Tag Archives: Mike Flanagan

Doctor Sleep (2019) Review By Philip Henry


Doctor Sleep Review

Director: Mike Flanagan
Screenwriter: Mike Flanagan
Stars: Ewan McGregor, Rebecca Ferguson, Kyliegh Curran

Following up one of the most revered horror movies of all time is no easy task, especially when that movie was also directed by one of the greatest directors ever. It’s like having The Beatles as your opening act, so you have to give Mike Flanagan points for even attempting this mammoth task. And then you have to give him even more points because he actually pulls it off; giving us a sequel that can sit proudly on anyone’s shelf next to its 1980 predecessor.

The film starts several weeks after what happened at The Overlook. Rather than de-ageing the characters and making them look like their faces are wrapped in digital cellophane, the parts of Wendy and Danny are recast for these scenes, and special mention must go to Alex Essoe for getting Shelly Duvall’s voice down to a tee. She may not look exactly the same, but in a blind test you’d be hard-pressed to tell them apart by their voices. Dick Halloran is also back, this time played by Carl Lumbly, who slips into Scatman Crothers’s blazer like it was made for him.

The story sticks very closely to Stephen King’s novel. The opening scene sets the dark tone that the film will take when a child is killed by the True Knot – a group of nomads who travel the highways of America searching for children who ‘shine’ and then devour their psychic powers in order to live hugely extended lives.

When we first meet grown-up Danny – now Dan – he’s a mess. The sins of the father have transferred onto the son and he’s diving to the bottom of a bottle and wasting his life away drifting from town to town. But then he meets some kind souls in a small town and gets a job, gets into AA and gets his life back on track.

We then jump ahead eight years. A young girl called Abra Stone (Kyliegh Curran) while using her ‘shine’ grabs the attention of the True Knot. They see in her enough power to sustain their group for years, but she’s also come to the attention of Dan, so it’s up to him to try to protect her as the True Knot close in.

I have to admit when I read the book I didn’t see the cinematic potential, but Flanagan pulls some really amazing, exciting and scary scenes out of the bag and delivers a film that doesn’t rush to get where it’s going, but never bores you either. I suppose he learned how to sustain tension over a long period while making the excellent Netflix series The Haunting of Hill House – for my money, one of the best TV shows of recent years.

There are a lot of nods to The Shining but they never just feel like fan service. These stories are intertwined and the structure of this story is nothing like Kubrick’s film. Flanagan hasn’t just tried to redo what the 1980 film did; he’s taken the elements he needs from it but very firmly crafted his own narrative with its own look and feel.

The film ends up back at the now-abandoned Overlook Hotel so there are a lot of familiar locations and faces popping up and saying: ‘Hello, Danny.’ McGregor plays this brilliantly; you really get a sense of his fear going back into the lion’s den when it’s the last thing he wants to do. The creepy feeling as he walks through the ruins of his father’s final rampage made the hairs on my arms stand up.

I only have a couple of minor gripes. Rose the Hat (Rebecca Ferguson) is from Northern Ireland (like me!) in the book and I was looking forward to hearing my local accent in this movie, but it isn’t there. I think she’s doing some sort of Irish accent in the opening scene, but it seems to get forgotten after that.

The other thing is the recasting of Jack. As I’ve said, I enjoyed most of the recastings, but Jack Nicholson’s performance in The Shining isn’t something you should try to duplicate – and they don’t. He isn’t the over-the-top crazed Jack we remember, and frankly the conversation he has with Ewan McGregor could easily be lifted from the film and not do any damage, so why they have this exchange which stops the film dead for a few minutes, is beyond me. It’s exposition we don’t need.

I enjoyed this film immensely. It’s one of the better King adaptations and a film I will undoubtedly rewatch many times. It succeeds on its own terms and doesn’t rely on terrible CGI for scares, nor does it hold back on the violence just to reach the under 12 demographic. This is horror how it’s supposed to be. By not trying to be Kubrick, Flanagan has delivered an inventive, emotionally engaging film that leads you into a maze of redrum and supernatural scares, and then shows you the way out.


Ouija (2014) & Ouija: Origin of Evil (2016) Movie Reviews By Steven Wilkins

Ouija Review

Director: Stiles White / Mike Flanagan
Writers: Juliet Snowden, Stiles White / Mike Flanagan, Jeff Howard
Stars: Olivia Cooke, Ana Coto, Daren Kagasoff / Elizabeth Reaser, Lulu Wilson, Annalise Basso

Decided to do some catch up on a couple titles I had always been meaning to check when they dropped.Ouija (2014)and its sequel Ouija: Origins of Evil (2016). Based off the board game of the same, these play up somewhat well the supernatural aspect of horror. Starting with the first, when a young woman (Debbie) finds the game in her house she decides to play it alone thus unlocking an evil that sends her to her death.

Close friend to Debbie, Laine, herself, with a group of close friends, decides to use the board to contact Debbie and say goodbye but quickly learns she’s not “speaking” to Debbie but a different spirit that goes by the name DZ. DZ warns Laine of an evil presence in the midst which begins taking out the friends one by one. Though routine and fairly predictable, the first installment plays out very well, especially once the twist to the backstory is reveraled…which pretty much brings us to ORIGINS. We’re reintroduced to the home and residing family in which all the killings of the original film took place, but this time set in 1967.

Alice Zander (Elizabeth Reaser) is a widowed mother with two daughters (one of which is DZ) who assist her as a medium. Albeit all a scam they soon come to purchase a new board game in which to contact the other side and possibly speak to their lost member. When contact is made, unfortunately they soon find out they’ve unlocked a much darker presence with an evil past connection to the house. A possession occurs and madness ensues. All events touched on in the original are present and what’s better is that this is also one of the rare times a sequel is much better than its predecessor. Making for a fairly nice double header, the Ouija series is a solid view worth a couple bowls of popcorn, enjoy

Ouija (Grade: B-)
Ouija 2 (Grade: A)

Before I Wake (2016) Movie Review By Darrin Gauthier

Before I Wake Review

Director: Mike Flanagan
Writers: Mike Flanagan, Jeff Howard
Stars: Kate Bosworth, Thomas Jane, Jacob Tremblay

Plot:  A young couple adopt an orphaned child whose dreams – and nightmares – manifest physically as he sleeps.

Running Time: 97 Minutes

IMDB Score: 6.2

Why I Watched It: The trailers looked decent and I’m a huge Thomas Jane fan.

Random Thoughts: This was directed by Mike Flanagan who has built up a lot of good will and love from genre fans, he directed Oculus, Gerald’s Game and Hush, of those I think Hush is very good but what he’s done is embrace the horror genre and not try to go legit if you will, he’s one of those rare young directors who is having fun playing with the genre.

Like I said I’m a huge Thomas Jane fan, he’s an underrated actor and a very good genre actor, would love to see him finally breakout but he’s doing well but he deserves more.

What I like: This is a strange film at times cause it’s a borderline horror film, it’s more fantasy granted dark fantasy.  Now usually I don’t care too much for backstory and let’s be honest a couple dealing with a loss of a kid has been over used and sadly it’s often used as a plot point in horror but here the scenes with Kate Bosworth at her support group are good and you get a feel for her character and I think that’s a huge point cause often they use a tragedy as a character trait it’s not, we learn about Bosworth’s character and also that her husband Thomas Jane has stopped going to the group even though Bosworth would like him to. They even say everyone deals with death differently.  So as a director Flanagan does take the time o set up the characters.

Jane is very good here but he really doesn’t have much to do, Bosworth is the lead and in many ways it’s her story, Jacob Tremblay is also very good, he’s a very smart actor. Now I won’t go into to much of the plot but it turns into more of a fantasy than horror and also a mystery, some of that worked for me there’s a big twist in the film and then it’s almost all Bosworth trying to figure out about Tremblay’s dreams and what is the cause.

It’s a smart film and again a rare horror film that does take character beats and keeps the jump scares to a minimum.

What I Didn’t Like: The film is a little frustrating cause it’s well acted and directed but it doesn’t really work, the horror stuff doesn’t fit and the fact they never address how Tremblay’s dreams come to life, you would think that would be important but they call it a gift, alright well his gift kills people I might be splitting hairs here but that’s a problem.

The big thing for me is there’s death about mid way through and after that the film goes into the mystery direction and it fully work for me, the ending is too pat and what kind of bugged me was the tone was never right, either it’s a gift and people don’t die and he learns to control it or it’s evil and they have to get it our of him some how they play it down the middle and the film never really comes together. There’s an idea here, we’ve seen dreams and stuff like this explored before and I do think having a child makes it a bit different but the story doesn’t have a satisfying  third act. Also when the death happens they begin to rely on cliches and the smart writing went out the window.

Final Thoughts: Not a bad film and if you liked Mike Flanagan’s other films then by all means give it a watch.  It’s well done just didn’t click for me.

Rating: 5/10

Hush (2016) Movie Review by John Walsh


Director: Mike Flanagan
Writers: Mike Flanagan,  Kate Siegel
Stars: Kate Siegel,  John Gallagher Jr.,  Michael Trucco

Hush is a refreshingly different take on the home invasion horror sub-genre from Mike Flanagan. It’s not got the most complex storyline you’ll ever come across, but it’s an exhilarating, little psychological thriller of a film nonetheless that features a small, but brilliant cast.

It introduces our main protagonist early doors, just as she’s preparing dinner and Flanagan goes out his way to highlight the fairly isolated nature of Maddie’s new life, living in a small, modern, cabin style house, out in the middle of a unnamed woods. He then does something very clever by completely removing sound to make the viewer aware that she’s deaf.

This is something which is leaned upon several times later in the film to really put us in Maddie’s shoes, and despite being such a simple little thing, it’s really quite effective. The first twenty minutes or so really serve as an introduction to the environment, her disabilities (deaf and mute), a pet cat with a predilection for disappearing when bad stuff is going down and a particularly impressive smoke alarm, which of course, you just know is going to come in use later.

When the villain of the piece finally does arrive on the scene, he does it with a bang, it would be fair to say, shooting Maddie’s new friend Sarah with an arrow and then brutally stabbing her. My initial thoughts during this were, bloody hell thats harsh and more than little disturbing, before thinking to myself, is it really necessary to stab someone that many times? Apparently it is. I digress though, following this disturbing murder, which by the way happens at one of the many sheer glass doors and in front of an oblivious Maddie, our creepy masked assailant, aptly named the ‘man’ because a man he is, changes targets and decides to head inside.

One of the creepier moments in the film happens around this point when he stands behind an unaware Maddie with a knife just before she begins a FaceTime session with another friend. Sneaking out of shot, he grabs her phone, taking various snaps of her and then sends them to the MacBook she’s using, which causes a horrified Maddie to become aware of the masked intruder now mooching around in her house.

What follows is a pretty standard horror premise with the intruder, who by this point has now been locked out the house (and my god is there a lot of doors and windows in this house) and revealed his face, stalking the under siege Maddie, walking round the house again and again like a predator stalking its prey, waiting for the right time to move. He even says as much, tauntingly telling her “Good. Now let’s have some fun” after removing his mask and if this film is anything, then it’s definitely fun.

Sure, it has all the usual horror stereotypes, like when she decides to inexplicably leave the house, hide under the porch and then make an unsuccessful run for it. And if that’s not bad enough, clearly having not learnt her lesson, she goes for a walk out on the roof and along some squeaking guttering, earning an arrow to the leg. Thankfully, this second ill advised trip isn’t completely in vain though, as she manages to snatch the crossbow after performing an arrow avoiding move that Neo would have been proud of and knocking her assailant down.

Things after this point really go up a notch, particularly the gore, after the arrival of an inquisitive John, looking for his now dead wife. The gore isn’t gruesomely bad, but it’s there and it needed to be too I suppose. Without giving much else away, because the final half hour of this film should be enjoyed first hand and not read about. I’ll just go ahead and say that it’s the most satisfied I’ve been to see a character die in a long, long time. That’s shouldn’t be too much of a spoiler.

Kate Siegel is tremendous in this film, she really is. It can’t be easy acting out the part of a deaf and mute person, especially when you’re not afflicted with the disabilities and not having those senses is unfathomable to those blessed with them. Without any real dialogue (she had some in the form an inner voice), most of the emotion and acting had to be done with her facial expression and eyes, and she really did nail it. John Gallagher Jr was equally brilliant as the unnamed ‘man’. I’ll admit I hadn’t really heard of him until I watched 10 Cloverfield Lane, another film featuring a small cast and psychological thriller elements, but that’s changed now and I’m glad for it. He manages to pull of a menacing, mentally unstable, sicko vibe, whilst also injecting some intermittent moments of dark humour into the film.

The highlights of which include, acting like a ventriloquist with a corpse to making a witty, humorous reference to the danger of smoking after just snuffing out the ex-smokers life. The other two weren’t really in the film long enough to pass judgement. I’ll give an honourable shout to the cat who turned up at the end like a gangsta and chilled on the porch surveying the aftermath.

I loved what Mike Flanagan did here in taking a heavily used premise and turning it on its head with the deaf element. He got the absolute maximum he could’ve out of the story and actors/actresses, delivering an intense and enjoyable film in doing so. There was a few niggles. Firstly, did Apple sponsor this film or what? Because damn that was the most in your face product placement I think ever witnessed in a film. I’m an Apple fanboy, but still, come on. Secondly, was there any need for that amount of windows and doors in a house that size? Still though, anal niggles aside, I have absolutely no qualms in recommending this film. I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it.