Doctor Sleep (2019) Movie Review

Doctor Sleep is a 2019 American dark fantasy horror film based on the 2013 novel of the same name by Stephen King, a sequel to King’s 1977 novel The Shining. The film, following up the 1980 film adaptation of The Shining, directed by Stanley Kubrick, is set several decades after the events of the original, and combines elements of the 1977 novel as well. Doctor Sleep is written, directed, and edited by Mike Flanagan. It stars Ewan McGregor as Danny Torrance, a man with psychic abilities who struggles with childhood trauma. Rebecca Ferguson, Kyliegh Curran (in her feature film debut), and Cliff Curtis have supporting roles.

Warner Bros. began developing a film adaptation shortly after Doctor Sleep was published in 2013. Writer-producer Akiva Goldsman wrote a script, but the studio did not secure a budget for the film until the box office success of its 2017 horror film It, also based on a novel by King. Flanagan was hired to rewrite Goldsman’s script and direct the film. Flanagan said the film would try and reconcile the differences between The Shining novel and film. Filming began in September 2018 in Georgia, including Atlanta and the surrounding area, and concluded in December 2018.

Warner Bros. released Doctor Sleep in international territories starting October 31, 2019, and in the United States on November 8, 2019. The film received praise from critics for its performances and creepy atmosphere but criticism for its lengthy runtime, and has grossed $34 million worldwide.

Plot

In 1980, sometime after escaping the Overlook Hotel, Danny Torrance and his mother Wendy live in Florida. Scarred by his experiences at the hotel, Danny is haunted by one of its ghosts—the rotting woman of Room 237. Through “the shining”, the ghost of Dick Hallorann teaches him to lock such ghosts in imaginary “boxes” in his mind. Meanwhile, a vampiric cult of quasi-immortals known as the True Knot, led by Rose the Hat, feed on “steam” (produced by the dying moments of people with the shining ability) to slow their aging.

In 2011, Danny (now going by “Dan”) is still traumatized by his time at the Overlook, and has become an alcoholic to suppress his shining. He moves to a small town and befriends Billy Freeman, who gets him a job and becomes his AA sponsor. Dan begins to rehabilitate and soon finds a job at a hospice where there is a cat who goes to patients who are dying. Danny uses his shine abilities to comfort dying patients, who give him the nickname “Doctor Sleep”. He also begins receiving telepathic communications from Abra Stone, a young girl whose shining is even more powerful than his. Meanwhile, Rose recruits a teenager named “Snakebite Andi” into her cult after observing her ability to telepathically control people.

In 2019, the True Knot are starving. They abduct a young boy named Bradley and torture him to death to extract as much steam as they can. A teenage Abra senses the event, and her distress alerts both Dan and Rose. Rose sets her sights on Abra, planning to extract her steam to sustain the cult. Realizing that Rose is after her, Abra visits Dan, who insists that she stay away and avoid drawing attention to herself. That night, Rose astral-projects into Abra’s mind, but is stunned when the girl manages to trap her and briefly enter Rose’s mind. Wounded, Rose returns to her body and sends the True Knot to capture Abra.

The cat leads Dan to an empty room where he has another visit from Hallorann, who instructs him to protect Abra. Abra tells Dan what happened with Rose and says she can track the cult if she can touch Bradley’s baseball glove. Dan tells Billy about the shining, and they travel to the murder scene and exhume Bradley’s body to retrieve his glove. They then go to Abra’s house, where they recruit her father Dave and devise a plan. Using an astral projection of Abra as bait, Dan and Billy lure the cult members out and shoot most of them dead, though Snakebite Andi, before dying, telepathically manipulates Billy into killing himself.

Rose’s lover, Crow Daddy, kills Dave and abducts Abra, drugging her to suppress her shine. Dan communicates with Abra, who allows him to possess her temporarily and force Crow Daddy to crash his car, killing him and freeing Abra. While Dan and Abra reunite, Rose consumes the cult’s remaining stockpile of steam, healing her wounds and vowing revenge for their deaths. Dan decides to return to the abandoned Overlook, believing it will be as dangerous for Rose as it is for him and Abra. He starts up the hotel’s boiler and explores the building, “awakening” it in the process. Dan revisits the rooms where his father Jack, influenced by the Overlook, attempted to murder him and Wendy. At the hotel bar, Dan is offered alcohol by his father, now a ghost bartender.

Once Rose arrives at the hotel, Dan and Abra confront her by pulling her into the astral plane, in the form of the Overlook’s hedge maze. After a failed attempt to trap her in one of the boxes, Dan instructs Abra to flee before being overpowered by Rose. As she drains his steam, Dan releases the Overlook’s ghosts from his boxes, who proceed to surround and kill Rose. However, the ghosts possess Dan, who begins to hunt for Abra. When she manages to momentarily free him, he tells her to flee the hotel. Struggling with possession, Dan returns to the boiler room, which becomes engulfed in flames. In his last moment, Dan sees a vision of himself as a child being embraced by his mother Wendy. Abra watches helplessly as the hotel burns down.

Sometime later, Abra talks to Dan’s spirit, assuring each other they will both be okay, before he disappears. Abra’s mother Lucy learns to adjust with her daughter’s powers, especially in communicating with the spirit of her deceased husband. Abra is confronted by the ghost of the rotting woman from the Overlook, but now prepared to lock the ghost up just as Danny did.

My Personal Thoughts

A Black Girl Kicking Ass In A Horror Movie

I absolutely adored Curran. Be it due to her having a Taylor Russell vibe or just seeing this 13-year-old Black girl, with magic powers, take on these adults and generally whoop their ass. There is just something about that combo which makes you proud and considering how well she holds her own when facing off against Rebecca Ferguson, or how well she plays with Ewan McGregor, it really does show that for Black actresses, their future is bright, diverse, and surely won’t be as limited as past generations.

Despite The Time Length, You Don’t Really Feel A Need To Check Your Phone

Two hours is a long commitment to ask for. Two hours and thirty minutes is even more insane since it isn’t like there was a huge demand for a sequel to The Shining like IT! Chapter 2 or the recent Avengers movie. Yet, despite a sparse connection to the original, between Curran, McGregor, and Ferguson, they somehow keep you thoroughly entertained throughout that whole time. Not to the point you’d want a sequel, but just enough to say this film could have been good without its loose connection to The Shining.

On The Fence

It’s Not That Scary

There are, at best, 4 jump scares, and the rest of the film is more so creepy in minor ways or battle scenes. The kind that is more about who can manipulate who better, as well as a gunfight here and there, than major, big-budget, fight scenes which leave you in awe. But, considering the first film wasn’t really that big on combat, and people weren’t as desensitized as they are today, could Doctor Sleep really compete?

It Is So Loosely Connected To The Original You Question Why Not Make It An Original Property?

Note: I haven’t seen the original in years, but I remember watching it as a teen, and between Jack Nicholson and the supernatural presences, I was thoroughly creeped out. Which makes this story that jumps ahead decades, and doesn’t feature the hotel until the end, seem like it is trying to milk the association. Almost like how Sony has to release a Spiderman movie every few years to keep the license, you get this vibe Warner Brothers made this movie to keep a hold of whatever license they may have for The Shining or the works of Stephen King.

For truly, change Danny’s name, call the magic he shares with many of the cast to something else, and don’t reference the events of The Shining, and the film doesn’t lose much. I mean, I could be wrong, but the original movie didn’t really talk about how there are a large number of people with magical abilities and how some hunt others to be borderline immortal. All of that is built into Doctor Sleep and connected to The Shining to piggyback off the name recognition.

But, with that said, even without that lead-in, I think this film could have attracted an audience.

Overall: Mixed (Divisive)

Where Doctor Sleep stumbles is that it is advertised as a horror movie, but it isn’t scary at all. If anything, it is a low thrills action film that tries to siphon off the name recognition of The Shining to draw an audience. Making it so, as much as you have to love Curran, McGregor, and Ferguson, you do feel a bit cheated because the sell is one thing, and what is delivered is a completely different film.

Hence the mixed label. Doctor Sleep is a decent film that seemingly didn’t have enough people who had faith in it so that it could just be an original property. Thus loose connections were made to The Shining, and that led to a film that fails to meet expectations and that failure is so great you are unsure if the film delivered can be seen as good or not.

I will rate this movie 8/10.

Directed byMike Flanagan
Produced by Trevor Macy Jon Berg
Screenplay byMike Flanagan
Based onDoctor Sleep
by Stephen King
Starring Ewan McGregor Rebecca Ferguson Kyliegh Curran Cliff Curtis
Music byThe Newton Brothers
CinematographyMichael Fimognari
Edited byMike Flanagan
Production
companies
Intrepid Pictures Vertigo Entertainment
Distributed byWarner Bros. Pictures
Release date October 31, 2019 (Europe) November 8, 2019 (United States)
Running time152 minutes
CountryUnited States
LanguageEnglish
Budget$45–55 million
Box office$34.1 million

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