Doctor Sleep, the superhero sequel to Stanley Kubrick’s 1980’s horror classic The Shining, is a desecration of cinematic genius. While trying to juggle and maintain fan service for both the book and the first film, Doctor Sleep was difficult to endure. It never seemed to find its footing and was always trying too hard to bridge the two mediums. What we got was a soup that was just too hot and too cold all at the same time.
Out of all of the sequels and remakes that were put out in 2019, this one worried me the most. The Shining is one of my favorite movies of all time and I just couldn’t bear the thought that someone would have the audacity to make a sequel. When I heard that Mike Flanagan was at the helm of this project I was a little at ease because of how much I loved his series “The Haunting of Hill House”. I think that Flanagan is a terrific filmmaker, but I think he just bit off more than he could chew with this project. I don’t think there is any living person who could have pulled this project off correctly and I don’t see why this film was put into production in the first place. (Haha, I was lying, it was money. It’s always money…)
Now with that being said, if I cast all of my prejudice to this project aside, I think this film succeeds in a lot of aspects. This is by no means a terrible film. The pacing was pretty great for a two and a half-hour long movie, the characters are interesting and the cinematography was visually stimulating. I think that Ewen McGregor delivers a wonderfully gentle and chilling performance as Danny Torrance. Newcomer Kyliegh Curran is terrific in her role, showcasing a wonderful range of talent that I am excited to witness for years to come. Flanagan was able to deliver on some great horror sequences and I was mostly fulfilled on what he brought to the table.
It’s completely unreasonable for me to think that this film could live up to the expectations of Stanley Kubrick’s masterpiece. It’s also completely unreasonable to me that someone would decide to take a crack at making a sequel to said film almost 40 years later. A creative decision was made to re-cast the iconic characters from the first film and the jarring differences between the two pulled my focus away from the story again and again. I re-watch The Shining every year and because of my familiarity with the characters, all of the scenes featuring the “original characters” feel like fan fiction rather than a continuation. The only re-created character that was even believable was Dick Hallorann played by Carl Lumbly. Carl played this part wonderfully and was able to imitate the voice and mannerisms perfectly. All of the other ones felt flat and one dimensional. I think this film will be quite successful for people who are vaguely or not at all familiar with Kubrick’s The Shining, but for the diehard fans, it is a chore to disassociate from it while watching Doctor Sleep.
Some of the dialogue was less than desirable. There were a lot of cheesy one-liners that I didn’t much care for. Some of the worst dialogue in the movie was saved for the scenes with the group of villains. I’m not sure if the problem was because of bad performance or bad writing, but the cringe is pretty real in several of these scenes. The only “spoiler” that I want to touch on in this review is regarding how the villains feed off of people who shine. (This aspect is shown in all of the trailers, so I don’t think it’s much of a spoiler). The villains make a ritual out of the “feeding” process and it involves them breathing, and inhaling deeply over and over. They turned this into a weirdly sexual experience for the villainous group and the cringe was too much for me to take. It teeters on the line between disturbing and funny. For a horror movie, this is a recipe for disaster. It was hard to take the villains seriously as they were getting “high” off of the horrific feeding process.
Doctor Sleep is going to have wildly polar feelings towards its content. Some are going to absolutely love it and some are going to absolutely hate it. I hate that Kubrick’s masterful vision was dug up and painted over. The very concept of this project makes me want to keel over, but I didn’t hate the film overall. Mike Flanagan delivers a fun experience if you’re able to keep an open mind.