All work and no puns make Teddy a dull reviewer. Honestly, that line sounded more clever in my head, but I’ll make up for it, I promise. Speaking of which, Doctor Sleep is not only really good, but the best Stephen King adaptation all year – and I actually liked It: Chapter Two.
Here’s Danny…as a recovering alcoholic. Forty years later, after the tragedy at the Overlook Hotel, Danny is struggling to find peace and fight the same malevolent urges his father suffered at the hands of. Abra, a young teenage girl, shares Danny’s extrasensory ability to “shine,” but her “shine” is extremely powerful and Rose the Hat and her followers who feed off of others’ shines are hungry. So, it is up to Danny to help Abra realize her powers and protect her at all costs, even if that means returning to The Overlook.
Like its predecessor, I hesitate to classify Doctor Sleep as a horror film. It’s less focused on being scary, and more on being an intense psychological thriller, with bone-chilling moments and haunting imagery scattered throughout. And the film’s placement within its genre is enhanced by Rebecca Ferguson’s devilishly good performance as Rose the Hat. Don’t let her sly smiles and friendly demeanor fool you, she is every ounce wicked. But she does show compassion for her followers, and their quest for a long life and good eating demonstrate the film’s theme of our own mortality. Substance abuse, another of the film’s themes, is embodied in Ewan McGregor’s dynamic performance, the internal conflict of not becoming his father being one of the most challenging for Danny.
What I believe to be most impressive about Doctor Sleep, is how well it continues the story The Shining began and as a whole is very fleshed out in providing a satisfying resolution to the two-part story. Everyone remembers Jack Nicholson’s performance, or the wave of blood that comes out of the elevator, or the creepy twin girls, or the ominous score, but not as memorable is why the film was named The Shining; Danny’s ability to talk to people within their minds was an element that went largely unexplored. So, what does Doctor Sleep do? Conjure up an answer to every question you might’ve had. For example, how powerful can someone’s “shine” be and who else may have it? What practical uses may it have? All answered, sometimes in exciting fashion. Where in The Shining the film felt more grounded, Doctor Sleep plays around with more fantastical ideas and plot devices, giving it the freedom necessary to establish itself as its own film, separated from The Shining but still connected; Doctor Sleep is Doctor Sleep, not The Shining 2. That isn’t to say there is nothing for Kubrick enthusiasts, as the film does make sure to play many of the greatest hits and pay homage to the 1980 classic.
Much like Kubrick was known for, Mike Flanagan demonstrates a willingness in his direction to go as far he feels necessary; Doctor Sleep takes risks, and doesn’t feel safe like too many other films today. There are some devastating and or gruesome moments. I also appreciate the film’s choice to sidestep de-aging technology, which is often hit-or-miss. Actors who look like a younger Jack Nicholson and Shelley Duvall are chosen to represent their characters in flashbacks, etc. and do goods jobs in mimicking their respected actors’ style.
With a runtime of 151 minutes, Doctor Sleep is a bit of a marathon, but is worth it. There’s something for everyone, including strong performances and compelling themes and characters. This is a film you won’t want to miss, unless you are too afraid to check in. 8.5/10