Wondering what to watch? With it being the unlucky Friday the 13th, why not roll the dice with some spooky oddities in your weekend streaming?
Modern day horror maestro (and Stephen King aficionado) Mike Flanagan’s 2019 feature film Doctor Sleep is one candidate, starting on the back foot with being attached to the memory of The Shining, but finds plenty of bizarre horror in its own right.
The 1992 Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the feature film precursor to the long-running TV franchise (and comics) might not have the bite and finesse of its series counterpart but it has plenty of its own going for it, despite what its reputation might suggest.
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Even then, there’s some campy laughs to be had at its expense. Though more of a horror in the sense of its engagement with our relationships with corporate culture and how it (quite literally) makes monsters out of us, the alternate present-day Oakland of the macabre Sorry to Bother You has plenty of weird existential terror to spare.
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Sorry To Bother You (2018) – BBC iPlayer: Pick of the week
The debut feature by hip-hop artist and music video director Boots Riley, Sorry To Bother You’s bizarre and frequently Charlie Kaufman-esque debut feature is many things all at once, but incredibly brazen above all else.
Following the directionless telemarketer Cassius Green (Lakeith Stanfield, on the cusp of stardom), Riley explores how corporate systems turn workers and marginalised peoples against each other in order to maintain power. Sounds simple and serious enough, but Sorry To Bother You adds multiple absurdist twists in its tale, as Cassius is given a taste of the sweet life because of his uncanny ability to imitate the voice of a white person (Arrested Development’s David Cross, in this case) over the phone to customers.
As he climbs through the ranks to the path of the elite, Cassius finds himself torn between the allure of wealth and solidarity with his less well-of co-workers and peers. It’s a film that, with its various nightmarish parodies of Amazon and the like, feels very in keeping with ongoing labor movements as various workers for American corporate giants unionise for the very first time.
Watch the trailer for Sorry To Bother You
A sprawling mixture of corporate satire, absurdist comedy Sorry to Bother You overcomes the messiness of its writing through sheer will and absolute unhinged imagination, as well as some galvanising rage in its dissection of how capitalism and racism work hand in hand.
Also on iPlayer: Into The Woods (2014), Mindhorn (2016)
Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1992) – Disney+
Perhaps a film mostly reserved for completionist Buffy and Angel fans or just the outrageously curious, the cinematic not-quite-prequel to the hit show of the same name created by Joss Whedon has some worthwhile surprises in store.
First and foremost is how much Kristy Swanson’s plucky, but steely performance as the eponymous Buffy lays the groundwork for Sarah Michelle Gellar’s iconic portrayal. Second is its charming parade of 90s sweethearts like Luke Perry and David Arquette.
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Directed by Fran Rubel Kuzui the concept is vaguely the same as the subsequent television show: the oddly-named cheerleader Buffy is popular and affable, but has her life upended by the revelation of a mythic destiny — powers bestowed unto a teenage girl in every generation, to protect the world from vampires.
Definitely rough around the edges as it hadn’t quite figured out the design of its action, coloured by dialogue that oscillates between corny and outdated. But at the same time there’s campy fun to be found, even as it has growing pains to rival that oddball first season.
Also on Disney+: Sneakerella (2022), Bruce Almighty, Tommy
Doctor Sleep (2019) – Netflix
To be frank, Doctor Sleep is far from perfect. Mike Flanagan’s film adaptation of Stephen King’s The Shining sequel of the same name falls in line with the past decade or so of so-called “legacy sequels”, decades-later revisitations of beloved classics, designed to push the audience’s nostalgia buttons.
Its final act is where this feels most apparent as it goes on a “remember this?”-style tour of cinematic history, which is mainly a drawback because the preceding material is actually so distinct and compelling.
Flanagan’s decision to engage with Stanley Kubrick’s film (which King himself famously disliked) is somewhat unavoidable, but a lot of what precedes that trip down a haunted memory lane is genuinely terrifying.
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It’s quite a miraculous feat, not just with such comparisons in mind but also considering that the narrative is focused around Rebecca Ferguson’s antagonist Rose the Hat (resembling an evil Stevie Nicks) vaping the souls of children. As unhinged as that sounds, under Flanagan’s direction such absurdity takes on a new state, transforming into something quite unsettling: the misery of one particular scene with the young actor Jacob Tremblay will linger in the mind for many.
Doctor Sleep is equally bold about how it leans into the corniness that King’s writing contains, and its better off for it. Ewan McGregor is doing strong work in finding the humanist side of a story of psychic children and top hat-wearing monsters.
It’s simply solid, unpretentious genre work for a film that should be all means be doomed by daring to be a sequel to The Shining. And yet, it almost completely works in this capacity, though only when it vaguely evokes it through the awful memories clearly etched into Danny Torrance’s weary face.
Also on Netflix: Hairspray (2007)