Doctor Sleep

11/12/2019 06:23

Film: Doctor Sleep

Year: 2019

Director: Mike Flanagan

Writer: Mike Flanagan

Starring: Ewan McGregor, Rebecca Ferguson and Kyleigh Curran



This was a film that when I heard it announced, I was stoked. I read the book when it came out and dug what Stephen King did in continuing the story of Danny Torrance from his years after the events of The Shining. The casting of Ewan McGregor was interesting as I know he’s solid as an actor so that was a perk as well. The first viewing was at the Gateway Film Center and for my second viewing, it was when I picked up the Blu-Ray cheap and Jaime was interested in seeing it. My third viewing was for Horror Haven Podcast and I saw the director’s cut. The synopsis is now-adult Dan must protect a young girl with similar powers from a cult known as The True Knot, who prey on children with powers to remain immortal.

We start this in Florida back in 1980. A young girl is with her mother and she goes to pick flowers. By the water she meets Rose the Hat (Rebecca Ferguson). She shows her a magic trick and end up kidnapping her in the process. It then shifts to Danny (Roger Dale Floyd). He is terrified to go to the bathroom as he sees the woman from room 237 from the Overlook Hotel in there. This causes him to urinate in his pants. Through his mother, Wendy (Alex Essoe), we learn that he hasn’t spoken since their time in the hotel. She does comfort and get him cleaned up.

Danny is visited by Dick Hallorann (Carl Lumbly), who shares a way to make these entities go away. He creates boxes in his mind and locks them inside. Danny then grows to be an adult and is much like his father. We see him on a bender where he wakes up next to a woman. She has vomited and he goes to leave. Before he can, he sees that she has a child. This doesn’t stop him from taking money as he feels she took his. Danny boards a bus that takes him to New Hampshire. It is there that he meets Billy Freeman (Cliff Curtis). He sees something in Danny and decides to help him.

We also meet a special little girl, Abra Stone (Kyliegh Curran). She is like Danny was, just way more powerful. Her parents are shocked at a magic trick she does in the kitchen where she has all their spoons stuck to the ceiling. Her parents are David (Zackary Momoh) and Lucy (Jocelin Donahue).

8 years later, Dan is sober and working at a nursing home where he is dubbed Doctor Sleep. Along with their cat, they know the patients who are close to passing and helping to ease their fears. Dan also communicates with Abra through a wall in his room. It has been painted like a chalkboard. Things take a turn though when Abra picks up the energy of Rose the Hat and her convoy of people. She first sees that they convert a trouble teen, Snakebite Andi (Emily Alyn Lind), to join them and then we see how they eat when they come after Bradley Trevor (Jacob Tremblay). Abra then seeks out Dan for his help because she is the most powerful person who can use The Shine and that’s what the True Knot wants.

Now you already know that I was excited to see this film. I heard some interesting things from people before I got the chance to see this. The first thing is that it is common knowledge that King didn’t care for the Stanley Kubrick version of his story. What I find interesting about this film is that it seems like the perfect love letter meshing Kubrick’s The Shining with King’s ‘Doctor Sleep’ and then still putting his own touches on it for this movie.

It is an interesting story to have these villains in the True Knot as they search for children that can Shine. They call it Steam, as that’s what it looks like when it is coming out of them. They’re stealing the soul and with the changes that are made in them, if they eat well, they can live much longer than rubes which are normal people. The things they do are cruel so that adds to the fear. They want the children to be in pain as it makes the Steam purer for them, which is horrific.

There’s also some interesting social commentary here, which if you know me, I love. We see that Dan’s way of dealing with his father’s alcoholism is drinking. It is curious as his father died when he was a boy, but he still followed in the footsteps. He has a bit more of an excuse being that he has this mental ability that is scary so it’s him dealing with that as well. His alcoholism did hide him from the True Knot in part as well. The traumatic events made him not use it so they missed him. This feels like something that anyone who lives into adulthood might end up as alcoholics because of the strain the Shine can have on them.

This film also has some good heart. Seeing Dan recover from his issues with booze and what he does at this nursing home touched my heart. I’m not going to lie, I teared up for some of this as it is that heartfelt. It adds an interesting touch and plays up later when he finally meets Abra as well.

I want to shift gears to cover the pacing and editing of this film. As I said that this was a love letter to the film and book, there are so many good references throughout. We see scenes that were reshot for this film, but on top of that, we get ones that directly mirror. An example is when Dan interviews with Dr. John (Bruce Greenwood) are exactly like Jack’s interview at the Overlook. It is things like this that were great. This film also runs 152 minutes, but I didn’t mind it at all. I felt like that time was needed to introduce us to the characters and then build the tension to their eventual encounter. I love where it ends up and, I think using the Kubrick’s ending makes more sense than the King ending as I enjoy the encounter as they do here. How this all plays out in the end works for me.

Here is where I wanted to interject the difference for the director’s cut. This one went three hours long. To be honest, I did watch it in two sittings. This was more that I needed to get to sleep as I had to work in the morning. I bring this up as it doesn’t feel that long. The movie is broken up into chapters, making it feel more like Kubrick’s The Shining. It also goes deeper into things which I can appreciate. It is still the same movie, but it will be difficult to go back to the theatrical cut.

That will take me to the acting of this one. McGregor did an excellent job as the adult Dan. He brings hurt and pain to the character from what happened in the original film and the repercussions after it. Ferguson was also amazing as Rose. There’s an odd aspect that I found her attractive, but also terrified of her at the same time. I could almost believe her at times which is weird since I know she’s evil. I thought Curran was solid as well. She does some interesting things like pretending to be Dan. Despite her age, she holds her own with the performances around her. Seeing the True Knot and how they work with converting Lind was solid. The rest of the group was good as the villains. I like the performances of Curtis, Greenwood, Essoe and Tremblay. They along with the rest of the cast rounded this film out for what was needed. I should also really shout out Essoe, Floyd, Thomas Downing and Henry Thomas amongst others. They took on roles from The Shining for reshoots here. They were solid and played their parts as close as they could to the original. It helped to build on the tension as well as the back-story.

As for the effects of this film, I thought they were on point. We get some good practical ones. The blood we see looks real enough. Writer/director Mike Flanagan also seems to be an expert in ripping the skin of wrist and hands, because we got a scene of that which made me cringe. Going even farther, the CGI in this film was solid as well. It was seamless. I know it was with computers because of what was done, but that’s really the only way. I thought it was shot beautifully and I like the incorporation of seeing inside of the mind. That is something I’m a sucker for.

The last thing to cover would be the soundtrack. I love that Flanagan decided to use songs from the original film and then tweaked some of them here. It helps to build tension. On top of that though, they also use this heartbeat that happens quite a bit. I could feel my anxiety going up when it would get more rapid and I thought that was genius thing to use. On top of that, Jaime specifically said the same thing that it was making her anxious and she felt like her breathing was syncing up to it.

Now with that said, I was excited to see this, but was also nervous that my love of the original film and the source material from King would affect it. I can say that it didn’t. This film sucked me in and I think that Flanagan knocked it out of the park again. The story was some good social commentary of real-life issues and then blends it well with the supernatural. Seeing how trauma changes people is interesting here. I think the acting helps bring that to life. Despite its long runtime, it doesn’t feel like it and I think that it was warranted. I’m even including the longer director’s cut in with this statement. The effects were good and the soundtrack was amazing. There were just a few things that were off for me, but nothing to ruin it or the things that I liked. I think this is a great film and it was one of my favorites of 2019. It has gone up after this second viewing and the director’s cut makes it even better.


My Rating: 10 out of 10