Come Play with us, Danny

Doctor Sleep brings The Shining back to life (in more ways than one). Since Stephen King notoriously hated Stanley Kubrick’s adaptation of his horror classic, no one knew how a sequel could be made. King wrote Doctor Sleep in 2013 as a direct continuation of his novel. So respected modern horror director Mike Flanagan compromised between both visions. Although I’m a big fan of The Shining, Doctor Sleep is part King weirdness and part Kubrick nostalgia. Characters are recast without feeling like an imitation and the Overlook Hotel is recreated just as well as in Ready Player One. Jack Nicholson obviously doesn’t return.

Danny Torrance and his mother Wendy deal with the aftermath of The Shining. The ghost of Dick Hallorann tells Doc more about the “shining” since he was supposed to be alive in the novel. Danny literally locks up his trauma and grows into an alcoholic Ewan McGregor. Even though I was more invested in Shining references, the sequel story is interesting enough on its own. Flanagan fills the 2 hour & 32 minute runtime with a creepy atmosphere, strong characters, another mangled hand, and a refreshing absence of jump scares. The King weirdness is the ambiguous nature of “shining” and a nomadic cult of psychic vampires that feed on the “steam” of children. Rebecca Ferguson turns Rose the Hat into a memorably intense villain.

With a few exceptions, the True Knot don’t have a lot of characterization, but I knew I’d be uncomfortable if children were involved. Dan cleans himself up and gains the titular Doctor Sleep nickname as an orderly. A new “shining” kid named Abra Stone played well by newcomer Kyliegh Curran befriends Danny with messages of “REⱭЯUM.” Together they seek to stop Rose the Hat in a very familiar location. The Overlook climax wasn’t in the book, but it is technically part of the original. Danny ends up with an axe, the twins return, there’s a bloody elevator, the naked woman, and other iconic moments are brought back just to adapt the true end of The Shining. Doctor Sleep can’t always bridge the gap, but fans like me should be pleased.

Doctor Sleep

Dan sees REⱭЯUM on the mirror

Preceded by: The Shining

Getting Incorporated

Scooby-Doo! Curse of the Lake Monster is just another Scooby-Doo mystery in a live-action package. Scooby-Doo! The Mystery Begins had the intrigue of being a made-for-TV prequel with a new cast. Curse of the Lake Monster sounds like something that could’ve been a random direct-to-video animated movie. Not that my brother and I didn’t once again watch the premiere on Cartoon Network. The prequel-sequel follows Mystery, Inc. as they get summer jobs and attempt to become incorporated.

The entire cast obviously returns since it was only a year after the previous movie. Nick Palatas is given more attention as Shaggy, but I constantly asked “Scooby-Doo! Where are you?” I get that his CGI is expensive for a TV budget, but he’s barely relevant to the mystery. As the title suggests, the mystery is who’s behind the Lake Monster that haunts the beach. The humanoid toad monster is controlled by a witch with an obvious identity.

Honestly it’s not as memorable as the movie’s summer love subplots. Robbie Amell and Kate Melton are unsurprisingly paired up as Fred & Daphne. They even get a cute joke of them wearing their cartoon accurate outfits. More surprising is Shaggy being paired up with the brainy Velma when he literally falls for her. Hayley Kiyoko is also given more screen time as Velma that makes it obvious she’s the brainwashed villain. Scooby-Doo! Curse of the Lake Monster is a mostly serviceable kids movie that probably won’t leave an impression.

4. Scooby-Doo Curse of the Lake Monster

Mystery, Inc. at a country club

Preceded by: Scooby-Doo! The Mystery Begins

The First Mystery

Scooby-Doo! The Mystery Begins isn’t that bad considering its TV budget. After the failure of Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed, a third live-action movie was cancelled. It was eventually replaced by a sort of prequel that’s both contemporary and has a completely different cast. My brother and I actually watched The Mystery Begins when it first aired on Cartoon Network. Although it lacks the so bad it’s good crudity of the theatrical films, I can’t really refer to it in the same way. Most faults are understandable for a made-for-TV kids movie.

Not counting shows like A Pup Named Scooby-Doo, it is kind of fun to see how many unique personalities became lifelong friends and detectives. Nick Palatas does an admirable job with Shaggy as an awkward high school slaker. The rest of the iconic characters are off, but mostly excusable. Robbie Amell nails the dumb jock with a heart side of Fred, but he isn’t blonde. Kate Melton is a mostly plain looking Daphne with a love for theater. Hayley Kiyoko is the first non-white actress to play Velma, but her braininess and silly walk are very much in tact.

Although voiced by Frank Welker, Scooby-Doo is given rough CGI that makes him look more like a cartoon. Scooby finds a home with Shaggy and the rest of the gang become friends Breakfast Club style. The mystery itself is a very ametur Coolsville High mystery with obvious fakeouts and a more obvious villain. Meanwhile, ghosts are the usual pesky poltergeists. The Mystery Machine ends up being Daphne’s old family van and Scooby Snacks are the homemade treats Shaggy makes. Scooby-Doo! The Mystery Begins is barely a mystery worth discovering, but it’s a harmless addition to the franchise.

3. Scooby-Doo The Mystery Begins

Mystery, Inc. in the Mystery Machine

Followed by: Scooby-Doo! Curse of the Lake Monster

The Real Monsters

Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed feels like the movie they should’ve led with. Although Raja Gosnell is still the director and James Gunn is surprisingly still the writer, Monsters Unleashed feels more like a love letter to Scooby-Doo. Albeit one that retains the immature humor of the first movie. There are still innuendos, but it’s more clear that this was always meant to be a kids movie. Although I was 8 and enjoyed the live-action Scooby-Doo, I still didn’t see the sequel in theaters. Monsters Unleashed isn’t a guilty pleasure like the first movie, but it has its moments. Scooby-Doo 2 brings back the entire cast with slightly updated hair and/or outfits. Mystery, Inc. arrives in a Mystery Machine limo to a Coolsville museum dedicated to their many cartoon accurate ghosts.

It is fun to see them acknowledge the Pterodactyl Ghost, Black Knight Ghost, Tar Monster, and Skeleton Men. At first they’re just costumes, but scientific mumbo jumbo turns them into real monsters with the usual terrible CGI. The mystery this time is who the masked figure behind everything is. Each Mystery, Inc. member is once again given equal importance. At this point Matthew Lillard fully transforms into Shaggy. He and Scooby-Doo try to prove they aren’t screw ups by doing serious detective work. With the usual fart jokes and childish antics along the way. The most memorable scene is Shaggy & Scooby taking potions that turn them into various things. Since Freddie Prinze Jr. and Sarah Michelle Gellar were married at this point, some attention is given to Fred & Daphne’s relationship.

Really it’s Linda Cardellini who’s given the most attention with Velma receiving a love interest. “Jinkies!” she’s even put in a sexy skintight outfit just to impress Seth Green as the museum curator. He’s one of several suspects including Peter Boyle and Tim Blake Nelson as former masked ghosts. Although the real culprit is more obviously Alicia Silverstone as a reporter trying to discredit Mystery, Inc. Other memorable moments involve the gang together. Like when they explore a spooky mansion or remember being teenagers. In the end it’s Scooby-Doo who gets his big hero moment. The villain is unmasked and an obligatory dance number plays. Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed has enough respect for the show to distract from the usual forgivable problems.

2. Scooby-Doo 2 Monsters Unleased

Mystery, Inc. at an abandoned warehouse

Preceded by: Scooby-Doo

Spooky Island

Scooby-Doo is a live-action adaptation that doesn’t take itself too seriously. Scooby-Doo is without a doubt, Hanna-Barbera’s most successful media franchise of all time. It’s impossible to ignore the dozens of animated iterations, direct-to-video movies, crossovers, etc. Something about four meddling kids and their talking dog solving mysteries together has serious staying power. So a live-action movie was inevitable. I’ve always considered myself to be more of a casual Scooby-Doo fan. I saw the first animated movie at a young age, but not much else. I didn’t see Scooby-Doo in theaters even though I was 7 at the time. It eventually became a guilty pleasure of mine that’s unlike any other live-action cartoon adaptations. Since Scooby-Doo was originally intended to be an adult oriented satire similar to The Brady Bunch Movie. Raja Gosnell is an understandable director, but I had no idea James Gunn wrote the screenplay. Shaggy being a pothead, Daphne kissing Velma, and other darker themes were eventually dropped to make it kid friendly, but Scooby-Doo is still packed with less than subtle innuendos.

The cast, soundtrack, cameos, and CGI scream early 2000’s. Regardless of what anyone says, I think Scooby-Doo himself strikes the right balance between real Great Dane and cartoon character. Matthew Lillard is like “Zoinks!” scary good at playing Shaggy Rogers. He’s so good at portraying his hunger and slacker mannerisms that Lillard continues to voice Shaggy to this day. Freddie Prinze Jr. plays into Fred Jones poor leadership skills and self-importance. Buffy herself Sarah Michelle Gellar ironically joins the original Scooby gang as Daphne Blake. This is the first time Fred & Daphne become romantic considering their co-stars were dating. Linda Cardellini is just nerdy enough to play Velma Dinkley, but Daphne & Velma are still put in increasingly revealing outfits. Really it’s the opening scene that gives Mystery, Inc. their cartoon accurate outfits. Even the Mystery Machine is spot on. The movie sort of begins arbitrarily with the Lunar Ghost kidnapping Daphne and being unmasked as Old Man Smithers.

More sudden is the entire team parting ways for over 2 years. They’re brought back due to a mystery on Spooky Island. The haunted amusement park is run by Rowan Atkinson and several other colorful characters. Fred, Daphne, and Velma are more determined to solve the mystery themselves. Fred eventually learns to be less full of himself. Daphne desperately tries to shed her damsel in distress image by learning to fight. Velma proves her intelligence to be valuable and has a sort of love interest. Shaggy & Scooby spend most of their time eating Scooby Snacks and farting for several minutes, but a girl does come between them. Shaggy falls for Mary Jane (subtle) played by before she was famous Isla Fisher. The spooky atmosphere would’ve been enough, but now there are actual monsters on the run. It’s really their CGI that’s horrendous. The mystery is complicated by soul extraction, cult rituals, and Scooby-Doo being sacrificed. Until a random twist that makes the much hated Scrappy-Doo the villain behind everything. Scooby-Doo has a strange approach to its iconic characters, but that’s what makes it so fun. “Scooby-Dooby-Doo!”

1. Scooby-Doo

Mystery, Inc. on Spooky Island

Followed by: Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed

Where Remakes Go to Die

Pet Sematary (2019) is a remake with so much potential. Potential that was thrown away for something almost completely unfaithful to the book. After the success of It, Stephen King adaptations were all the rage. So Pet Sematary went the Carrie route of following up the original and its unnecessary sequel with a remake. The trailer definitely made it seem scarier and more moody than the 1989 film. Although I don’t often see horror movies in theaters, my brother and I figured Pet Sematary (2019) would be a big deal. I certainly regret that decision a little bit. Since the remake is so serious and reliant on jump scares.

Pet Sematary (2019) still follows the Creed family as they move to Maine, but now they’re from Boston and have more problems. Since Dr. Louis Creed gradually becomes more unlikable, it made sense to cast Jason Clarke. Amy Seimetz plays Rachel and newcomers play Ellie and Gage. John Lithgow delivers the iconic “Sometimes, dead is better” line, but he’s no Fred Gwynne. Jud Crandall is widowed like the original, but he develops a friendship with Ellie. So that it makes more sense to suggest bringing back Church when he dies. The cat is somewhat creepier, but it’s still difficult to pull off. The titular cemetery leans more into its tribal history with animal masks and a book accurate Wendigo connection.

The undead Victor Pascow is now black, deadly serious, and very graphically mutilated. Rachel’s sister Zelda is also more grotesque with her spinal disease. The horror atmosphere is so right that I felt betrayed when they went off book. I’d say SPOILER ALERT!, but trailers already gave away that Ellie is the one killed by a truck instead of Gage. I had a feeling when Ellie was given so much attention, but it really defeats the purpose of the original. Leading to a series of intentional subversions that end with several bloody deaths and the entire family being reanimated except for Gage. Pet Sematary (2019) chose shock factor over authenticity.

Pet Sematary 2019

Church glares

Remake of: Pet Sematary (1989)

Bury it

Pet Sematary Two is another unnecessary sequel with no involvement from Stephen King. The director surprisingly returned, but this is far from the original. A movie that I was never a big fan of to begin with. Pet Sematary Two starts like an ordinary pointless sequel, but it quickly becomes very over-the-top and gory. Rather than follow the sole surviving Ellie Creed, they ditch her storyline to focus on a teenage boy. Edward Furlong’s immediate follow up to Terminator 2 ended up being a far less successful sequel.

The Creed burials have become an urban legend when Jeff and his veterinarian father move to Maine after the death of his mother. She was an actress who died in a freak on-set accident. Jeff isn’t nearly as interesting as his new friend Drew. His white dog Zowie obviously ends up buried near the pet cemetery where he comes back as a much more convincing monster. King had nothing to do with the movie, but it does feel like his work at times. Especially with its overly sadistic bullies and cruel stepfather.

Although Clancy Brown is really the only actor trying to have fun. He plays Drew’s police officer stepfather Gus who shoots Zowie before being killed by his undead body. Despite being a jerk, Jeff and Drew for some reason bring Gus back as an almost comedic zombie dad. Until he becomes sadistic and helps Jeff get his mother back. The sequel gets really disgusting with much more gruesome deaths involving people as well as animals. Pet Sematary Two should’ve been buried, because “Sometimes, dead is better.”

Pet Sematary Two

Zowie growls

Preceded by: Pet Sematary

Sometimes, Dead is Better

Pet Sematary is the final Stephen King adaptation released in the 80’s. It was buried for so long since King has called it the scariest book he’s ever written. Although the themes are creepy and saddening, the movie can only go so far. The misspelled Pet Sematary centers on a pet cemetery that mysteriously brings animals back to life. It’s a personal story that King based on similar life experiences. So much so that King wrote the movie himself. Pet Sematary follows the Creed family as they move to a traditional Maine town. The only thing off about their new home are trucks that speed down the street and the titular cemetery down the road.

Dale Midkiff doesn’t stand out as Dr. Louis Creed, but Fred Gwynne is a major presence as their heavily accented neighbor Jud Crandall. Denise Crosby plays Louis’ wife Rachel a year after quitting The Next Generation. Their children are the ambiguously supernatural Ellie and adorable toddler Gage. There’s the usual uncomfortable talk about religion, but their cat Church is actually named after Winston Churchill. When Church dies, Jud tells Louis how to bring him back to life. A soft grey cat can only look so intimidating, but Church coming back wrong is unsettling. “Sometimes, dead is better.”

Other creepy happenings are an undead patient named Victor Pascow warning characters not to use the cemetery and Rachel remembering her sister Zelda who died of a spinal disease. Neither compare to Gage being tragically struck by an oncoming truck. It’s part of the reason why I avoided watching the movie, but it is offscreen. What isn’t offscreen is Louis bringing Gage back to life as a murderous child. 3 year old Miko Hughes is still cute, but surprisingly terrifying. SPOILER ALERT! Jud dies an unexpectedly graphic death and Rachel returns only to die as well. A detatched Louis puts down his cat and son before bringing his wife back. Pet Sematary isn’t the instant Stephen King classic I thought it would be, but it’s lively enough.

Pet Sematary

Church hisses

Followed by: Pet Sematary Two

He’s Got Your Wings

The Fly II could never live up to David Cronenberg’s 1986 remake. The Fly (1986) was simply too popular not to expect a sequel. Even though Cronenberg was replaced by the first film’s Oscar winning makeup artist Chris Walas. Which is why The Fly II is gross for the sake of being gross. Jeff Goldblum is only seen in archive video since John Getz is the only actor who returns. Geena Davis refused since Veronica Quaife is quickly killed in childbirth. Much like Return of the Fly, the sequel follows Seth Brundle’s son Martin.

Eric Stoltz tries, but Goldblum is a tough act to follow. The only interesting thing about Martin’s character is his rapid aging that makes him grow into a young man at 5 years old. Businessman Anton Bartok adopts and studies Martin only to recreate Brundle’s Telepods. The right set up is there, but The Fly II isn’t clever enough to do anything with it. There’s still a disgusting animal test, Martin still ends up with a girlfriend, and there’s still a jerk getting in the way.

Daphne Zuniga is fine as Beth Logan, but her relationship to Martin doesn’t feel as tragic. Stathis Borans is only around to recap the first movie and recommend a cure. Martin experiences the same fly transformation, except that he enters a cocoon. The final act turns into a slasher movie too reliant on overly gory effects. The Martinfly barely resembles a fly and isn’t nearly as iconic. I’m not sure how intentional it was, but the confusing ending is exactly the same as Return of the Fly. The Fly II inherited everything except for the cleverness of the remake.

5. The Fly II

Martinfly

Preceded by: The Fly (1986)

Be Afraid, Be Very Afraid

The Fly (1986) is one of the greatest remakes of all time. Director David Cronenberg took a simple monster movie and gave it a body horror twist. Similar to the 1958 original, I only ever watched the latter half of the remake. My mother actually recommended it since she remembers seeing in in theaters. Audiences were horrified, but The Fly (1986) became a surprisingly huge hit despite being a gory Cronenberg flick. The Fly (1986) follows American scientist Seth Brundle. The always eccentric Jeff Goldblum delivers a performance so good that it’s a wonder he wasn’t nominated for Best Actor.

The tragic romance of the original is increased with Brundle meeting journalist Veronica Quaife. It helps that Geena Davis was dating Goldblum at the time. Brundle introduces her to his Telepods. Teleportation is greatly improved with more modular pods that successfully transport matter. Flesh is a bit more tricky with disgusting tests performed on a baboon. The R rating is more than earned with Academy Award winning makeup. There’s also an emphasis on sex since the remake can be seen as a metaphor for aging. Veronica chronicles Seth’s work, but can’t shake her ex-boyfriend/co-worker Stathis Borans played by John Getz.

The primary difference between the original is a slower transformation. Brundle is fused with a fly and experiences a truly disgusting mutation. Goldblum is captivating as he first feels energetic, craves sugar, and has a high sexdrive. That’s where the iconic (and often out of context) line “Be afraid, be very afraid” comes in. It gets worse when he graphically breaks a man’s arm, develops thick hairs, walks on the walls, and his fingernails & teeth start falling out. More disgusting is the fly-like vomit he uses to eat. The most disturbing scene by far is a pregnant Veronica having a nightmare where she gives birth to a maggot. Brundlefly never produces wings, but he does become more hostile when attacking Stathis and finally becomes a monstrous fly. The Fly (1986) takes an icky concept and turns it into something poignant.

4. The Fly 1986

Brundlefly

Remake of: The Fly (1958) & Followed by: The Fly II