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‘Doctor Sleep’ holds a dimmer, yet still impressive shine

‘Doctor Sleep’ holds a dimmer, yet still impressive shine

‘Doctor Sleep’ holds a dimmer, yet still impressive shine
November 15
00:13 2019

So, the studio of Warner Bros has finally dared to release a sequel to one of horror cinema’s most sacred cows: Stanley Kubrick’s 1980 adaptation of the 1977 Stephen King novel, “The Shining.” After an adaptation of King’s own sequel novel, also titled “Doctor Sleep,” languished in development hell, Warner Bros brought in horror superstar Mike Flanagan of “Oculus,” “Gerald’s Game,” and The Haunting of Hill House” fame was brought on board as director, writer and editor. A choice that proved incredibly fortunate, as he’s done the impossible:

“Doctor Sleep” may not top or reach the greatness of the Kubrick original, but it is still a damn fine film in its own right, especially when it’s doing its own thing.

Mike Flanagan knows what’s he doing behind the camera: he knows when to pan away, when to hold on a disturbing scene, when to cut away, how to visualize and expand on this world. He can handle brutal deaths, build suspense and even knows when to pull the viewer in with breathtaking digital fantasies and the simple small talk between the characters. His take on the universe is mostly distinct from that of Kubricks’, with subdued, darker colors and a real sleekness to it. Flanagan has once again proven himself as a master of all three.

The leading and supporting cast is all-around top-notch. Ewan McGregor is fantastic as the near-50-years-old Danny Torrance, now a recovering alcoholic who’s followed by the trauma of the Overlook, but has made a new life for himself. As for the antagonist, Rebecca Ferguson gives what could be a career-best as Rose the Hat, a diabolically deceptive force with a considerable air of dread whenever she’s on-screen. The show-stealer, however, is actress Kyliegh Curran as Abra Stone, who not only delivers a performance combining a confident power with adolescent insecurity, but she’s even downright terrifying in her own right.

The supporting cast is also great, with Cliff Curtis playing a humble, sensitive midwesterner that I wanted more of. Another one was a few scenes from actor Bruce Greenwood, an actor I’m wondering why we don’t see more often. The rest of the True Knot is also quite menacing, and that’s all I’ll say in the interest of time.

As for how the film handles the infamous Overlook, it’s mixed. They reused some of Kubrick’s original plans to reconstruct the evil hotel and it’s clearly out of sentimental respect, rather than a cynical attempt to use nostalgia to open up moviegoers’ wallets. The homaging feels invasive at times, though, and the finale feels rushed. Still, it is a treat to see it once more on the screen, and there’s one fantastic scene involving a recast character.

I also appreciated the decision to recast the original characters in flashbacks, especially in light of news that CGI being used to recreate the likeness of James Dean for a film to be released over sixty years after his death. That choice I find to be “questionable.”

Providing the score is the Newton Brothers, who do a decent job of calling back to Wendy Carlos and Rachel Elkind’s original score whilst giving the movie something of its own identity in the soundscape. Along with plenty of unnerving ambiance and strings comes the haunting return of a thumping heartbeat, sure to stick with you when the credits roll.

Mike Flanagan is clearly one of the best horror filmmakers working today and I can’t wait to see more. That enthusiasm also extends to the recent wave of King adaptations. While “Doctor Sleep” stumbles a little bit when it gets the end, the journey there is one that I loved, and one I say audiences should take too.

My rating: 4.25/5

Featured image: Courtesy Warner Bros.

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Will Tarpley

Will Tarpley

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