"In the shadow of The Shining | DOCTOR SLEEP – Review"
Straight up, as someone who never read either THE SHINING or DOCTOR SLEEP books, my review is not meant for book-to-film comparison. So, stop right here if that’s what you’re looking for. However, as a person who has seen THE SHINING movie, and now DOCTOR SLEEP, I can say it’s not a perfect sequel in my opinion. I say sequel, because that’s what the film is built up as, BUT it’s a decent tie-in.
Lest we forget—and we probably should—1997’s TV miniseries of THE SHINING, Stanley Kubrick’s 1980 cinematic adaptation was/is widely regarded as one of the greatest horror films of all time. It’s also one of the more infamous cases of tension between author’s words and filmmaker’s vision, with Kubrick’s film taking creative freedoms with the character Jack Torrance (played by Jack Nicholson). However, the reality is that both King’s (as told from those who have read THE SHINGING) and Kubrick’s visions of Jack’s ultimate loss of self and sanity solidifies both men’s places as creative geniuses.
That said, King’s DOCTOR SLEEP continues the story 40 years following the events of THE SHINING, a now-adult Dan Torrance (Ewan McGregor) continuously battles, questions, and tries to find peace with his past while simultaneously meeting a young girl, Abra (Kyliegh Curran) with similar powers they both refer to as the “shine.” As complex circumstances arise between the two, his priorities shift as he feels obligated to protect her from a cult known as The True Knot with abilities of their own, led by Rose the Hat (Rebecca Ferguson) who prey on children with powers to remain immortal.
As I type, I’m still trying to process this movie. I will confess it was one of my most anticipated this year, but I don’t feel that it lived up to any sort of expectation. Not that I had any, but my feelings for it are a bit blurred. In a lot of ways this film is a seesaw. It isn’t bad by “bad standards,” but it’s one that’ll split its audience for sure. Especially those who grew up digesting Kubrick’s SHINING over-and-over. For starters, DOCTOR SLEEP is an interesting film all on its own. It sets up an atmosphere and generates its own tonality of psychological discomfort. Flanagan aimed at making sure he covered three bases: one, creating his own cinematic footprint with the creepy franchise, two, making sure its audience views Dan as a hero, and three, triggering deep despise for the film’s villains. For what it’s worth, all three were accomplished.
However, at 2 hours and 30 minutes, you will feel the drag. It’s a long one! It provides a lot to process during its first half. There’s just so much happening as it jumps from one storyline to the next, it becomes a little mind-numbing. You’re just bearing all sorts of stepping stones until it starts intertwining storylines. Then, when it finds its footing, it shines (no pun) in a way that allows you to endure and enjoy a narrative that decently meshes new with the old. It morphs into more of a psychological gauntlet than a horror. There isn’t one scare (that I can recall) whatsoever. It is dark and creepy enough for a spook, but that’s it. However, in the interest of fairness, I’d be a lair if I said DOCTOR SLEEP didn’t carry its own weight of wickedness.
The movie provides a little something for everyone. Whether you’re a ripened fan or a newbie, there are elements in the movie that’ll resonate, and wind up appreciated. Quite frankly, the way the movie carries itself, one doesn’t even have to be familiar with the source material as it’s covered briefly through dialog. Ewan McGregor’s performance is kind of stiff and a little underwhelming for me, but good enough to keep a wave of interest. However, my favorite, Rebecca Ferguson and The True Knot! Sinister as can be, they earn their hate in this movie. To a degree, I guess it provided pleasantries for me, but in the end, I don’t know this is one I’ll find myself freezing on while channel surfing like I do when I come across THE SHINING. Well… Like all else… It’s subjective! I wouldn’t discourage anyone from making an appointment to go see DOCTOR SLEEP!
Grade: B / Genre: Horror / Rated: R / Run Time: 2:30
Starring: Ewan McGregor, Rebecca Ferguson, Kyliegh Curran, Carl Lumbly, Zahn McClarnon, Emily Alyn Lind, Bruce Greenwood, Jocelin Donahue and Cliff Curtis