The ghosts of another movie haunt Mike Flanagan's adaptation of Stephen King's sequel to 'The Shining.' That it almost works anyway is kind of remarkable.
Doctor Sleep is one of a handful of King books I've never finished--started it, enjoyed the parts about Danny's adult struggles, but noped out when it got to the tween girl protagonist (King can do good work writing about kids, but something about this one just set my teeth on edge). I've held off on the movie because I figured I'd get around to trying the book again eventually, and this write-up has convinced me it's time I took a shot at both. I've seen enough of Flanagan's work to know I enjoy it, and I feel like there's good stuff in the novel if I have the patience to get past the less good parts.
I liked this well enough when I saw it in 2019, but I can honestly say I’ve never once considered going back and watching it a second time. As unnecessary sequels go, you can do a lot worse than Flanagan’s DOCTOR SLEEP, but I’d much rather see him tackle something that hasn’t been picked over already.
I'm willing to give this film a lot more credit, although I've only seen the director's cut which sounds like a notable step up from the theatrical version. For me, Rebecca Ferguson is astonishingly good in this and the whole 'murder psychic children to devour their essence' story is a knock-out premise. Bringing everything back to the Overlook doesn't feel entirely necessary for the story that's established, but I loved the catharsis of this very literal weaponisation of childhood trauma.
It's arguably not a particularly scary film - but then often The Shining isn't that scary either. At times, it feels more like a King-tinged version of a YA film (child with mysterious powers is introduced to magical world by reluctant older mentor and they must work together to defeat evil) which sounds like it should be horrible but I loved every minute.
I have not seen either version, but I hear the director's cut is much longer and almost feels like a different movie. Almost everyone says it is better, but it is harder to find. Did you find it dramatically different than the theatrical cut?
DGG/McBride may be right on the nose for this and how their upcoming Exorcist film forcibly demands to be recognized as "the true sequel" instead of William Blatty's own The Ninth Configuration. But I liked their trilogy because for brief moments it seems they wanted to pull a Carpenter and move past the idea of Michael/The Shape and see what the effects on the town were. It wound up being an easy target for some reviews but "evil dies tonight" followed by a bunch of murder-drunk townies finding out it's hard to kill someone--let alone a guy with 50 years experience with little more than a pointy object--so they shift all the blame onto Laurie by the time Ends rolls around. Even there, as armchair as I can be on a comment board, I thought it'd be better to let Michael die in the sewer and The Shape take on its eventual form of someone else left looking like the murderer in the eyes of a loved one. Instead we had to have Michael come back and get thrown in the town's communal thresher(?) so it'd...kind of...make sense.
🎶 They call me Doctor Sleep / Good morning, how are you, I'm Doctor Sleep 🎶
Sorry, this is a bummer comment!
In between seeing Doctor Sleep in theatres and the release of its Director’s Cut, a distant colleague in my industry was murdered by her failed politician ex-husband, who proceeded to stalk their two children through the snow before murdering them as well.
Previously I had been impressed by Flanagan’s high-wire act, synthesizing both King and Kubrick, but when the Director’s Cut came out I realized I couldn’t go back. My colleague was murdered by someone similar to Jack Nicholson’s Jack Torrance, someone who needed to be part of “all the best people.” I could no longer accept vagrant smoke vampires as a replacement for that kind of evil. Doctor Sleep has real virtues but I don’t think I’ll ever be able to look past this.
My favorite connection between this and The Shining is the simplest: the "Doc" nickname, as if Danny was always meant to be Doctor Sleep, or perhaps predicted via Tony that he would be. My second favorite is Danny's AA speech about his dad, which is blatant without feeling forced.
Among actors attempting impossible jobs, I'd put Alex Essoe's Wendy Torrance at the top. There's just no way anyone but Shelly Duvall can be Shelly Duvall but when I needed to feel like she was the same person, that's what I felt.
I REALLY enjoy the movie, but there are certainly aspects of the third act that I'm not onboard with and you got one of the big ones (Henry Thomas's performance). The CGI greatest hits of the twins, the bathtub lady, all the horrors coming back at the end is another problem for me as well.
I enjoy this as a sort of horror x-men film, but Scott is right, that the film is done no favors by being a sequel to both the book and film The Shining. Still I found the climax enjoyable despite the definite feeling of the Overlook being used and making the film lesser for it. The climax between Dan, Abra, and The Hat is just too damned satisfying not to enjoy.
On a side note I cannot watch this movie because the child murder early on is maybe one of the most awful, terrifying things I've seen as a newish parent and I don't know that I could stomach it again (which is praise in all honesty because so often children being killed is used to shock or be edgy rather than its use here for terror).
I don’t know what to do with late period Stephen King. I just took a look at a list of his novels in chronological order, and it’s kind of shocking: I’ve read 37 (!!) out of his first 42 novels (I never read Cycle of the Werewolf, The Eyes of the Dragon, The Talisman, My Pretty Pony, or The Letters From Hell. I’ve never even heard of Letters From Hell. If any of these are great let me know). That takes me through 1991.
I’ve read about 15 of the SIXTY novels he printed since 1991 (that can’t be right - it’s difficult to find a list that accurately lists his work. Stop listing each novella in a collection of four as a separate work, people). Somewhere around Gerald’s Game either his writing got worse or I aged out. I graduated high school in 1992. Maybe that’s important.
I think, though, at some point in every massively successful artistic enterprise Sick Boy’s worldview asserts itself (https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=EI6IQnKY6f0). We may tell ourselves that The Institute (or Time Out of Mind, or pick your poison) represents a return to form, but it doesn’t. I liked The Institute, but in reality if it had been the first novel by a nobody I wouldn’t have missed anything.
I kind of want to read Doctor Sleep, I even own it, but I’m not going to. I really like The Shining, and over the years have come to agree with King that Kubrick kind of missed the book’s fundamentals. I don’t want a Lou-Reed-solo-album production wrecking the original for me.
I was not a big fan when I saw it, writing "An interesting take on the source material, being a sequel to both the book and the movie. It's hampered by how little time is spent with adult Danny, and how little time is spent with Abra. It's certainly not that the movie needs to be any longer, but the main characters end up being sketches that simply move through the plot. There are some very nice scenes and ideas here, and some cute ways to tie it into the first movie/book, but overall it simply doesn't feel necessary in any way. And really, while it may be quite realistic, it's really depressing to know that Danny has wasted most of his adulthood in addiction, and its hard to get over."
and reading Keith's summary of the parts at the Overlook really made me think "why did you have to do this?"
Wanna talk about this movie not doing great at the box office as I think there are a LOT of reasons.
A) It's confusing - it wasn't really marketed as a sequel to The Shining. Certainly reviews mentioned it and the online chatter amongst us nerds was clear, but to a normal who's just thinking about going to the movies, it was not clear at all.
B) Been a long while since Ewan McGregor was any sort of real box office draw. He's famous, people like him, but he has entered that Hugh Grant phase of career where he is somehow notable without being a source of gravity.
C) The trailers were not great - in general, honestly, Flanagan's stuff is hard to trailer and something as winding as this is doubly so.
D) I think there was an assumption that it being a King adaptation meant it'd do King numbers but,I do not think Uncle Steve's modern books translate to box office gold the way his early stuff did.
This movie was always going to be a whatsit and, I totally agree that this version is probably the best version of what it could have been. It just sucks that the first 2/3 are pretty great and kinda singular and then the fireworks factory is the worst part.
You know, I don't think it occurred to me that having Danny in this one figure out his alcoholism is a bit of a redemption for King, who famously has said there's a lot of him in Jack Torrance (and who, you can see is trying to write himself into the son here). That's kind of blowing my mind.
I really liked this movie, watching it multiple times when it was on HBO's rerun cycle. I didn't know who Rebecca Ferguson was, but she absolutely blew me away in this film. I also really enjoyed Ewan McGregor's soulful performance, and young Kyliegh Curran gave a great performance as a kid that is mature for her age. The return to the Overlook seems inevitable, and doesn't quite reach the heights that a movie like this deserves. But I still highly recommend the movie to anyone that asks me about it.