out of the ordinary, I figured I’d be viewing it at some point.

should you watch this movie?

The running time is a very long ≈ two hours. The ending particularly drags.

highlight and low point

Despite its being a little unwieldy and bearing a few untidy loose ends, there’s a lot to like here. The initial appearance of the doppelgängers is both amusing and frightening, which isn’t the easiest trick to pull off, and a sudden revelation that there’s a lot more to the story than has theretofore been presented is powerful yet understated.

rating from outer space: B+

Lovely Molly (2011)

written, directed, and edited by eduardo sanchez
haxan films/amber entertainment

Man, you just can’t please some people. After finishing this highly disturbing picture, I decided to survey its popular acclaim, only to find that it doesn’t have much. And while I can definitely accept that rhetorical devices at play here – the videotaping, the “paranormal activity” and whatnot – might provoke a sense of ennui in some viewers, the vast majority of this film plays as a character study of a woman seemingly losing her mind, potentially becoming a danger to herself and others. That the climax suggests (and, to my mind, somewhat abruptly) a rather different explanation doesn’t much detract from the tense atmosphere created and explored throughout. For the resolution, I might’ve preferred something a bit less Shyamalanesque, because the nature of the characters’ unravelings had been intense and unsettling, but I’ll admit I disregarded plentiful cues.

why did i watch this movie?

Sometimes, I just idly browse through synopses of horror flicks and randomly winnow down a passel of choices until I select a few titles that sound interesting.

should you watch this movie?

You know what, I liked it. Now, keep in mind I’ve neither seen “Blair Witch” nor Paranormal Activity, so maybe that helped. Your tolerance level for “found footage” presented as though real-time documentation may be of import.

highlight and low point

Credit must be given for a distressing scene of person-to-person violence that was truly shocking, and not for the squeamish – hackles-raising stuff. Gretchen Lodge’s performance of the title role is splendid, and pretty fearless to boot. The murky backstory helps rather than hinders, but the most important clue is literally buried and one may well attach no importance whatsoever to it. (The working title was “The Possession,” hint hint.)

rating from outer space: B+

3 From Hell (2019)

written and directed by rob zombie
spookshow international/capital arts entertainment

In the rock ‘n’ roll world, bands sometimes hit a home run with their first release because it’s the culmination of everything they’ve spent their lives working toward, all their passion and labor and inspiration and insanity and their most finely honed materal in one definitive document. Then they’ve got, like, eight months to follow it up, and that’s where the magic often ends. That didn’t happen with Rob Zombie’s music career; it took White Zombie years to claw their way out of the NYC underground and hit it big in the early ’90s with La Sexorcisto: Devil Music Volume One, and he still enjoys a musical following. The template does describe his directorial career, however. House of 1000 Corpses, if not exactly original, seemed to presage the existence of a new horror auteur … but the bloom has faded from that rose. This sequel to the underwhelming Corpses sequel The Devil’s Rejects is a Tarantino-lite quasi-comedic misstep that more than ever showcases little save its writer’s underdeveloped vocabulary and lack of interesting ideas.

why did i watch this movie?

I greatly enjoyed Corpses, and liked Rejects the first time.

should you watch this movie?

It’s rather insipid.

highlight and low point

A moment or two in this picture works all right, but that’s about it. The setup is pretty dumb, the dialogue is godawful, it’s imitative, and it tiredly rehashes some stylistic elements from the last film, only stretched beyond parodic. Oh, and adds a new family member to provide the crucial deliverance. This chapter should’ve followed Tiny, last seen shortly before the ending of Rejects, and Dr. Satan, who’s still presumably out there somewhere, too.

rating from outer space: D−

These clowns liked it, apparently.
Photo from imdb (Tasia Wells)

IT Chapter Two (2019)

directed by andy muschietti
new line cinema/vertigo entertainment/katzsmith productions/rideback

You may know that this picture hit theaters right about the time S. King’s latest bestselling novel, The Institute, hit bookstore shelves. I had been unaware of the new book until basically its release day, when I read it immediately. (Naturally.) And despite the fact that it lifts its basic premise almost entirely from season one of Stranger Things (and sure, that premise isn’t dissimilar to the one King presented in Firestarter, but he has been enjoying revisiting old themes of late), it’s a pretty good read. King slacks off a bit in the latter half, where character development gets a much shorter shrift than he ever would’ve cottoned to in his prime, and the ending wraps up a little too neatly, especially for a guy whose tendency to punt the ending is lampooned in the latest movie based on one of his works. (This one, that is.) But it’s better than The Outsider, and it’s better than Sleeping Beauties, and it’s better than the Bill Hodges trilogy, and it’s better than The Revival, and it’s less ridiculous than Dr. Sleep and  … well, it’s not better than Joyland.

As for this flick, it’s nearly three (3!) hours long.

why did i watch this movie?

I’d seen the first installment.

should you watch this movie?

First ask yourself what you stand to gain from that choice. Then do something else instead.

highlight and low point

A partial list of drawbacks hampering this production includes overreliance on lousy CGI, jump scares, and emoting, and the alterations to the source text don’t help anything. The unbearably tedious and hackneyed ending is also tremendously anticlimactic, which is, uh, ironic(?), given the script’s aforementioned allusions to the terrible endings of “Bill’s” movies.

rating from outer space: F

the sign says it all

Darlin’ (2019)

written & directed by pollyanna mcintosh
hood river entertainment

Oh, man, THIS is why sequels have such a bad reputation. Wilfully destroying the disturbing mythos and gripping power of Offspring and The Woman (not to mention Off Season, the Jack Ketchum novel that started the series), Darlin’ is a dispiritingly transparent and simplistic reexamination of some of the same themes as Lucky McKee‘s “Woman,” only without much of anything to recommend it in any way. Oddly, it was created and helmed by Pollyanna McIntosh, who one would presume to have more of an investment in extending the character’s draw. Poorly conceived, unconvincingly executed, predictable, and incongruously sentimental, I am really at a loss as to why on earth this movie was produced.

why did i watch this movie?

I‘m a sucker. for some reason thought a follow-up to The Woman would be a fascinating study of the ongoing attempts of primitive cannibals to survive in modern society, plus who hasn’t pondered how former members of that society might adapt to devolution in the aftermath of all they’d experienced?

should you watch this movie?

It does not address any of the above concerns.

highlight and low point

The word that springs to mind for this film’s treatment of religious institutions and the priesthood is “facile.” It’s maddeningly stereotypical, and the main target is two-dimensional and untrustworthy from his first moments onscreen. Also, the only sympathetic male character is gay, just in case you were somehow missing the incisive social commentary. Such lack of nuance really detracts from whatever the hell the point is supposed to be. Furthermore, the structure of the film very closely parallels that of The Woman, only with an extremely dubious subtheme of awakening or self-reliance or self-preservation or some such. Ridiculous.

rating from outer space: d−