Published on November 6th, 2019 | by Michael Newman0
Some nightmares you wake up from, wipe the sweat from your brow, and go back to wonderful slumber as though it never occurred. Others follow you in both your sleep and waking hours. For Dan Torrance (Ewan McGregor) the nightmare that began at the Overlook Hotel in Stephen King’s best-selling novel (and movie directed by Stanley Kubrick) The Shining continue to follow him through his childhood years. With the help of a friendly spirit (Carl Lumbly) Dan learns how to contain the malevolent spirits that followed him from his nightmarish experience, but at almost the cost of his sanity. Falling back on his fathers’ previous crutch, Dan drinks and fights his demons away every night, consumed by a different type of spirit to manage the pain and fear that he has been running from.
Dan is about to hit rock bottom when he encounters a man who has certainly suffered with his own demons in the past, who offers him a place to stay, a job, and an escape from the alcohol that held him in his own personal hell for several years. After eight years of sobriety he strikes up a psychic pen-pal friendship with a young girl named Abra Stone (Kyliegh Curran), who shares his powers. His wish to push his “shining” deep down inside him, and not let it come out is interrupted when Abra witnesses a murder of a young boy. Using her gift, she uncovers a group of beings so evil, that their desire for immortality requires them to snuff out the lives of those who share the same special gift as Dan and Abra. Dan and Abra must join forces, and let their lights shine, if they are to defeat this evil and save themselves and others like them in the process.
Doctor Sleep is the long-awaited sequel to The Shining released (on film at least) back in 1980. While the original film was lauded by most and reviled by some in the way that Stanley Kubrick brought the story to life, it serves as the backdrop to this sequel. Blending reshoots of the original film (using the current actors) as flash backs, it provides the necessary background to those who may have never had the opportunity to see the original, and visual reminders to those who have. While artistically the film doesn’t hold a shine to the original, it tells a far more consumable story, with less focus on the imagery and symbolism in each shot then Stanly Kubrick’s masterpiece.
The bond between Ewan McGregor and upcoming star Kyliegh Curran is not only believable but magical. The chemistry that the two share both in separate scenes and together show the tight bond they certainly must have felt on set. The movie is blessed with an entire cast of supporting characters, that bring the believability and professionalism to the big screen. Rebecca Ferguson, as our duos’ primary adversary Rose the Hat, provides an outstanding performance. Surrounded by her fellow shine-pires, Grandpa Flick (Carel Struycken), Snakebite Andi (Emily Alyn Lind) and Crow Daddy (Zahn McClarnon) to name just a few, the group reminds me of The Lost Boys in their cunning and hunger.
Doctor Sleep is not a scary movie, at least not when it’s put beside The Shining. While it has scary moments, this is a movie about putting aside your fear and challenging evil, regardless of the cost. Dan must put the past behind him and dig deep within himself to find his purpose and with this purpose will come a lot of loss, but acceptance at the same time. The movie begins a little slow and picks up midway through. While the battle against many of the shine-pires may feel a little hollow at first, it’s nothing to what will compare with the ultimate climax between good and evil.
Fans of the Stanley Kubrick film will see lots of familiar locations and costumes throughout the two-and-a-half-hour show. Even the re-created scenes share the same visual imagery and spectacle, just as if it was simply a re-master. I actually liked that they reshot the pivotal scenes and characters, while no one can perfectly mimic the master of Jack Nicholson, I felt that Henry Thomas did an amazing job in his portrayal of the young Jack Torrance. Alex Essoe portrayed an outstanding Wendy Torrance, a role that was masterfully played by Shelley Duvall back in the day.
With the magnitude of Stephen King movies (and series) being released in the recent years, it could easily feel as if we have all been teleported back to the 80’s. There have been some homeruns in recent years (and some foul balls), but Doctor Sleep easily ranks up there as one of the better of the Stephen King movies to be released in recent memory. While the movie is much more action-oriented and doesn’t deliver on the sheer terror of the original, it suits the story, and does a commendable way of bringing closure to some of Stephen King’s more notable characters. Both fans and non-fans of the original will find a lot to like, and for those looking for more story (and less artistry) will be extremely pleased with the way director Mike Flanagan (The Haunting of Hill House series / Hush) brings this rendition to the screen. So, let your light shine and go see Doctor Sleep.
4 out of 5 stars