- Written and Directed by Mike Flanagan (Based on the 2013 novel by Stephen King)
- October 21, 2019 (Regency Village Theater) / November 8, 2019 (United States)
After falling into a life of alcoholism Danny Torrance is beginning to pull things together but finds himself forced to use his abilities once again to protect a powerful little girl and take on a group of supernatural predators.
Doctor Sleep is more of a drama with supernatural elements than it is a horror film or anything else. I found the story itself a slow burn. It was an evenly paced movie, but it was not a frenetic and quick paced film. It was slow and methodical much like The Shining. That was a surprise to me. I honestly expected some halfhearted cash grab here. Given the (justifiable) reverence for The Shining and modern studio tendencies, it is not out of the realm of possibility that this movie could have ended up as a shallow epilogue to the first film rather than a continuation of Danny’s story as well as a strong film in its own right.
Ewan McGregor takes up the role of Danny Torrance here from the original actor Danny Lloyd. Lloyd himself, who retired from acting after The Shining and became a teacher, has a cameo as a spectator at Bradley Trevor’s baseball game. Back to McGregor. McGregor is a very good actor who does a fantastic job as the troubled Danny who is still haunted by the events at the Overlook Hotel. The spirits there are hungry and now that the hotel is closed, they are seeking out Danny.
Cliff Curtis plays his friend and sponsor Billy Freeman. Cliff Curtis is one of those great actors that is just great to watch. His presence in anything always gets me to give watching it serious consideration. It is a shame he was not in more of the film but what he is in is superb.
Two characters from the first film play important parts here. Wendy Torrance, Danny’s mother originally played by Shelley Duvall, was played here by actress Alex Essoe. Overlook Hotel chef Dick Hallorann, originally played by the late Scatman Crothers, is played here by Carl Lumbly so well you cannot tell the difference. Lumbly is a fine actor so that is pretty much a given. They wisely recast and did not pull a Rogue One and do CGI. In fact several minor characters from the last film show up here recast.
And what is a hero without some villains? We have a cult called the True Knot lead by a mysterious figure referred to as Rose the Hat (Rebecca Ferguson). We are introduced to them early in the film when they recruit a young woman that comes to be called Snakebite Andi (Emily Alyn Lind) who can control people. The group itself is populated by other colorfully named individuals like Rose the Hat’s lover Crow Daddy (Zahn McClarnon), the elderly Grandpa Flick (Carel Struycken), Silent Sarey (Catherine Parker), and many others.
Those in the True Knot are a group of predators that hunt others with the shining so that they can torture and kill them to feed off a psychic essence that is released upon their death in order to extend their lives.
The driving force of the story is when they set their sights on young Abra Stone (Kyliegh Curran) who is a girl with a more powerful shining than the group has seen in a long time. Shining is becoming a rare thing in their world and this cult is in danger of starving if they cannot find more soon. Danny is pulled into this because he has been in unwitting contact with Abra and can sense the danger she is in. Rose the Hat envisions using Abra more like a cow that they can milk for a long time.
These names and some of the interactions between our heroes and the villains make this movie feel at times like a superhero film rather than a supernatural or even horror movie. Understandably these people have extraordinary abilities, but it had more of an M. Night Shyamalan vibe from Glass than it did its predecessor along certain points. That is a good and bad thing. It is good that there was not a focused attempt to repeat the original but bad because it felt a little disconnected from the first. I feel it should have leaned more towards horror than the currently popular superhero genre.
And as I said before this is a drama with supernatural elements. It is about one troubled man seeking to put things right and confront his own past. This is also about a young girl coming into her own and coming to terms with the reality of who she is. Strong themes that are well explored.
I enjoyed the movie, but it is definitely not as good as The Shining. Then again that is a tough film to equal. My main issue in particular is the final confrontation at the Overlook. While it is expected it does not feel as big as it should. Do not get me wrong. It was good but it was missing some bit of excitement or something else. I just cannot quite put my finger on it. Maybe it was because Rose’s focus was not just on Abra but Danny as well and it felt as if the entirety of the conflict there should have been between her and Abra. Danny should have been fighting the hotel since that was his nemesis in the film and his life but Danny at one point sparred off against Rose. Not that I am saying it was bad, but it could have been better.
The movie was well directed by Mike Flanagan and the script was steadily paced even if it was a slow burn. And that is another drawback. It had a very slow pace. Even the final confrontation did not feel like it upped the speed. It did not feel chaotic or frightening or anything more than the film had previously been. Usually the resolution of a film has a quicker tempo than the rest of the movie but that did not happen here and I am at a loss to explain why that was. It was most definitely an odd choice.
Doctor Sleep follows in some pretty big footsteps. It is not as good as its predecessor, but it is not a bad film either. More than anything it is a sequel that mostly stands on its own. Watch it!