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I begin with an admission about The Shining. I never really cared for Stephen King’s original novel. It is a fine book, sure. It is a good read. But it does not stick with me in the way that Kubrick’s 1980 film-adaptation has haunted me my entire life. I never read Stephen King’s Doctor Sleep either, simply because it was not a continuation of the story that Kubrick committed to film.

The Shining is one of those instances where the adaptation is better than the book. This is a rare breed indeed; off the top of my head, I can safely include The Godfather and Jurassic Park on such a list.

The heart of the matter here is that, had I read Doctor Sleep, I am almost certain that the movie is better than the book. I say this because it is a pitch-perfect follow-up to Kubrick’s The Shining.

The Return of Danny Torrance

Dan Torrance finds himself stalking the halls of a long-abandoned Overlook

Doctor Sleep follows the crossing of paths between a survivor of the Overlook, Dan Torrance, a young, shining girl named Abra, and a collective of psychic vampires. Dan’s senses dulled by years of drinking and locking away the ghosts of the Overlook in his mind have left him directionless until he finds salvation in his friend Billy, A.A., and helping the dying travel to the other side in peace. With Dan’s shine off the radar, he thankfully misses out on catching the attention of Rose the Hat and The True Knot, a group of quasi-immortal psychic vampires, over the decades. This group hunts down people who shine and consumes their “steam,” or a manifestation of their shine.

Danny, however, finds himself newly awakened with his shine when he befriends a young girl named Abra, who shines so bright that The True Knot seek to consume her. How does Danny fight those who seek to consume his and Abra’s very gifts?

The film is directed by Mike Flanagan (of Netflix’s The Haunting of Hill House). Flanagan is also is credited for the screenplay. Doctor Sleep stars Ewan McGregor as Dan Torrance, Rebecca Ferguson as Rose the Hat, and Kyliegh Curran as Abra Stone. The film also features Cliff Curtis, Zahn McClarnon, and Emily Alyn Lind.

What worked about Doctor Sleep?

Dan and Abra’s shining conversation weaves throughout the film in many ways

At heart, Doctor Sleep is very much about coping with trauma. Danny Torrance is haunted not only by his father’s violence but by the Overlook and its many ghosts who still crave him and his shine over the decades. This leaves us with Danny as a shell of a man in many regards, sadly echoing his father’s alcoholism and drifting from tragedy to tragedy. The Overlook left its mark, and much like how his role as Doctor Sleep helps the elderly deal with their deaths so too does the film Doctor Sleep help to provide closure and context for Dan.

Whereas The Shining is a very cold and impersonal film to depict the exploration of madness and isolation, Doctor Sleep runs warmer. The film is more crowded and concerned with the emotional wellbeing of the protagonists, and it serves as a companion piece to Kubrick’s classic. The Shining is the trauma and Doctor Sleep is the coping mechanism. At heart, these are very different films with very different aims, and yet they work together and build off one another.

The family that occupied the Overlook those faithful months before its closure was already destroyed before Jack, Wendy, and Danny stepped inside. The Shining ends with the impression that Danny would not be okay. It was not that sort of film, that sentimentality was beyond Kubrick. Danny grew up to be Dan, traumatized and never able to find closure with his mother. Doctor Sleep fills us in on that legacy, but it also provides hope that you could never find in The Shining.

Keep in mind that the film is not just Danny’s story, but also the story of Abra and Rose. All three narrative threads are strong. Just as Dick Halloran helped Danny to understand his shine, Dan, too, helps young Abra. “Ka is a wheel,” a thematic thread throughout King’s work of the last twenty years, plays out beautifully here. It also helps that Rose the Hat is a stunning villain; a dream-like figure with an undeniable charm and clear menace.

The film delivers exactly what you would want to see in a follow-up to The Shining. The nature of the Overlook’s ghostly residents ensures a key conversation occurs that I will not spoil here. You already know what it is, deep down, though, and I can confirm that it delivers chills.

What Didn’t work with Doctor Sleep?

Rose the Hat and The True Knot enjoying a disturbing meal

While the film as a whole is excellent, there are elements that could have been better. Namely, at 2 hours and 31 minutes, the film suffers from bloat, which likely stems from the source material. Flanagan has to accomplish a lot of things within that run-time, and it is a testament to the film that the runtime does not feel overly long. The film isn’t much longer than its predecessor, but it feels denser because of everything it needs to juggle.

A lot of that bloat most assuredly falls on the shoulders of King. The True Knot, while interesting, is a rather large group of antagonists. We only really know the names of five of them. The film could have easily excised a fair number of psychic vampires and still had the same effect and level of threat.

The same goes for catching up with Danny over the decades. His journey is fascinating, but it is also a long one. The film could have easily started with Danny at the hospice center, performing his Doctor Sleep duties. His backstory could be revealed in small moments here and there, but getting us up to speed with his selfless, yet hesitant existence takes a while.

These are all minor quibbles, however.

Final Impressions

It is a miracle that a successful sequel to The Shining can exist that manages to soothe the division that existed between Kubrick’s adaptation and Stephen King’s source material. The film really is a wonder. Something with this much baggage should not work as well as it does.

5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

How did you enjoy Doctor Sleep? Why not let us know in the comments? Meanwhile, stick around here at Haunted MTL. You never know what other Doctor Sleep content might show up…

David Davis is a writer, cartoonist, and educator in Southern California with an M.A. in literature and writing studies.

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The Last Drive-In: Joe Bob’s Vicious Vegas Valentine Special Live Watch Party February 10th!

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The sweet putrid stench of love lingers through the air which can only mean one thing…Valentine’s Day and its annoying little winged cherub mascot, Cupid, is fast approaching. Soon, partners will be spoiling one another with extravagant bouquets of roses, heartfelt Hallmark cards, obnoxiously large teddy bears, glistening diamond jewelry, and heart-shaped candies or boxes filled with assorted mediocre chocolates. You know? Normal things couples do. I tend to prefer my chocolate boxes filled with bleeding hearts, à la ‘My Bloody Valentine’ but, beggars can’t be choosers, right? All jokes aside, Valentine’s Day is special for many couples, however, there are also many others who find themselves celebrating this day without a significant other. Luckily, Shudder, along with drive-in king Joe Bob Briggs and co-host Darcy the Mail Girl (Diana Prince) will graciously be keeping us lonely mutants’, and yes, all you horror fanatic couples’ company on Friday, February 10th as they return with The Last Drive-In: Joe Bob’s Vicious Vegas Valentine, premiering live at 9pm EST.

Love Spells Abound…

Back in 2021, Joe Bob and Darcy invited us to a gruesomely passionate night of spell-binding love witches and animatronic dinosaurs infused with teenage human brains during The Last Drive-In: Joe Bob Put a Spell on You. Many, including myself, were introduced to the tantalizing 70’s inspired retro throwback ‘The Love Witch’ and the graphically goofy cult classic ‘Tammy and the T-Rex’, providing the perfect viewing pleasure to mend any broken heart. While the two films for this year’s morbid love-induced special have yet to be announced, as a special treat, Briggs has announced for the first time on The Last Drive-In, he will be marrying one lucky couple during the live showing. We here at HauntedMTL are eagerly awaiting the return of the ghoulish duo so, as is tradition, we will be proudly hosting a watch party on Twitter during the broadcasting of The Last Drive-In: Joe Bob’s Vicious Vegas Valentine. Be sure to follow us on Twitter and tag us  @hauntedMTL as well as @shudder@therealjoebob, and @kinky_horror to partake in this night of unholy love.

Drawn image of Joe Bob Briggs pouring  a drop of pink liquid into a clear glass potion bottled filled with a glowing red substance. To his left lies a book a magic spells with a golden pentagram necklace resting on top. Also on the books rests a human skull with heart shaped pupils for eyes hiding behind a pair of clear glasses. In bold white letters a text reads "Join us on February 10th as we live tweet The Last Drive-In Valentine's Day Special".
Follow @hauntedMTL for live tweets and replies!

What started off as a one-time special premiering on Shudder July 13, 2018, ‘The Last Drive- In’ was originally meant to be Brigg’s swan song; one last special before hanging up the bolo tie in retirement. However, due to so many mutants, excuse me…viewers tuning in and breaking the Shudder servers, it was only natural to announce an official full season of ‘The Last Drive-In‘, which would make its explosive debut March 19, 2019. Since then, Darcy and Briggs have spawned many exclusive holiday specials, have graciously donated to many charities within the community, and have accumulated 4 seasons of ‘The Last Drive-In’, with a fifth currently in production premiering on Shudder’s 2023 schedule sometime this year, let’s hope sooner rather than later.

Picture of Joe Bob Briggs, Darcy the Mail Girl, John Patrick Brennan and Yuki Nakamura standing together dressed in medieval costumes. A cardboard cutout of Tom Atkins stands between Darcy and Yuki. Darcy is seen drapped in a beautfiul elegant princess dress, satin white with gold trim. Yuki is seen holding a small wreath of purple, white, and yellow flowers that match his loud medieval king costume. Resting atop both their heads are golden crowns. Joe Bob Briggs is seen standing to the left of Darcy, as he smiles whilst wearing a half-put together jester costumer. Lastly, we see Brennan with two wooden recorders in his hand as he mimics playing them both dress clad in a bright yellow dress.
An unexpected ceremony during The Last Drive-In: Joe Bob Put a Spell on You (2021) special.

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Movies n TV

Horror Noire, a Film Review

Horror Noire is a horror collection that includes “Daddy,” “The Lake,” “Brand of Evil,” “Bride Before You,” “Fugue State,” and “Sundown.”

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Horror Noire is a horror collection brought by the combined efforts of AMC+ and Shudder. The collection includes “Daddy,” “The Lake,” “Brand of Evil,” “Bride Before You,” “Fugue State,” and “Sundown.” Horror Noire boasts Black directors and screenwriters, providing six unique stories.

As this collection explores six stories, I will skip the usual synopsis to assess the genres and ideas explored, albeit limited as needed. Expect to find supernatural horror, creature features, and psychological thrillers. Many short films deal with these genres while exploring Black issues, but this isn’t universal for the collection.

The directors and writers include Zandashé Brown, Robin Givens, Rob Greenlea, Kimani Ray Smith, Steven Barnes, Ezra Clayton Daniels, Tananarive Due, Shernold Edwards, Victor LaValle, and Al Letson.

Woman and man wearing a vote for candidate shirt, scared of something off screne
Image from “Sundown” Directed by Kimani Ray Smith

What I Like

Each story remains unique, holding different strengths and weaknesses that highlight drastically different perspectives. Collections like VHS hold a similar premise to create their collection, but Horror Noire gives more creative freedom to its talent to be independent.

My personal favorite short film is Zandashé Brown’s “Bride Before You.” This period piece unravels a fable set in the Reconstruction Era. The entry feels Fabulistic in approach, which happens to be my preferred niche.

However, the best example of horror goes to Robin Givens’ “Daddy,” providing an existential horror tied directly to the characters involved.

Woman listening to a preacher amidst a crowd
Image from “Fugue State” directed by Rob Greenlea

What I Dislike

As mentioned, all have a particular style and idea. The downside of this approach always remains to keep the viewer interested long enough to find their favorite. If you find several underwhelming choices, this becomes a chore. But I imagine that is rare as the variety makes the options refreshing.

Personally, “Brand of Evil” had an interesting premise, but the execution fell short. On paper, it might have sounded like my favorite, which makes the lackluster execution a bigger letdown.

Zeth M. Martinez

Final Thoughts

Horror Noire gives power and control to Black creators, providing a formula for a unique collection against others in the space. While the various subjects and approaches mean you aren’t likely to love them all, there should be a short film for everyone.
3.5 out of 5 stars (3.5 / 5)

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Movies n TV

Dahmer, Silenced

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Episode six of Netflix’s Dahmer was not, honestly about our title character. Instead, it was about one of his victims, a man named Tony. We’ve actually seen Tony a few times during this series. We just didn’t know it was him.

Rodney Burford in Dahmer

And, well, he wasn’t exactly alive the first time we saw him.

Tony was born into a supportive, loving family. This is good because soon after he was born a viral infection took his hearing. He is black, deaf, and gay in the early 90’s.

Tony has a dream of becoming a model. And he certainly has the looks for it. He is beautiful, body and soul. He has lots of opportunities for romance, but it’s not what he’s looking for. He wants a real relationship. 

Eventually Tony moves to Madison, trying to pursue his dream. He gets a job and starts getting modeling work.

Then, he meets Jeff Dahmer at a bar. 

At first, we can almost believe that it’s going to be alright. Jeff seems happy. He’s taking care of himself. He’s not drinking as much. He even has his dad and stepmom over for dinner. It seems like his life is getting on track. Even better, he’s treating Tony right.

Then, of course, things go bad. 

One thing that has always bothered me as a true crime fan is that we know so much about the killers, but not as much about the victims. Not so much if we don’t know who the killer is, of course. But the names that are part of our pop culture are those of the killers. Dahmer, Manson, Jones, Bundy, Holms. The names we don’t know are Roberta Parks, Beth LaBiancas, Leno LaBiancas, and Tony Hughes. And clearly, we should know them.

If Tony Hughes was half the shining, positive person that the show Dahmer made him out to be, I’m so sad that he isn’t with us anymore. We need so many more people like him. And many of Dahmer’s victims were likely just like him. After all, he was attracted to them for a reason.

This was a significant episode, and I understand why it’s the highest-rated episode of the series. I finished it with a heavy heart, saddened by the loss of a man who should still be with us today. 

5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

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