Pros: love for King’s work and a careful film adaptation of the book, not a cinematic remake; clever and effective references to Kubrick’s The Shining; decent acting; brisk pace of the story; really scary moments Cons: not all actors are suitable for their roles; weakly reshot scenes from The Shining; reworked and crumpled ending; Some sagging in the Doctor Sleep story
Directed by Mike Flanagan
Starring Ewan McGregor, Rebecca Ferguson, Kylie Curran, Carl Lumbly and others.
Intrepid Pictures and Vertigo Entertainmen
Year of release 2019
Doctor Sleep tells the story of a grown-up Danny Torrance, a boy from the ominous Overlook Hotel. Many years ago, his father Jack Torrance, who had gone crazy, tried to kill him and his mother. It turned out that the Overlook, where the family spent the winter, is itself Evil, in which the ghosts of the people who died here live. Together they drove Jack to madness and forced him to attempt the lives of his loved ones.
Thirty years later, Danny dulls his glow with alcohol and gradually loses his humanity. One day the hero realizes that this is no longer possible and comes to a quiet American town near New York to start a new life. In this he is helped by local resident Billy Freeman, who gets Danny a job at a hospice.
After years of adequacy without alcohol, Danny is telepathically contacted by schoolgirl Abra. She also shines, and this power is enormous. Abra’s skills are so powerful that the girl “catches” how a certain gang of vampire travelers called the “True Knot” brutally deals with the boy, who also shines, and feeds on his “steam.” Abra’s mental presence is revealed by the sect leader Rose. Now the woman wants to take away her “pair” too, and Danny decides to intervene and save the girl.
Based on the Doctor Sleep novel of the same name, the film runs two and a half hours. During this time, director Mike Flanagan manages to translate almost the entire book onto the screen, missing some minor (in his opinion) moments and removing a couple of characters. Thus, they cut the role of one of Danny’s friends, Doctor John Dalton, who, according to the book, actively participated in the main events with the “True Knot”. Of course, it’s impossible to squeeze an entire novel into the running time of a film, but if you compare Doctor Sleep with Kubrick’s The Shining, the sequel turns out to be a meticulous repetition of the book. At least most of it.
Mike Flanagan’s Doctor Sleep is a rare case when a director set out to sit on two chairs, and it worked out. In this film, the creator tried to please fans of the original duology of novels and Stephen King himself, who hates the film adaptation of Kubrick’s The Shining and talks about it everywhere. At the same time, Flanagan expresses respect to Stanley Kubrick as a cult director and inserts into the picture some important moments from the legendary “The Shining”, and also scatters a dozen references throughout the film. True, the inserted pieces are not original footage from the 1980 film, but their re-shot episodes. And it’s precisely they who spoil the sequel in many ways. No, not because they are poorly made, everything is fine with that. It turns out that filming a boy riding a bicycle through the huge corridors of the Overlook and showing the Golden Room with an empty bar is not as simple as it seems at first glance. Especially if you do it after Kubrick.
Worse was the appearance of Jack Torrance himself, played by the little-known actor Henry Thomas. Despite the external resemblance to the image of Jack Nicholson in “The Shining,” it’s not that he couldn’t outplay the legendary actor, but apparently he didn’t even try.
Despite the above shortcomings, the director managed to masterfully scatter references to The Shining throughout Doctor Sleep, and at the end of the film he perfectly, and sometimes even better than the original, recreates the hotel itself, the Evil and ghosts that live in it.
If you thought that Doctor Sleep is a full-fledged and in many ways repeating the second part of The Shining, then no. The new film was shot at a different pace and in this way repeats the book as much as possible. If the novel “The Shining” is read slowly and drawn-out, like a full-fledged mystical-psychological thriller, then “Doctor Sleep” is written like a vigorous modern bestseller, which is what it is, where pages are swallowed one by one, and a seemingly thick book suddenly ends in a couple days.
It’s the same with films. Stanley Kubrick’s “The Shining” looks slow, viscous, with deliberately drawn out scenes and mesmerizing music. And Flanagan’s “Doctor Sleep” flashes on the screen in bright spots, slowing down only for rare flashbacks and references to “The Shining.” At the same time, we are faced with a leisurely, measured action that veers into horror and drama, and there are many more truly frightening episodes here than in The Shining.
The decent acting also added weight to the new film. True, some of them, in my opinion, were not chosen quite correctly. For example, actor Cliff Curtis, who played the role of Danny Thorance’s best friend Billy Freeman, does not fit in with the book character. Although this will not be understood by those who have not read the books, but only watched the first film. Ewan McGregor himself feels great in the title role, and his acting is a level above others, but the Scottish actor failed to perfectly get used to the image of a true American.
The most pleasing actress is Rebecca Ferguson, who played the leader of the vampires. With her performance, she is a full-fledged and living antagonist who holds a significant part of the story. In every scene, she is convincing, gorgeous, evil, powerful and fragile at the same time – the perfect balance for a conflicted villain.
Other actors, including the young Abra Stone, a radiant young actress played by actress Kylie Curran, do not overact, but show talent where necessary. True, this does not prevent them from pale in comparison to Rebecca Ferguson and Ewan McGregor, but this is more likely due to the shortcomings of the script, where their characters are almost not developed.
Mike Flanagan managed to make one of the best film adaptations of Stephen King novels. The director managed to reconcile fans of King and Kubrick, please everyone, combine important elements of the books and the film adaptation into something new, watchable and sinister. At the same time, he managed to make not just another horror film or boring psychological drama, but a cheerful action thriller full of suspense with a touch of horror and good graphics.
A full-fledged King drama made with love for horror, filled with clever references to Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining. A must watch for fans and lovers of the genre!