It is true that cars used to be more aesthetically pleasing than they are now, but equally true that they would kill you for even so much as thinking about getting behind the wheel. Ford v Ferrari, known internationally as Le Mans ’66, hearkens back to a golden age of engineering, when the most important thing an American man could do was make a car that could go for 24 hours without exploding to stick it to the Italians. It’s a simple concept and a simple film, but Ford v Ferrari brings such talent to bear that it’s never far off exhilaration.
The Shining is one of the most iconic films of all time, in horror or any other genre. It is also iconic for how much Stephen King hates it, to the extent that he eventually had to sign a document to the effect that he would no longer publicly excoriate it. But The Shining was only King’s third novel; Doctor Sleep, which would come thirty-six years later, was his 52nd. In 2019, nearly every movie and TV show is based on a Stephen King property, and it is safe to say that he has more clout than he did in 1980. The main thing about King’s The Shining versus Kubrick’s is that they had completely different priorities and, despite their commonalities, they told different stories.
Along comes writer/director/editor Mike Flanagan’s (The Haunting of Hill House) Stephen King’s Doctor Sleep, which acts to bridge the gap: it is a sequel to both the book and the film of The Shining. It does well when it sticks to King and flounders a little bit when it comes to Kubrick, but it is a daring film, and more striking than almost any other recent King project this side of TV’s Castle Rock.
It has been only four years since the Terminator series tried a new direction with the under-appreciated but terribly named Terminator: Genisys. 2019 brings Terminator: Dark Fate, a film that fashions itself as the new third Terminator film. In a series that is so heavily predicated on time travel and timelines, production can create any continuity that they want and get away with it. The main point of difference for Terminator: Dark Fate is that Linda Hamilton (Curvature) and producer James Cameron (Alita: Battle Angel) are back in harness for the first time since 1991, but it is never more ambitious than that.
The current vogue in many films, and not just horror, is how evil the super rich are. Despite the numbers these movies do, the super rich still haven’t got the memo. Ready or Not is your classic girl falls in love with a rich boy, rich boy’s family attempts to murder girl story. Timeless. Ready or Not is well executed, tense but with a sense of humour, and blood. Gallons of blood. All over the camera lens.
Misery was originally going to be a Bachman Book. Misery originally had a different ending. Misery is a deeply personal novel that crystallises many of the demons that Stephen King was fighting at the time of its inception. Misery is a single location novel that is never inert even when it’s confined to a bed. Misery is a towering work even if it ends five inches shorter than it started.
By 2013, it was well and truly clear that Stephen King was his own genre, and that he competes largely with himself. This is likely why, outside of The Dark Tower series and Black House, that he had never really dabbled with sequels until Doctor Sleep. That King chose to make his first major sequel to the book that became one of the most iconic horror films of all time — a film that, coincidentally, he famously really did not like — was daring. Doctor Sleep is the thirty six years on sequel to The Shining, through which King follows up on what happened to Danny after the Overlook Hotel was neutralised. And it works: Doctor Sleep is excellent latter day King, a successor to The Dark Tower, a pre-cursor to Mr. Mercedes, and a novel that doesn’t try to shamelessly ape its predecessor.
In The Institute, we unlock the paradox of Stephen King: much of his best work is familiar and comfortable, echoing across the years, spanning decades. However, there is such a thing as too familiar: when King uses one his skeletons but forgets to put the muscle on the bones, the books suffer. The Institute is the ghost of a Stephen King novel: it has the spirit, but not the flesh. It’s fine, but it’s not much more than that.
The biggest book of 2019 doesn’t have boy wizards in it, fake conspiracies about renaissance artists, secretly evil women, Swedish conspiracy theorists, or teenagers in battles royale. Instead, Margaret Atwood is hailed as the conquering hero, returning readers to Gilead some 34 years after the initial publication of The Handmaid’s Tale. The Testaments is not exactly the sequel everyone was clamouring for — the further adventures of Offred — but it’s the best possible use of the setting that Atwood could have employed. The Testaments is not warm and cuddly, but it takes a different tone to the nightmarish bitterness that characterised its predecessor: it fair zips along.
Kameron Hurley’s heart belongs to novels. Meet Me in the Future’s introduction tells the reader as much instantly. And yet this is her second collection (third, depending on whether you believe the book itself or Hurley’s Wikipedia). To that end, some parts of Meet Me in the Future are considerably stronger than others. These stories represent Hurley’s particular fascinations: womens’ place in society, the impermanence of bodies; plague and pathology. Some she communicates well in sparkling stories, but others collapse under their own weight.
There have been enough Stephen King adaptations in recent years that the man doesn’t need to be introduced anymore. It, the second longest of his 61 novels to date, performed remarkably well in its secretly titled Chapter One instalment of 2017. Two years later, the Loser kids are back, they’ve brought their adult counterparts with them, their film is 34 whole minutes longer, and everything is like a well worn pair of slippers.