“You need to listen to me. The world’s a hungry place. A dark place. I’ve only met two or three people like us. They died. When I was a kid, I bumped into these things. I don’t know about magic. I, I always called it “the shining.”
Doctor Sleep is the sequel to Stephen King’s The Shining, and follows an older Danny Torrance, as he continues to struggle with his “shining” ability, and therefore, keeps it buried in his past. But when a group of villainous people called The True Knot, who devour other people’s shine, set their sights on a girl named Abra, Danny must face his fears, and the ghosts he’s locked away for so many years. Doctor Sleep is a tough story to continue The Shining’s already prominent place in horror. While in comparison to Stanley Kubrick’s interpretation of The Shining, Doctor Sleep struggles to find its own footing, and its own creative flow.
Doctor Sleep is a quiet film, which I can say that I truly appreciate. However, it’s a little too quiet. What The Shining managed to do so well was to set up the complexity of the story, while illustrating how the demons of the hotel gnawed away at the Torrance family. Each scene was incredibly up close and personal. There weren’t jump scares. Only you, the family, and the isolated environment. But Doctor Sleep doesn’t do this, and I’m sorry if I compare the two films more than others would like.
Doctor Sleep, though quiet and mysterious in its own right, has one too many lulls that fail to produce anything remotely interesting. When the film gets going, it’s great, but those terrifying moments just aren’t enough to make the film enjoyable. You’re constantly on a rollercoaster of scary and not scary, which I just can’t excuse when a film runs for 2.5 hours.
The performances from the many characters are often droll. Ewan McGregor displays very little emotion as Danny. And though he does garner some sympathy from the viewer, he just can’t fully embrace the character. As for Kyliegh Curran, who plays Abra Stone, you can tell that she feels a little uncomfortable in her acting, unable to fully find her footing. But it was Rebecca Ferguson as Rose The Hat, that will absolutely frighten you. Her performance as one of The True Knot members is so good. Not to mention, her entrance into scenes with a simple, “Well, hi there” makes her presence incredibly sinister. I haven’t had the opportunity to read King’s 500+ page novel, but I know it’s a daunting task for anyone preparing to take it head on. Director Mike Flanagan does his best with the production of Doctor Sleep. He’s able to create an aesthetically beautiful film. However, Flanagan’s adaptation of the story is just too lackluster for a viewer to look back at and say “wow.”
Much like so many horror films in recent years, Doctor Sleep fails to truly horrify its viewer. The scary parts, early on in the film, are few and far between. And to add insult to injury, the third act’s scary moments are only homages to The Shining, and are a repeat of the scenes that horrify you in Kubrick’s version. I respect the people involved for their love of the novel, and the ambition it took to put it onscreen. But in the end, Doctor Sleep fails to be the terrifying film it promises to be.
Directed by: Mike Flanagan
Starring: Ewan McGregor, Rebecca Ferguson, and Kyliegh Curran