Stephen King, (author of the novel), described the idea for a sequel to his famous book, The Shining on November 19, 2009. He stated that he wrote Doctor Sleep because he wanted to explore how Danny Torrance’s trauma, father’s alcoholism, and psychic abilities impacted him later in his adulthood.
Directed by Mike Flanagan, Doctor Sleep follows Danny Torrance ( Ewan McGregor), decades after the horrors of the Overlook Hotel, including the supernatural, death, and his father going mad and attempting to kill Danny and his mother. Danny is now an alcoholic, (just like his father), for a variety of reasons: numbing his scars, warding off the supernatural, and blurring out his Shining, (psychic abilities illustrated in the first film). After one night of heavy-partying, Danny wakes up next to a passed out junkie and her baby left crying alone in the apartment. Danny then decides to take control of his life and, (with the help of Billy Freeman (Cliff Curtis), he moves to a new town, finds a stable job as an orderly at a hospice, and checks himself into a 12-step AA program. However, his attempt at a life of peace is shattered when his path collides with that of another psychic, a teenage girl named Abra, (Kyliegh Curran) and her life is in danger. The two must then unite forces to battle the True Knot and their leader, Rose the Hat, (Rebecca Ferguson) a cult of psychopaths who consume the shine of innocents. So far, the film sounds interesting, right? But it isn’t all merely due to plot. Rather, one of the aspects that appeal to this interest is Danny Torrance’s character in the film, which the next paragraph speaks about.
*The Realism of Trauma*
Danny Torrance is an example interesting because both Flanagan and King incorporate the character’s childhood trauma into the story. One would think that a film with a director other than Stanley Kubrick, (from the first film), would take a clean slate-approach to its sequel, (as most of contemporary films do). But this isn’t the case in Doctor Sleep. Rather, Flanagan and King maintain the previous film’s continuity and illustrate exactly how the events of the The Shining traumatized Danny. In Doctor Sleep, for example, the plot reveals that sweet, innocent Danny is now an alcoholic running away from his past via hard-core partying, booze, and instigating fights. The image presented in this film is raw, sad, and yet realistic on what occurs to a child that experiences trauma. They don’t just grow up and get over it, it follows him/her into their adulthood and consciously and unconsciously shapes their personality, actions, wants, needs, insecurities, weaknesses, strengths, etc. This sad reality is needed, though. If the film had opened up with Danny living a butterfly-and-rainbows lifestyle, for example, it would’ve been off-putting and unrealistic. This in contrast makes Danny’s character more realistic, relatable, and three-dimensional. But keep in mind that this is just one aspect of interest to the audience. Another one is revisiting The Shining universe in general.
*Revisiting The Past*
The next reason as to why this is such a good film is that it’s a sequel to the friggin’ Shining–meaning that there’s a whole lot of fan-service, (the good kind) involved. Doctor Sleep‘s fan service involves revisiting the characters, the Overlook Hotel, and the plot of the original film. The first reason as to why the fan service in this film is done well is because the casting choices for the original roles was perfect. The actors are obviously different actors than that of the first film (not going to mention who’s played by who). But what CAN be said in this review is how impressive Flanagan’s casting choices were when it came to recasting the original roles; the actors are near-perfect lookalikes. They’re so well-chosen that they even maintain the same voices, tones, pitches, mannerisms, etc. of the original characters. In today’s cinematic world, the audience usually minds if the returning characters in a sequel have been switched out with someone else because they usually have nothing to do with each other. In this film, however, the actors are so well-cast that they glide by the viewer’s eyes, as if the roles were made with those actors in mind–so kudos to them! The next reason as to why the fan service in this film is good is that it revisits the infamous Overlook Hotel. When the all-too familiar camera scan of the hotel and music merge onto the screen, the imaginary nerd-crowd in your chest goes COMPLETELY off. You are suddenly transported to the first time you watched The Shining and the nostalgia embraces you. The last reason as to why the fan service in this film is good is because it revisits the plot of the first film and clears up alot of ambiguity. To anyone who’s seen The Shining, it’s mysterious, cryptic, and never fully explained as to what even happened. This film, however clears ALOT up, (even if it isn’t every single detail). Now, some may argue that this takes away what makes The Shining The Shining. But others, (including this review), may argue that the explanations present in this film helps you understand and appreciate the original flick so much more because it clears up alot of confusion present in the original film. It really just depends on what kind of viewer you are: The logical kind that enjoys everything being explained, or the conspiracy-therorist that enjoys a bit of crypticness in their movie. This takes us to the last topic of this review: the eh.
If the writer had one thing to take an iffy stance on, it’d be the antagonists. When the villains are first introduced to the film, they seem indestructible and inhuman. As the film progresses, however, Rose The Hat and her peeps are illustrated to be more mortal and human than the viewer initially anticipated them to be. This leads to a bit of disappointment because it causes you to question the authenticity of their threats. Furthemore, you’d expect the antagonists to be similar of that in The Shining: enigmatic and horrific beings that you can’t even tackle. In Doctor Sleep, however, you get super-humans that you can fight. Big difference, right? But if it isn’t obvious, the antagonist differences in the two films is genre-based. The Shining encompasses more the classic horror whilst Doctor Sleep integrates the supernatural thriller formula into the film. Some people like it, some people don’t, but it depends on the viewer’s preference.
The Shining is a classic film that does not need a second act–especially one that is a supernatural thriller incorporating shine vampires and a different genre/feel than that of the first. However, Doctor Sleep gets away with that. It actually makes the viewer grateful that Flanagan and King created a sequel to The Shining. It pays a superb amount of homage to the original that does it justice in an incredibly satisfying way.
Genre: Fantasy Thriller
Time: 2 Hours, 32 minutes.
Verdict: The writer isn’t exactly sure what the low box-office is about, but she expects y’all to help boost it up a bit.
Final Verdict: A-