Doctor Sleep (2019)
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While Doctor Sleep is a somewhat drawn-out and, mostly, slow-moving film, it still has enough to it, to not lose one's attention. The story-line is solid and engaging enough, although those unfamiliar with the book and looking for outright horror and gore, will find little satisfaction. There are a couple of scenes which can be construed as "horrific", but IMO Doctor Sleep is not really a "horror flick" by definition. To me, it is more like an intense drama about good vs evil, with a couple of well-done 'end-of-life' scenes thrown in. :)
What I most enjoyed about it, is that in this day and age where practically every story ever has already been made into a movie, this one's plot was just a bit off the beaten path and came across as slightly new and original in its approach, while still pretty seamlessly tying it in to the well-known classic: The Shining.
If I had to add one con, it would be a somewhat minor one, in that, at times, the girl who plays Abra (Kyliegh Curran), who also possesses 'the shining', and who can communicate with Danny, delivers her lines in almost a stone-like manner, and at other times as if she is rapidly reading. It occurred one too many times, and I found that it took me out of the movie for just a bit.
While good, the scenes leading up to the ending are a bit predictable, and the 'showdown' (remember, good vs. evil) leaves a little to be desired. For the most part, however, I can live with it, seeing as Rebecca Ferguson saves it by just being in it, and King and the creators do their best to come full circle. In short, like the entire film itself, it is satisfying-enough to where one can feel as if watching it, was time well spent.
I'm happy to say that I really enjoyed this movie as well, and highly recommend it. It is mostly true to the book, the acting is great, and the pandering is confined to the ending (the least impressive part, more on that later).
The characters seemed as true to the book as should be expected. In particular, I thought Rose, Abra, Crow Daddy, and Danny Torrance were all bloody fantastic. Rose is an interesting character, presented in great yet mysterious detail in the book, and not easy to bring to life. But for me Rebecca Ferguson was flawless. Ewan McGregor makes for an excellent, likable-but-flawed Danny Torrance, and in one particular shot, I thought he channeled Jack Nicholson's acting very effectively, a startling moment.
The movie contains some beautiful and haunting shots. Two highlights for me were Rose flying through the sky, looking for steam, and a certain shot of Grandpa Flick savoring the steam he's just consumed, looking like something out of Bloodborne. (The only thing I really missed was Rose's one-toothed face! Wish they had included that.) The Baseball Boy's torture scene was incredibly gruesome and hard to watch - but that, of course, is precisely its intended effect.
The score is effective, frequently using the 'heartbeat' effect from Kubrick's The Shining, which produces an instant atmosphere of tension. Now, in my opinion, Stanley Kubrick's The Shining is a masterpiece of art, and in my experience, no modern film comes close to the quality of its shots, audio, or filmcraft, including this one. But that doesn't mean that Doctor Sleep's cinematography and soundtrack aren't excellent in their own right.
There are some interesting differences and similarities among the two books and films. Doctor Sleep (the movie) omits some interesting aspects of the book, such as Danny's sponsor and the love affair between Rose and Snakebite Andy. But that probably makes sense in terms of the screenplay. More crucially, in the films' universe, The Overlook was never destroyed, thus giving the movie adaptation of Doctor Sleep the opportunity to.... Go back to the hotel.
This takes us to the ending, which is the film's weakest part (the same is probably also true for the book). Going back to the Overlook and touring its key locations did nothing for me, and at that point I began to feel the movie's considerable length.
But at that point I was already a satisfied customer. I got to see an excellent novel brought to life in an excellent way. Go check it out.
The first 3/4 of the movie were incredible. Excellent directing and excellent acting. It kept you completely engaged. Kyliegh Curran was the standout and you'll definitely be seeing more of her. They did a great job of making you absolutely hate The True Knot. They were some of the most evil, vile villains I've ever seen in a movie. One part in particular where they kidnap a young boy was very difficult to watch.
The movie falls a little flat in the third act when they arrive at the Overlook. It started to feel like one of those made-for-Youtube fan made sequels. I get that they had to reference the movie since more people are familiar with it than the novel, but they could've just done it with brief flashbacks. And the decision to not use cgi to bring back Jack was a bad one. It looked like Henry Thomas with a bad baldman cap.
But all in all it was a very enjoyable movie, much better than IT 2.
Everyone acts fantastic in this film. I thought Ewan McGregor built a very nice character. If I had imagined how Danny might have turned out after the first film ended, I don't think I would have predicted it much different. There are a few intense moments with the villains (Primarily Rose the Hat and Snakebite Andi) that made me absolutely hate them (which is a good thing). I think the things they do in the film would make anyone want them to see a terrible fate.
I found myself smiling at the call-backs to the classic movie, and when Danny returns to the Overlook Hotel. It's been a while since I've said to myself "Oh wow, there it is" that many times at a film. I will say there are a couple scenes at the Overlook that feel like they were written in to make the fan base happy rather than be part of the story, but nothing that drags on too long.
As far as it being a scary film, you may jump a few times, and some scenes are a little disturbing, but by Stephen King standards, it's more of a suspense film.
An advantage I'll give this film over The Shining is that even though the film is two and a half hours, it doesn't get boring. Not that The Shining was boring, but it is a very slow film. Stanley Kubrick loved to throw in very long shots in his films, and while I personally think they worked sometimes, other times they were excessive, and at times, The Shining was excessive to me.
I think this film is at least worth a watch whether you're a fan of the Kubrick film or not, because it's sort of it's own film in a way. It shows enough of the classic film to have a connection, but also has a story different enough and good enough to hold it's own.
Enter Mike Flanagan (Oculus (2011), The Haunting of Hill House (2018)) who was burdened with the insurmountable task of not only crafting an adaptation that King himself would be proud of, but also a sequel that would impress fans of Kubrick's acclaimed original. Flanagan, who stands as one of modern horror's most prominent writer/directors right now, strikes a perfect balance with Doctor Sleep. It is a film that establishes itself as a completely different beast to Kubrick's film, while also drawing just enough influence from what's come before to please die-hard fans of what Kubrick established with his own vision. Ewan McGregor is well cast as a damaged Danny Torrance, but it's Rebecca Ferguson's captivating performance as Rose the Hat, the enigmatic leader of the True Knot, that steals the show. Fuelled with malevolence, Ferguson's deranged antagonist serves as one of Doctor Sleep's most exciting performances, and she's an absolute joy to watch. Kyliegh Curran also turns in a solid performance as Abra, a gifted young girl who shares a telepathic connection with Danny.
As is often the case with Flanagan's work, jump scares are practically non-existent. Instead, Flanagan focuses on atmosphere and tension to elevate the sequences of terror. During a grueling sequence that displays the True Knot's ability to drain children of their shine, Flanagan chooses not to hold back from depicting a scenario that will undoubtedly unease the most hardened of viewers. Stylistically speaking, Flanagan often channels Kubrick's visionary flairs to replicate certain shots that pay homage to the original film. Although both films are totally different from one another, Doctor Sleep serves as a terrific companion piece to the 1980 classic that fans of both Kubrick and King can appreciate. It's certainly an exciting journey with instances of some amazing cinematography (a sequence involving Rose scouring the night sky is a particularly captivating, dream-like moment), and Flanagan's screenplay is brilliantly paced, completely engrossing, and never dull. Doctor Sleep stands as the best Stephen King adaptation to be released this year, and one of the better horror efforts, too. Simply put, Doctor Sleep truly shines.
The progression of where Danny Torrance's character goes to is a natural right step. They go for the 'father like son' kind of thing, and I was completely onboard with it. The ghost of Jack Nicholson's presence looms strongly over the story too, with Danny fearing not to follow his father's footsteps. The new story elements were able to grab my attention as well. Again, as soon as it clicked what type of plot/movie this was, then it worked. It's its own thing, and that's great. No "Shining" remake - except for some re-created imagery (handled with nice respect) - But most importantly: The story and characters moved forwards. Loved what they did with the character Rose the Hat. What a sinister yet oddly charming antagonist portrayed hypnotically by Rebecca Ferguson. Hope she gets the deserved credit. Ewan McGregor will always be Obi-Wan to me, but he was a fantastic choice to play Danny. He can convincingly make me believe that he's got the 'shine'. It surprises me how positive I feel about the movie! It's a neat little companion piece to the classic. Again, big props for them to go for their own thing. This is no "Force Awakens", if you know what I mean. You'll walk though memory lane here for sure. The difference is that it doesn't rely on the nostalgia to tell their story. It actually stands on its own. I'll say that if you're a big fan of the original, then it's worth taking a looksie
Some minor stuff wasn't perfect which is why a 9/10. Danny's friend/sponsor seemed thrown away without much emotional affect or logic. He and Danny were approaching the RV together. The girl comes out and lucky for her Danny is out of ammo but doesn't notice? Then his friend is nowhere to be found while she is about to kill him until the cliché close eyes gunshot, bad guy gets shot scene. Wtf was he doing behind the car all of a sudden?? The scene in the hotel with taking her into the hedge. Cool but why didn't the leg cuts carry over to when she came out. And a better plan would be get her into Danny's head and while she's running around a maze in her mind, Abra runs up and kills or incapacitates her back in real life. The scenes of Danny turning into bad and chasing Abra around the hotel were not great. She looked like she was barely jogging for one. And it was just kinda cheesy and in service to a callback.
With all that being said I was sorry to lose Danny but I like the passing of the torch and that he lives on as an Obi Wan force/shine/steam ghost for Abra. Great stuff and I hope they make more with more Stephen King connected universe villains for her to fight and different Shine users to discover.
Not perfect but with the minor exceptions I mentioned, I loved it! Definitely recommend!
I think King/the novel fans and Kubrick/the movie fans will like Doctor Sleep. Heck, I've always preferred The Shining Novel by Stephen King over Stanley Kubrick's The Shining movie and even I enjoyed this Doctor Sleep film as not just a sequel to The Shining Novel but also as a sequel to The Shining movie. Great job, Flanagan. Great job to everyone involved. I liked IT Chapter Two. I thought it was overall good or at least had more good things about it than bad. I also liked a couple of other Stephen King adaptations from this year and I think they're good as well but I do believe Doctor Sleep is the best of the bunch.
PS, don't believe all of the negative reviews of this film. Only a couple of them (that I've read) make a couple of valid criticisms. The rest just come off as Internet trolls or extreme Stanley Kubrick/The Shining movie fans or just don't like Stephen King the person, maybe due to his open political views or the fact that he hates Kubrick's The Shining movie or whatever. Just go see this film if you truly want to know whether you'll like it or not. I give it a 9/10 and I really enjoyed it. I thought it was really good.
An alcoholic scarred Dan Torrance, having endured the irrevocable dangers of the Overlook Hotel ('The Shining'), has his peace shattered when he encounters a young extrasensory girl whom is being hunted down by shine-draining monsters.
First and foremost, I have not read the novel, although this should not come as a surprise. I have however, watched 'The Shining' multiple times. Now, what promotes the aforementioned horror as the best of its kind, is legendary Stanley Kubrick using the essence of King's novel and essentially making his own iteration of it. One that the renowned supernatural writer still, to this day, has mixed emotions for. So for Flanagan to introduce some faithful interpretations of Doctor Sleep, whilst maintaining the cinematic endeavour that Kubrick meticulously crafted, is as I said, unfathomable. And there's a perfectly valid reason for that. The overtly supernatural strands of the novels do not complement the genesis of terror from Kubrick's film. Which is why, with great regret, I have to report that Doctor Sleep does not work. It doesn't.
A beastly behemoth that, whilst does stand on its own two legs, relies on heavy-handed storytelling techniques and nostalgia to tackle both mediums that inspired it. In tonality, they are irrefutably different from each other. But before the disappointing third act is tackled, let's address some positives first.
Doctor Sleep is a shining example of depicting childhood trauma and how fragmented coping mechanisms are embedded throughout adulthood. Young Danny imaginatively designs mental traps so that he can hold the starving ghosts from the Overlook in captivity. Yet that wilful mentality does not prevent him from suffering with alcoholism, substance abuse and an insalubrious lifestyle that masquerades the trauma instead of curing it. Thematically, this is powerful, and grants the narrative a solid cohesion throughout. For the first two hours, you subconsciously warm to Danny due to the tormenting fears he has established throughout the two films. He's a pillar of "the shining". McGregor consistently captivated by depicting a fragile mentality through a physically demanding performance, maintaining the entranced demeanour of his younger character.
The first hour, that heavily explained "the shining" and the intentions of the merciless antagonists The True Knot, experienced inconsistent tones due to the mass sprawl of locational change. One minute we're in a sleepy town, the next a woodland area, and then all of a sudden eight years have been and gone. The zippy nature of the editing and bloated exposition resulted in atmospheric terror being abolished. The tension was non-existent, and the imitation of Kubrick's directing style paled in comparison.
Then, the second hour commenced, which is by far one of the strongest acts the year has yet to offer. Flanagan retained a surprisingly dark tone that, was so shocking, forced audience members to leave the auditorium. The mind-space of Abra, a precocious teenager who has "shine", produced a transcendental imaginative battle against Rose the Hat, leader of The True Knot. Ferguson, who portrayed the primary antagonist, was sensational. Equalling the likes of Pennywise as one of the most enthralling King villains ever depicted. Sinister, unrelenting and bordering on near-lunacy. Controlling every scene from just her eyes alone, she enhanced the palpable tension. She made the second act. In fact, she made the film. The interjecting gore and darkness throughout the middling act abruptly astonished me, and settled for a direction that I thought would control the underwhelming first act.
The third act then arrives, and the entire story crumbles much like the Overlook itself. Plagued by an overshadowing sickness that 'The Shining' had produced. Nostalgia. Remember that time where Jack viciously chopped the bedroom door down with an axe? Or that moment where blood came hurtling through the hallways in slow motion? What about Room 237? The introductory swooping camera movement that Kubrick embraced whilst the Torrance's drove to the hotel? The typewriter? Slowly walking up the stairs in a confrontational manner? The snow-covered hedge maze? The twins? No? You don't remember? Flanagan has got you covered. Nostalgia is a powerful tool, yet it must be handled with delicacy. The difference between imitating and homaging is very fine, and unfortunately Flanagan settled for the former.
So much of 'The Shining' is replicated in the third act, scene for scene, that it was a near-identical copy without the textual substance that accompanied them originally. The re-casting of the original actors, despite Essoe bettering Duvall's performance (although not difficult), felt unnecessary. Almost tarnishing 'The Shining' in itself. Danny walking through the dilapidated hallways for ten minutes whilst Flanagan incorporates identical sequences, had no purpose other than to forcefully remind you that this is the sequel. Literarily, it never progresses Danny's character or the plot. Rose the Hat staring at the blood-spewing elevators? Pointless. Danny staring at an axe encased in glass? A suitable nod to its predecessor. Do you see the difference? Between imitation and homage? The third act was littered with falsified copies, preying on the nostalgia of fans. It's uninspired. It's mundane. And it made me a dull boy.
Creatively, Doctor Sleep managed to infuse the very best of its adapted novel and preceding feature, but embellished the very worst techniques when conveying the plot. Psychologically stimulating without installing dread. Extrasensory without testing the senses. Dimly shining amongst King's supernatural adaptations.