Tor.com content by

Leah Schnelbach

Doctor Sleep Bypasses Typical Horror Tropes to Ask if Recovery Is Possible

I am of two minds.

On the one hand, this may be the best possible sequel to The Shining. Mike Flanagan has managed to synthesize the most iconic parts of Stanley Kubrick’s film, with the deep love that Stephen King had for his characters—the love that was so strong he had to catch up with Danny Torrance nearly forty years later in a 2013 sequel. Flanagan wrangles Doctor Sleep’s original characters and puts them in conversation with Kubrick’s visuals and the sense of haunted despair that make The Shining such an unsettling watch.

But on the other hand, this is a fundamentally different film than the Shining. It does some things with tone and intention that undercut Kubrick’s vision. And despite the ghosts and mystical trappings, Doctor Sleep is not a horror movie.

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Watchmen Delves Into Angela’s Past with Dark Hints of Her Future

Once again Watchmen gives us a compelling hour of television! This week’s episode, “If You Don’t Like My Story, Write Your Own,” introduces us to the mysterious Lady Trieu, and gives us a bit more backstory on Angela Abar.

While I will say that I’m getting slightly annoyed with the show dropping clues and hints and then cutting out before they actually answer any of the questions they’re raising, I do think they’re building to something. And even if the pay off isn’t perfect, the acting is so incredible, and watching these characters bounce off each other each week is simply a delight.

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Six Books About Spacefaring Missionaries

When science fiction authors write about first contact, or politically fraught cultural exchange, it’s only natural to draw on humanity’s long real-world history of washing up on strange shores and trying to make sense of—or dominate—alien cultures. The historical people making that first contact were often religious missionaries, either people who were seeking a new life away from oppressive governments or religious structures, or those who believed that the greatest role they could have was to spread their religion to people who didn’t know it.

Obviously this did not always go well.

Which is why it makes sense to take stories of missionaries and merge them with stories of space travel! The inherent drama of meeting an alien civilization is only enhanced by the built-in tension of different faiths and belief systems crashing into each other, and that dynamic has resulted in some absolute classics of science fiction. I’ve gathered up six books that follow people of faith on journeys that take them across strange landscapes, and, sometimes, into the stars.

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The Sustaining Power of Fandom: Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus

I have some absurd gaps in my reading life. Given how much I read for work, for research, and for fun, it’s truly silly how erratic my reading can be. It’s like I’m careening through a library whisperscreaming “Serpentine!” as I yank books off shelves. Until recently, The Night Circus had occupied a perennial spot on the top of my TBR Stack, lounging seductively, winking at me from across the room, promising caramel apples and magical realms and sighing romance.

But sometimes I’m a titanic idiot, and don’t respond to flirting books nearly soon enough.

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A Familiar Face Returns in This Week’s Watchmen

This week’s episode of Watchmen, “She Was Killed By Space Junk,” digs deeper into the legacy of the heroes and villains of Watchmen’s timeline. We get a little bit more of Angela Abar’s search for the truth, but we mostly get a whole lot of Laurie Blake (who has complex feelings about superheroes), and some tantalizing set up for the larger conspiracy at work in the show.

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The Powerful Legacy of The Twilight Zone

“What dimension are you even in?”

Our current reality is a fractured and terrifying place, with some forces trying to recreate the exact 1950s fauxtopia that Rod Serling railed against in the original version of The Twilight Zone, while other forces are trying to drag us into what might, if we’re very lucky, turn out to be a sustainable future. We have technology and innovation that make us, essentially, gods—and once we get that pesky mortality thing beat we will be unstoppable—except, of course, that human nature is probably going to screw us over at every turn.

And that’s where the original Twilight Zone was so good: Serling knew that to reckon with human nature was to ricochet between unbearable depths and impossible heights. In order to reflect that, his show had to balance demands that humans do better, already, with shots of pure hope. He knew to lighten his moralizing with occasional pure silliness. The show keeps coming back in new formats because something in this combination speaks to people, and each new reboot spends at least some time on that foundation of social justice that Serling laid back in the 1950s.

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This Week’s Watchmen Asks Riveting Questions

Apologies if my every review of this show opens with me just capslocking all over the place, but WHAT WAS THAT?

WHAT IS GOING ON?

WHAT IS YOUR ENDGAME, SHOW?

Ahem.

This week’s Watchmen was, for the most part, riveting. And occasionally, confounding! And there’s so much to talk about! But once again let me say that this show is doing so much more than I was expecting, and if you’re not watching it, you should be. Join me below.

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Robert Eggers’ The Lighthouse Delivers on Tense Psychological Horror

Robert Eggers’ The Lighthouse is not an easy movie to write about. Compared to The Witch, which was a much more straight-ahead horror film, The Lighthouse is even more atmospheric, and moves at an even slower pace. It’s not exactly spoil-able, as very little happens in the film, and yet I don’t want to say too much as this is more of an experience than a movie, and the more you know the more the experience might be tainted.

I will say that Eggers has once again given us a film that looks at how humanity tries to impose order on Nature, and how Nature tends to buck that imposition right the hell off. In this case he’s pitting two men against The Sea, rather than one family against The Wilderness, but he has created a gripping, utterly singular cinematic experience. Just with fewer goats this time.

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18 Spooky Stories Recommended by Dracula, the Wolf Man, Frankenstein’s Creature, and Other Classic Monsters

Surely nobody knows the horror genre better than the horrors themselves!

From the 1920s through the ’50s, Universal Pictures’ horror films ruled the silver screen, giving us classic portrayals of iconic monsters from Count Dracula to the Creature from the Black Lagoon. Whether you’ve seen the films or not, you know the creatures—the sinister predator, the curious monster, the transformed traveler, the cursed immortal, the mad scientist, and the tragic experiment.

So if you want a stack of books to sustain you through the rest of the Spooky Season, we’ve got recommendations directly from the Monsters…

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The Premiere Episode of Watchmen is Rich, Terrifying, and Takes Us In Surprising Directions

Is it worth it to watch the Watchmen—Damon Lindelof’s nine-episode remix/sequel that takes place in a modern version of an alternative United States? Based on the first hour I’m going to say yes, that Lindelof and his team have done the improbable and built a compelling work of television that justifies adding on to an iconic story. The opening episode, “It’s Summer and We’re Running Out of Ice” is absolutely riveting, and plays with familiar Watchmen iconography in surprising ways.

I’ll give some backstory and review the episode below—making sure to mark out any spoilers as we go. And let me know what you thought of tonight’s episode in the comments!

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Is Gemini Man a Movie? Or Something New?

Gemini Man might be a movie? It’s definitely an experiment. It’s about a covert government sniper named Henry Brogan who (heavy sigh) thinks retiring is a good idea, and gets into all manner of scrapes after he hits send on his resignation email. Brogan is played by Will Smith. He is soon being targeted by a younger sniper, who knows all of his moves, looks exactly like him, and is played by a CGI-de-aged Will Smith.

Ang Lee directed, using a very, very old script that was worked over by David Benioff, Billy Ray, and Darren Lemke, and he shot it in digital, at the higher-than-normal frame rate of 120 fps, in 3D, on ARRI Alexa M cameras that were adapted for the purpose. The result is a simulacrum of a movie. An echo of a movie shouted into a well. A video game that occasionally reaches out an stabs you in the eye. Instead of spending your money on this you could just watch Looper and then all three John Wicks.

I will say in its favor, though, that the audience I saw it with seemed pretty invested in a certain third-act twist, so, YMMV. Also, this movie made me really really want a rocket launcher.

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A Tale of Two Arthurs: On Mental Health, Joker, and The Tick

When Todd Phillips’ Joker premiered at the Venice Film Festival in September, it received a rapturous reception, winning the Golden Lion for Best Film. Now that it’s out in the U.S., the reviews have been a bit more mixed. The story of Some Bad Days in the life of Arthur Fleck, who might be mentally ill, and maybe becomes the Joker, is compelling, but not always coherent. I found myself rooting for Arthur at times, but I also found myself thinking of a very different superhero-adjacent story—one that also featured a mentally ill protagonist.

I’m speaking, of course, of The Tick.

Join me below for a spoilery discussion of Joker, The Tick, and the importance of therapy.

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Steven Universe Premieres a New Opening Sequence, and A Shiny New Title!

The Steven Universe panel at New York Comic-Con was, as is right and proper, a concert first! But then creator Rebecca Sugar dropped some news: the cast is following up their (incredible) Steven Universe: The Movie with a limited run epilogue titled Steven Universe: Future! And this epilogue comes with a brand-new opening sequence, which you can see below!

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Sam Raimi and Director Nicolas Pesce Tease a New, R-Rated Version of The Grudge!

The Grudge is a classic piece of J-Horror that has seen a number of sequels and adaptations, including one starring Sarah Michelle Gellar. The latest take on the franchise, hitting theaters in January, has been produced by Evil Dead and Spider-Man auteur Sam Raimi, directed by Nicolas Pesce, and having been loosed from the shackles of earning a PG-13, will go in even darker directions than its predecessors! Raimi and Pesce, were joined by actors Andrea Riseborough, Lin Shaye, and Betty Gilpin for an intense New York Comic-Con panel that covered everything from how to act terrified to whether we’ve seen the last of Evil Dead!

(Spoiler alert: We haven’t.)

Click through for highlights from the panel!

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