Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Doctor Sleep - Review

Returning to a traumatic nightmare can sometimes be the most opportune way to heal. In the world of Stephen King, that likely entails venturing back to a twisted hotel, desperate to pull the soul from your body or shatter your mind into a million pieces, all while running from a group of vampire-like creatures attempting to feast on your unique abilities. And while on the surface that sounds a jumbled mess of tones and ideas, director-writer Mike Flanagan manage to maintain a solid through line.

Struggling with alcoholism, Dan Torrance (Ewan McGregor) 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 (Kyliegh Curran), 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.
Mike Flanagan has the ridiculous task of adapting the 2013 book from Stephen King, a sequel to the book “The Shining”, while also staying within the lines of Stanley Kubrick’s 1980 adaptation of “The Shining”. For the most part, he gets it right. There is a strange collision of the styles of Kubrick and Flanagan, mainly with the way the two portray dread and terror, but it blends enough to get by. When the film isn’t dealing with The Shining, Flanagan’s film is immensely better, an atmospheric exploration of trauma in the vein of his other successful ventures.

And that’s the root of most of the problems with Doctor Sleep: it’s a sequel that could function without any connections to the original, but it can’t resist drawing on the love for the book and film. For most of the runtime, it can get through the tie-ins or callbacks, but then the third act hits. The third act feels like a pure nostalgia play, a venture to the Overlook Hotel that brings back every bit of The Shining in some fashion, including a very unconvincing Nicholson look-alike. And it’s completely uninteresting.
Despite being held back by its connection to a forty year old film, there is still plenty to like, or even love, about Doctor Sleep. Ewan McGregor is a fantastic lead, selling the traumatic past and coping with it in various ways, all while a tinge of grief lurks beneath the surface. Kyleigh Curran gives a great performance as Abra, a powerful and fearless presence in the film and a wonderful discovery. But the highlight, above anything else, is Rebecca Ferguson.

The actress is immensely talented, most know that by now, but a role where she can show off those talents hasn’t quite popped up yet. Rose the Hat, the ringleader of the True Knot, changes that. Ferguson gets to chew up scenes left and right, all with a devious smile masking horrible intentions. The character could have easily been one note and tedious, but Ferguson transforms her into a spellbinding villain, one that absolutely steals the film.

Doctor Sleep is an interesting sequel if nothing else, both in concept and execution. If the idea of a sequel to “The Shining” was already wild, then the idea of adapting that sequel into a film that also has to kind of be a sequel to Stanley Kubrick’s interpretation of “The Shining” is ridiculously ambitious. For the most part, Flanagan pulls it off. Will it stand next to Kubrick’s The Shining as an example of masterful horror? Probably not, but for now, solid is enough.

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