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Doctor Sleep, The Shining and the derailment of nostalgia

Best jump scare of the day? My phone starting to play Sleigh Ride at max volume, as I’m sat alone waiting for Doctor Sleep.

As I type, I’m just reflecting on what a fantastic end to the year it’s becoming for films — but specifically, those that are taking something we knew, and making something new. Writing a new chapter.

Yet that opening line could also be scathing criticism for everything wrong with Doctor Sleep.

Full disclosure: I don’t “do” books. So I’ve never read either The Shining, or Doctor Sleep. People will inevitably tell me I should, as the book is “far better”, but when you’ve got great turns from Ewan McGregor and Rebecca Ferguson, that shouldn’t matter – and certainly suggests that that isn’t the problem.

The problem for me is that rather than revere what’s gone before it, the film outright trounces a lot of what went before.

For a different view on the film, you can read Amanda’s 4-star review here.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m over the crushing disappointment already. And that’s partly because I told everyone to get over the fact they let Prometheus undo lots of what they loved about Alien. Trust me; there are far bigger crimes at play, here. Bizarrely, lots of what’s wrong happens in the final third. Right when you think the stabilisers are going to come off.

I watched The Shining just before, which was arguably unfair. Love that film or not, it’s hard to argue with its craft – and the making of is even more fascinating. You’re talking about a pillar of horror. This? It’s not fit to ties its laces. In fact, it’s far more like it wants to tie its laces together and push it down the stairs of the Overlook. A hotel which now… um… talks.

“But that’s in the book!” You scream. Cool. Burn that, too.

The film starts really well, too. Loved the horns over the WB credits. The play on the opening shot, before the patterned carpet comes up. Master craftsmanship.

I even got into some of the Knot mythology – which is a huge mental block for me.

All of that looked hideous in the trailers, and I know that, deep down, Stephen King ties himself up in knots trying to create mythology and folklore. And yet no one wanted The Dark Tower to work more than me. I love the idea of an extended universe. But there’s a reason it didn’t work, and there’s a reason why they haven’t tried to force it. Which is odd when you think about the intrigue level… Pennywise would elevate the ending of this film 3000%, and I hated IT: Chapter 2.

It’s an odd feeling, as I expected to love it. The best case in point was nipping out to the loo. I know, I know. Cardinal sin, but this film is almost three hours. THREE!

I came back in and Rose The Hat (!) was flying. I thought to myself: they’re genuinely taking the piss, now. Mike Flanagan is clever enough to pull it back with visually the most interesting scene in the movie. At this point, I was still onside. Even though it had taken two odd hours for not a lot to happen. Bloated.

I think ultimately I’m more disappointed, as I started a piece called:

On Hollywood’s Fascination With Nostalgia – And Why It’s Absolutely Necessary

This film has got me wondering if nostalgia is necessary at all.

Once Upon A Time In Hollywood took nostalgia literally. Resculpting key moments in history in the most inventive way.

Joker took an origin, and oft-repeated scenes, and made them something different all together.

Arnie and Sly are back. Partly for a cheque, but also partly to enhance their legacy. It’s all happening.

Now we’ve got something that pisses all over the sacrificial tree of our ancestors.

In amongst 2019, Terminator Dark Fate isn’t getting the love I thought it would. Personally, it hit all of the right notes (“feels”), but for many, it was again a misfire. Read my review of that here.

That’s a good example of how hard nostalgia is. The Terminator and Terminator 2: Judgement Day are untouchable for some, so just don’t touch them. For me? I’m OK, so long as there’s enough of a homage to what went before. Add in enough new ground, and that’s the mix. That’s the cocktail. Even Rambo: Last Blood had that — specifically in the closing stages, and it’s fantastic last few minutes, and end credits.

It’s all about the intent, and the more I mull it over, the intent here was to undo a lot of what went before. Spielberg paid a better tribute in that zany scene from Ready Player One.

I appreciate nostalgia isn’t for everyone. What is? It can seem lazy, and scripted. Get that cocktail wrong? You’ve got a cash cow, riding the coattails of what went before.

Now, as I type, the Top Gun: Maverick trailer is playing (this time by the cinema, not me). More on that in 2020, I guess. But that’s the proof we need that this resurgence isn’t ending anytime soon — and based on the trailer, nor would we want it too. Take me on your mighty wings, indeed.

So, nostalgia. It’s the thread that holds everything together when done right. But it can also be the cross a film has to bear, whether it likes it or not.

Many will love Doctor Sleep. Me? I look forward to the making of. I expect to see a scene where Flanagan is kidnapped, and King took over directing duties for the final third. The shame of that is I’m not even keen to rewatch the first two thirds again. They botched the last 30 mins so bad.

Remember Ryan Reynolds’ Amityville Horror? Neither did I. But I do now.

Nostalgia…. Mostly happier times.

I can’t often distance myself from the fact that watching Joaquin dancing reminds me of Jack Nicholson – and specifically Aldershot cinema, 1989. Or April the following year when I spotted Mum and Dad had rented Batman again from Blockbuster on VHS.

I understand the criticism of everything these days seeming lazy. Old ideas. Rewrite of a rewrite. But then Flanagan had me gripped for 8 hours or so about ghosts I didn’t know I needed in my life in The Haunting of Hill House. At a time when I don’t even value TV shows. There are new ideas, too.

If you don’t get a nostalgia kick seeing Robert De Niro & Al Pacino team with Martin Scorsese (brilliantly reviewed by Chris Haydon here), are you allowing yourself any fun? Any sense of what bought us here in the first place? Any sense of mortality, ultimately? Because there’s a giant clock ticking above us all — and hopefully it’s not Jeremy Irons.

That’s not to reignite the Scorsese v Marvel debate, either, because Avengers: Endgame played the nostalgia beats almost perfectly.

Playing on the heartstrings a little. A replay of a line here or there. Someone debating whether to wear sunglasses… one last time. Another sat on a rocking chair, unsure if they’re really, actually, genuinely, finished.

Done right, it takes you back. Likely to a simpler time. That’s the cocktail. And thank god it’s happy hour, and they’re on 241 in 2019.

Doctor Sleep could’ve done with watching what went before it, rather than bastardising it.

Take me on those mighty wings, Maverick. And save me from this misery.

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