Doctor Sleep (2019)
Directed By: Mike Flanagan
Written By: Mike Flanagan
There are a couple of things that should be noted upfront for this review. The first is that I don’t like The Shining, in fact I don’t really like Stanley Kubrick films (that’s a discussion for another day). Also, I have not read either book associated with this movie. I like Stephen King as a writer, I just never got around to reading The Shining or Doctor Sleep. I basically knew two things going into the theater, one good and one bad. The bad was that it is a sequel to a film I don’t like. The good is that Mike Flanagan wrote and directed it. Flanagan is making some really great stuff in the genre right now so I had hope that he would do something amazing with this one. He nearly pulled it off but fell just short of the mark.
The idea of catching up with an adult Danny Torrance is an interesting one. The story starts off strong. It relies heavily on Danny’s ability to “shine” and we learn that there are a lot more people like him out there. One of these people is a young girl named Abra who contacts Danny to let him know about a group who are hunting down people who shine. This idea is really cool but it goes off the rails a little bit. This group can best be described as vampires who feed off of the “steam” released after the death of people who “shine”. The problem isn’t with the concept but the visuals made me laugh. The “steam” is stored in these canisters and it reminded me of Mike and Sully capturing “scream” in Monsters Inc. Eventually, the characters return to the Overlook Hotel and my worst fears were recognized as the last act plays out like the greatest hits of the original film.
Aside from story issues there is quite a bit to like about this film. The cast is great. Ewan McGregor is given a daunting task of stepping into a character that we haven’t seen or heard from since he was a child but I think that we all have a pretty good understanding of Danny. McGregor hits all of the right notes. We see how the events of The Shining impacted Danny’s life and the affects that his father had on him. In Doctor Sleep we meet a Danny Torrance who is an alcoholic who seems to be drifting through life. Over the course of the movie we see him as hopeless, vulnerable, strong, caring and courageous. Ewan McGregor is capable of delivering all of this with just his body language.
I wasn’t sure what to expect walking into Doctor Sleep. What I got was a movie that starts off great, the first half is really good, at about the halfway point it starts a decline until getting to the third act and falling apart all together. Mike Flanagan is still brilliant in my mind, even the best have a misfire every now and then, but this film doesn’t measure up to the high standard that he has set. It looks great, the performances are solid but it turns out that there isn’t much story in the end. Pale imitations of characters and moments from the original were not what I came for.
WOULD I SURVIVE: Probably not. If someone told me that vampires were trying to murder me to eat my steam I would assume they were insane and go on about my day right up until the point that I am tied down and being ritualistically sacrificed while my essence is being sucked into a canister.