Just A Snooze Away: A Review Of 'Doctor Sleep'
As a sequel to the horror film icon ‘The Shining,’ we now have ‘Doctor Sleep’—a film that’s divided critics and audiences alike
First off, let me state from the outset that I’ve always loved Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining (1980), but I recognize that audiences of today, reliant on jump scares being delivered like clockwork, would find the “slow burn” of this Kubrick film baffling, even too plodding or boring. And history tells us that author Stephen King hated Kubrick’s film, and the liberties it took with the novel’s plot line. He also griped about the portrayals of the two main characters—as played by Jack Nicholson and Shelley Duvall. So would he be happier with the film adaptation of his 2013 Shining sequel, Doctor Sleep?
Well, Sleep is written, directed and edited by Mike Flanagan. From the outset, Flanagan declared that he was using both the new King novel and Kubrick’s immensely popular film as the bases for this new film—and that announcement would set off alarm bells, with pundits wondering if that would lead to a schizoid quality in the storytelling. It doesn’t, the storytelling is quite seamless; but unfortunately, with the film’s running time of two hour twenty, it also means some expositions go on for too long, and we question some choices of scenes and sequences chosen to be included in the final Doctor Sleep cut.
Ewan McGregor is Danny Torrance, the young boy of the Shining film all grown up; and let’s be honest, he wasn’t the most compelling of characters in that first film. Being consistent, while the adult Danny is a central character here, he isn’t the most compelling once again. That honor falls upon debuting child actress Kyleigh Curran as Abra, a young African-American girl who also has the “shining” gift. She has the spunk, the badass attitude, and gumption to raise the stakes of being gifted with the shining, and taking odds on herself against the evil in the world.
This evil is represented by a Charlie Manson-type gang; and substituting as charismatic Charlie is Rose the Hat (Rebecca Ferguson), with her right-hand man Crow Daddy (Zahn McClarnon). Along with her acolytes, they roam the land like vampires, but instead of seeking blood, it’s the life force of their gifted victims that they’re after—by breathing it in, or bottling it for future use.
Ok, there’s nothing really wrong or bad with Doctor Sleep, but there’s also nothing right or all that compelling. You sometimes wonder if it would have been better served as a limited series on television or streaming service. Rebecca Ferguson doesn’t overact as Rose, but you do wonder if going over the top at times would have made her more memorable. As far as Zahn McClarnon’s Crow Daddy is concerned, it’s like central casting went out looking for Johnny Depp, but without the budget to snare him and secured the services of a bad lookalike.
The special effects look like they came from the 1990’s, and we should be impressed? The eyes of the bad guys turning pinlight blue is so dated, and the tribute element to the Kubrick film may elicit reactions from die hard fans, but you’re almost begging to be genuinely surprised.
There is an obvious love and reverence for the source material and the Kubrick film; but you do wish for more irreverence, or a more subversive take to raise the level of the filmmaking. Doctor Sleep almost lived up to its name, which isn’t a good thing.
Doctor Sleep is currently out in theaters nationwide.