Release: 9th March 2020
Format: BR / DVD / DGTL
Struggling with alcoholism, Dan Torrance remains traumatized by the sinister events that occurred at the Overlook Hotel when he was a child. His hope for a peaceful existence soon becomes shattered when he meets Abra, a teen who shares his extrasensory gift of the “shine.” Together, they form an unlikely alliance to battle the True Knot, a cult whose members try to feed off the shine of innocents to become immortal.
Doctor Sleep is the very epitome of trying to have your cake and eat it. Stephen King famously harbours a deep dislike of the Kubrick adaptation of his original novel, The Shining. Doctor Sleep is a direct sequel to this movie yet keeps close to the original novel through honouring this new one. Here is a film that is at once a sequel, a spin-off, a spiritual cousin and a course correction. It has one foot in King’s garden and one hand in Kubrick’s pocket. It wants to feel like pensive horror whilst maintaining King’s throwaway pulp sensibilities. It wants to be a love letter to sobriety whilst being just fantastical enough to err on the side of the ridiculous. Then, mid-way through it all, we pause for 3 minutes to watch a group of vampiric adults brutally torture and kill a 10-year-old boy in real time…and King has the audacity to call Kubrick “cold”.
There is a lot to feel apathetic about when it comes to Doctor Sleep. This doesn’t feel like a film made “in camera”. Its horror seems to come somewhere between over the top set design and obnoxious computer graphics. Ewan McGregor’s Danny Torrance feels too polished to be the product of childhood trauma, and Rebecca Ferguson’s Rose The Hat is too earnest to be a part of this universe. Deep down, all involved no doubt had the best of intentions, but when the “Redrum” boy suddenly becomes a sniper rifle wielding crack shot, you have to ask yourself if this was the best direction to take the film.
This being said, there are also some nuggets of Doctor Sleep that do really deliver. Park the ode’s to Kubrick’s film for the moment. Love them or hate them, they exist and are part of the film’s universe now. At its core, here is a film that plays on some very primitive fears. But, in our opinions, focuses on the wrong elements. The ability to handle addiction is not about addressing the past, but by finding purposes in the future. The idea of child murderers roaming the country snatching up their next victim, is one that could have been explored much deeper here. This level of terrifying subtext may well have turned Doctor Sleep into something else entirely. As gratuitous and upsetting as the Bradley Trevor murder scene is, there was room here to stand this film on two very different feet and make it less about the wish-washy history of Danny Torrance, and more about the responsibility he faces to protect others.
Doctor Sleep is by no means a bad film, or even a poorly made one. It is just a misguided film. There are some not necessarily great creative choices that send the film down a few dead ends, while the continually frivolous obsession that King has with the death of children remains an untapped resource for some very deep and affecting thematic elements.
NOTE: The Director’s Cut is a marked improvement, with more scenes devoted to Danny’s addiction. There are a few notable moments, but in the long run, the film remains largely the same.
Film Grade: C
A few half decent documentaries that give a reasonably holistic overview of the filmmaking process. Highlights include Return to the Overlook, which involves a hilarious look into the world of Mrs. Massey (the lady in the bath).
Special Features Grade: C+
King fans will be satisfied, but Kubrick fans will likely feel an odd twang of nostalgia rather than any sense of fulfilment.