Doctor Sleep

Review by Rich Cline | 3/5

Doctor Sleep
dir-scr Mike Flanagan
prd Jon Berg, Trevor Macy
with Ewan McGregor, Kyliegh Curran, Rebecca Ferguson, Cliff Curtis, Carl Lumbly, Emily Alyn Lind, Zahn McClarnon, Carel Struycken, Alex Essoe, Roger Dale Floyd, Bruce Greenwood, Jacob Tremblay
release UK 31.Oct.19,
US 8.Nov.19
19/US Warner 2h31

ferguson curtis greenwood
See also:
The Shining (1980) Room 237

For this sequel to The Shining, writer-director Mike Flanagan ambitiously merges Stephen King's novel with Stanley Kubrick's 1980 classic, resulting in a movie perhaps too big for its own good. The story is more suited to a gritty, introspective approach, so the blockbuster elements feel a bit flimsy. And some Kubrickian touches feel like a stretch. But the bold tone builds real tension, especially in some downright brutal moments.
After the horrific events at the Overlook Hotel, young Danny (Floyd) and his mother Wendy (Essoe) escape to Florida. But Danny's extrasensory "shine" continues to haunt him, so he turns to alcohol like his late father. Decades later Danny (now McGregor) ends up in New England, where a new friend (Curtis) helps him get sober and find a job helping dying patients, which earns him the nickname Doctor Sleep. Then 16-year-old Abra (Curran) contacts him telepathically, worried about a woman named Rose (Ferguson) who is killing gifted kids and feeding their "steam" to her followers.
For fans of the novels, Flanagan's balancing act is impressive, maintaining King's deeply flawed characters while including a geeky adoration of the movie, including familiar sets, musical beats and look-alike actors. All of this is a little distracting, because this film doesn't feature the grand, light-drenched terror Kubrick generated. It's more dark and gloomy, and its scary imagery is a strange combination of deliberately unnerving nastiness and more standard horror movie gimmicks.

At the centre, McGregor portrays a haunted man nearly broken by his experiences but trying to put things together and do the right thing. His chemistry with costars has a wonderfully grainy quality to it, grounding supernatural goings-on in real emotion. And newcomer Curran is terrific as the feisty teen, although she's so potent that she upstages Ferguson's more delicate turn as the smirking, voracious Rose. She's clearly no match for Abra, which kind of drains the climax of any real tension.

The film's epic length and scale combine add some growling gravitas, with big imagery and a clever use of effects, flickering flashbacks and supernatural visions, all of which are anchored in the complex motivations of the characters. Flanagan is also refreshingly unafraid to feature some genuinely distressing sequences without being too graphic, including hideous violence against a child and a couple of sudden, awful deaths. So the film is more foreboding and nasty than frightening. And deeper still, it's an involving look at sobriety, which of course is another mirror reflection of the 1980 film.

cert 15 themes, language, violence 25.Oct.19

R E A D E R   R E V I E W S

send your review to Shadows... Doctor Sleep Still waiting for your comments ... don't be shy.

© 2019 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall