In the pantheon of great films Stanley Kubrick’s 1980 The Shining stands as ominous and strong as the Overlook Hotel itself. To call The Shining the best supernatural psychological horror, is an understatement. Therefore, one was surprised such a film would receive the current trend of sequel splashing, at least in this lifetime. To have a follow up to such a revered, studied and distinguished film is by no means an easy feat. Therefore, it needs to be commended that while Doctor Sleep has its issues and doesn’t soar to the genius filmmaking Kubrick produced… it’s pretty damn good.
Doctor Sleep is the continuation of Danny Torrance’s story 40 years after the terrifying events of The Shining. Still irrevocably scarred by the trauma he endured as a child, Dan (Ewan McGregor) is now a hospital orderly who uses his psychic gifts, his ‘Shine’, to help the dying pass on. His hidden existence is shattered when he encounters Abra, a teenager with her own even more powerful extrasensory ‘Shine’. Recognizing that Dan shares her power, Abra has sought him out, desperate for his help against the merciless hippy Rose the Hat, who feeds off the shine of innocents in the quest for immortality. Abra’s fearless embrace of her shine compels Dan to call upon his own powers as never before-at once facing his fears and reawakening the ghosts of the past to help this young psychic, which may mean going back to the Overlook Hotel.
Stephen King can write a story well, there has never been a question on that. While they may tend to be long winded, his characters are so drenched with depth and hubris that one can forgive the waffle. Sometimes this transposes well to screen, other times it doesn’t. Doctor Sleep is a little long winded and very over long but at least it remains interesting throughout. The main issues lay in a tonal inconsistency, where director Mike Flanagan has made a clumsy hybrid of a genre film. Never relishing in the source mythology or the enate horror of the story but preferring a cleaner good vs evil narrative. This however is more of a meditation and reaction to today’s cinema going audiences where we tend to either judge a film or enjoy it, never can the to two coexist, but that’s a whole other story.
Where this film excels tremendously is in it characters who are all fleshed out and complex. Everyone’s motivation and through-line is clear. McGregor does a wonderful job of the traumatic scars and subsequent turn to ownership of his gift. As the lead he is grounded and true. However, the films wild card and best asset is Rebecca Ferguson as Rose the Hat. She is key to the films story and success. A wonderful King villain who never resorts to camp while always displaying a just covered malice dripping with creepy appeal. A wonderful actress doing fantastic work with a good script. The film noticeably picks up when Flanagan focuses on his villain.
This is a sequel one should not Overlook. It’s an interesting tale and doesn’t jump at you with cheap scares. It builds on a lore from both book and film and features some wonderful performances and visual style. The vast majority of this film succeeds in an eerie although heavy handed way. Both fans and newcomers should be impressed as this is not a dull boy.
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