DOCTOR SLEEP Review: A Chilling Adaptation That Is Ultimately Too Reverent To Kubrick's THE SHINING
Director Mike Flanagan's adaptation of Stephen King's Doctor Sleep is set to hit theaters this Halloween, but is this follow-up to The Shining worth your time? This review will contain mild Spoilers...
After a brief flashback, the story picks up almost 40 years after the events of The Shining. Dan Torrance (Ewan McGregor) is now an alcoholic with a violent temper (just like his father), who drowns out his "shine" with booze. He is visited occasionally by the spirit of his old friend Dick Halloran (Carl Lumbly), who attempts to keep him in the straight and narrow.
Dan eventually pulls it together and settles in a quiet town where he uses his ability to bring peace to the dying patients of a local hospice, but when he makes contact with a similarly gifted teenager named Abra (Kyliegh Curran), he decides to step up and help her evade the merciless Rose the Hat (Rebecca Ferguson) and her vampiric followers.
Flanagan knows how to spin a yarn, and Doctor Sleep draws you in right from the start and remains engrossing throughout. He is also a dab hand at wringing the maximum amount of tension from every scene, and the movie does not skimp on the scares. While never truly terrifying, it is very creepy and genuinely disturbing at times. One painfully extended sequence, in particular, is actually difficult to sit through.
The novel's themes of overcoming addition and childhood trauma are also right up Flanagan's alley and are handled very well, giving the film some emotional heft.
McGregor is as reliable as ever in the lead, but he is almost outshone (no pun) by his costars. As the characteristic, quasi-immortal villain, Ferguson exudes menace and barely-contained rage. Rose is such a great character that you almost find yourself rooting for her despite her undeniably evil nature. The real standout, though, is Kyliegh Curran, who makes her feature debut here. If her performance as the innocent, but far from helpless Abra Stone is any indication, there are big things ahead for the 14-year-old.
The story builds brilliantly towards the final showdown, but, unfortunately, that's where things get messy.
This movie was always going to lean into the events of The Shining, but while a few nods and references are all fine and good, it's a step too far when the entire final act is The Overlook Hotel's greatest hits. We are bombarded with the iconic score, the blood river, the little girls, room 237, and pretty much everything else you can think of from Kubrick's classic. By the time an actor done-up to resemble Jack Nicholson's character is introduced, it's all become a bit comical.
Also, just like The Shining movie made some major changes to the source material, Doctor Sleep completely re-imagines the novel's ending. The climax does work for this adaptation (mostly), but there is at least one massive alternation that is not going to sit well with fans of King's book.
Doctor Sleep is a chilling, gripping adaptation with some terrific performances and several standout sequences. It doesn't quite stick the landing thanks to an overreliance on
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