Movie #208 2021: Doctor Sleep (2019)

Honestly, I’m fuming. I’m fuming that I haven’t been able to properly celebrate spooky season (so far) with film. I’m fuming that my posts are becoming so sporadic because I can’t wait movies without my job getting in the way. I’m all around fuming. This is the latest ‘horror’ movie I’ve been able to watch in recent weeks… and I watched it over two weeks ago. It’s a bloody good job then that I actually had quite a good time with it!

Doctor Sleep is Stephen King‘s sequel to his seminal horror hit, The Shining. Everyone knows The Shining. In fact, it’s one of the most beloved book-to-film adaptations of all time, even if King himself reportedly didn’t like it when it was released forty(!) years ago back in 1980. Though Doctor Sleep (both the book and this film) didn’t receive quite as much love, there’s still a lot to like in regards to its story and the way in which it wraps things up.

Doctor Sleep' and the Case for Bringing Iconic Characters Back to the  Screen the Old School Way - Bloody Disgusting

We re-join Danny Torrance (Ewan McGregor), now in adulthood, as he’s struggling with alcoholism as a direct cause of the terrors he endured when he was a tricycle-riding child. Danny’s life begins to have some meaning once again though when he comes across Abra (Kyliegh Curran); a young girl who seems to possess similar gifts to what he does. He calls it ‘The Shining’. Apt. The pair of them form an unlikely duo in order to fight back against the villainous Rose The Hat (Rebecca Ferguson) and her cronies, who feed on children to stay young and healthy.

When it comes down to it, if you don’t base your judgment of this film solely on comparison with The Shining… Doctor Sleep is actually a pretty interesting movie!

I’ll admit that I had no idea what the plot of it was beforehand. I knew that there was focus on an older Danny Torrance, but that was literally it. In the end, I was actually pleasantly surprised with the witchy voodoo vibe of it all – definitely not what I expected. 

Unsurprisingly, Ewan McGregor was the main selling point and top billing for this movie. Whilst he does a decent job, Doctor Sleep is all about Rebecca Ferguson in my opinion. She’s chillingly good as the menacing Rose, and this is certainly different to any other role I’ve seen her in. Thrillers definitely suit her; if they ever remake The Hand That Rocks the Cradle, she should be the first in line. 

Unfortunately – although I haven’t read the book – the film feels like it suffered in that Mike Flanagan tried to cram every single plot point of the novel in here. Don’t get me wrong, too many elements haven’t quite spoiled the broth here; it’s still all rather entertaining. However, there are definitely parts that weren’t necessary and therefore the movie ends up being way longer than it needs to be. 

On a similar note, Flanagan’s direction – whilst fine – doesn’t bring anything new to the table. He manages to make so much of it eerie and creepy, but (and yes, I am going back on my word here) in comparison to The Shining, it’s much more just your standard horror/thriller. All of the references to its parent film in the final act are rather welcome though, and fans of The Shining will no doubt be pleased by those elements.

Regardless of my less positive statements, I actually had a really good time with this. Again, amendments could have been made to make it less convoluted for the big screen adaptation, but the final act will more than satisfy even the biggest Stephen King nerds… even if only for the nostalgic throwbacks.

Doctor Sleep is available to rent on Amazon for £3.99. In terms of free streaming, the film was recently removed from Sky Go, which means it’ll probably be picked up by another service in due course.

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