‘Doctor Sleep’ Review

(Warner Bros. Pictures)

Synopsis

Struggling with alcoholism, Dan Torrance remains traumatized by the sinister events that occurred at the Overlook Hotel when he was a child. His hope for a peaceful existence soon becomes shattered when he meets Abra, a teen who shares his extrasensory gift of the “shine.” Together, they form an unlikely alliance to battle the True Knot, a cult whose members try to feed off the shine of innocents to become immortal.

The Shining is one of my favorite movies of all time, and I honestly wasn’t super excited about Doctor Sleep. The original is such a groundbreaking, mind-shattering movie, and it left me with the perfect amount of mystery and confusion about what happened. I’ve never read the Stephen King book, and I was honestly really content with Stanley Kubrick’s film being my only insight into that world.

That being said, I really enjoyed Mike Flanagan’s Doctor Sleep. The story is incredibly interesting, so credit to King. A grown-up Danny Torrance, now Dan and played by Ewan McGregor, finally confronts “the shining” that has haunted him his whole life. There’s a battle with a cult, known as The True Knot and led by Rose the Hat, portrayed absolutely brilliantly by Rebecca Ferguson. We get a much deeper look into what the shine is, through Dan’s relationship with Abra, a young girl played by Kyliegh Curran that has a powerful shine.

What this movie does really well is establish the villain, and really give the viewer an interesting look into a pretty evil cult. Ferguson delivers a phenomenal performance as Rose. She’s terrifying and devilishly evil, but also charming. In a movie about a cult and the demonic side of things, Rose is an awesome antagonist that really drives the plot and makes the viewer feel uneasy.

The rest of the cult is equally as creepy, with Zahn McClarnon and Emily Alyn Lind delivering great supporting roles. This group is truly evil, and you see that from the get go. The lore of why this group does what it does, which is feed off children, is really interesting and really well developed.

On the protagonist end, McGregor is convincing as Dan Torrance. It isn’t McGregor’s best performance, and it takes him a while to get there, but in the end he does deliver and show the viewer the struggles of everyday life for his character, who has clearly been haunted by the events of his childhood for his entire life.

Curran is really great as Abra, and the chemistry and relationship between Abra and Dan is one of the best parts of this film. It’s a completely unexpected combo, an alcoholic white man and a young black teenager, but they are brought together by their mutual gift/curse. Dan, proving he has some good in him, breaks down to help Abra survive attacks from The True Knot.

Another great part of this film is the way the camera captures some of the charm of The Shining. There’s some tracking shots throughout the movie that really make it feel like you are watching Kubrick’s masterpiece, and all credit goes to Flanagan and cinematographer Michael Fimognari for being able to capture some of that magic.

The biggest downside of this movie for me, is the length. This movie runs over two and a half hours, and it just isn’t needed. The first half, maybe even 2/3, of this film do tend to drag on a bit. There’s a lot of explaining and not a lot of action. There’s a point where you feel like you’re reaching the climax, and then there’s still an hour of movie left. It’s good, and is engaging for most of the time, but there’s a lot during the first half that seems to drag on.

All in all, this is a great sequel to one of film’s best products. The tension and action are fantastic for the genre, and the cast delivers strong performances from top to bottom. It’s a very different movie than The Shining, but it’s still a very enjoyable thriller.

There’s a lot that happens in the final third of this movie that I absolutely love, but that’s some pretty spoiler-heavy stuff. Scroll down now for some spoiler talk.

Rating: 86/100

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***SPOILER’S AHEAD***

This movie really picks up for me when the Overlook Hotel gets involved. Obviously, it’s playing to the nostalgia of The Shining, but I think Flanagan does a really good job to honor Kubrick and the original.

May favorite shots of the entire movie come when Dan and Abra are driving up to the hotel. You get the tracking shot across the water that is almost identical to that opening shot of The Shining. You follow the car up the mountain just like you do in the original. It’s dark in this one, it comes at a much darker moment in the film too, but man, it was awesome to see that and it put a full smile on my face as I sat there in the theater.

Once in the hotel, you get some of those great shots as well. Another thing I love in this is the tracking shot of the axe, just like Kubrick so brilliantly did in the original. It happens two or three times in this one, and I loved it every time.

I also really liked the way the movie ended. The fact that Dan dies, and stays with Abra like Dick had stayed with him is awesome. I think it was really fitting for him to go down with the Overlook, while Abra was able to continue on. If he would have survived all of that I don’t think it would have felt quite right, but the way he comes to his end is great.

I also love that there is a moment where the hotel takes him over, just like it took over his dad. He seemed fully ready to kill Abra, but she’s so strong that she’s able to talk him down. That added a dimension to Dan, to the hotel and to Abra that I think really benefited the movie.

This movie was actually really fun, and I’m glad I took the time to see it. The last third of it was an absolutely wild ride, that brought back so many great memories of The Shining (which I may just have to go watch again after seeing Doctor Sleep.)

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