Doctor Sleep: The Long-Awaited Sequel to Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining is Almost Up to Scratch

Mike Flanagan: He’s the man who made pretty mirrors (Oculus) and kinky handcuff sex (Gerald’s Game) petrifying. He’s the man who dared to make a coherent prequel to the wildly s***** and undeserving box-office hit, Ouija. He’s the man who found a solution to direct and release three movies in just the year of 2016—for musical fanatics, he pulled a BROCKHAMPTON before BROCKHAMPTON could even pull a BROCKHAMPTON on their SATURATION trilogy (which was also released in just one year). This is someone who’s patently a successful individual in the modern-day horror scene so, logistically, it’d make sense for a Herculean studio like Warner Bros. to offer him the privilege of directing the long-awaited—39 years to be exact—but not necessarily needed sequel to arguably the greatest horror movie of all-time, Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining.

Based on Stephen King’s recently published novella under the same title Doctor Sleep, Flanagan’s genre-blended feature follows a much older Danny Torrance, breathing a miserable life ruined by alcoholism and past trauma, just like his father had faced. But the film doesn’t exclusively attend the tale of the already well-known character of Danny. Instead, it, moreover, tours the account of a much younger “shiner” named Abra Stone and a supernatural posy of savage killers who feed on the everlasting vigor of children. These supplementary yet pivotal new stories allow Doctor Sleep to mutate into something independent, but when the film tries to creep back into The Shining’s past terrors, all that becomes of it is a vain maze of tacky callbacks and unintended misfortunes. 

The first two acts of Doctor Sleep are actually quite adequate. Not only does Flanagan prove once again that he is more than capable of offering some solitary stylistic inclusions to the world of horror cinema, but the film relies on a reputable, consistent tone of dread and drama. Ewan McGregor’s portrayal as an adult Danny Torrance was believable and captivating. The standout performance, however, comes from Rebecca Ferguson, who plays the meanest, baddest, and sexiest yet most repulsing fiend you’ll see all year. The dialogue is regularly interesting—which is a compliment to be given to Stephen King’s resourceful, drawn-out writing that was incorporated into this movie. There is some tremendously effective imagery that Flanagan, as usual, masters—with one, in particular, that involved “flying” which honestly floored me. The simple yet productive score, also, appended a lot to the execution of certain sequences. Doctor Sleep honestly had me won over, despite the fact that, at times, it felt as if King’s story was trying to be a darker, freakier reiteration of The Last of Us or a Logan-type narrative.

Where Doctor Sleep achingly declines, for me and most likely for some fans of The Shining film, is within its overamplified and blankly juvenile finale. The climax of the almost up to scratch sequel is one of the most nostalgically reliant and ill-advised conclusions of the year. There are more Shining references in this than Avengers: Endgame’s entire second act—and that’s saying something! To top it all off, the project feels as if it needed to reroute itself and rework its already set-and-stone, slow-paced, and spine-chilling tone into some sort of conventional blockbuster. The whole set-up and execution of the affair were clearly devised as an exploited fan-service fair that was, furthermore, entirely void of any logic in its actions.

Doctor Sleep is so very, very, very close to being a solid continuation and situating itself on its own special merits—no thanks to you, third act. In spite of this, however, the biggest crime this movie committed was letting a total MILF play Wendy Torrance. Now that’s just…wrong.

Verdict: C+

Stephen King Ranked, 2019 Ranked

“Doctor Sleep” will be playing in theaters on November 8, 2019.  

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