In 1980 Stanley Kubrick adapted a 1977 Stephen King novel called “The Shining” (1980) into a successful horror film. Stephen King was never quite happy about how the film turned out, so in 1997 King wrote and produced a version of his novel into a TV miniseries. Fast forward to 2019 and Mike Flanagan brings us an adaptation of King’s 2013 sequel to the original novel, “Doctor Sleep”. Flanagan admitted that he had to do justice to King’s 2013 novel, while using both the 1980 film, and the 1997 mini-series as source material for what he was directing in the 2019 release.
After experiencing the events at the Outlook Hotel in 1980 Dan Torrance is still traumatised as an adult. Initially his various bad habits, such as alcohol dependency do not sate his visions and feelings, but he learns a new tactic from the spirit of Dick Halloran that allows him to imprison the spirits that haunt him. After reaching rock bottom the only way is up, and Danny (now going as Dan) follows an instinct which takes him to a new life in New Hampshire. He joins an AA group and slowly starts building his life back together, taking a job as a hospice orderly where he uses his powers to reassure the people dying – thus earning him the name “Doctor Sleep”. One day he is contacted by somebody else who has powers too. While all this is going on, we meet Rose the Hat, who is part of a group called the ‘True Knot’. They feed on the ‘steam’ of kids they torture who possess powers/a shining. Feeding on the steam keeps them young and allows them to live for longer than their bodies would normally allow. They have their sights on the stranger who has contacted Dan, a young girl called Abra. She tells Dan, who decides to help her escape the True Knot. Complications arise which mean Dan must think on his feet, and he eventually decides to take Abra to the Overlook hotel – a place which might be dangerous, but one where Dan knows the environment. A battle ensues pitting Dan and Abra against Rose the Hat, while the spirits at the Overlook hotel try to claim them too.
Ewan McGregor plays the grown-up Dan Torrance (with the young Danny played by Roger Dale Flloyd), who was originally played by Danny Lloyd – who does make a small cameo in the film too. McGregor does well without ever really excelling, he is a great actor, but I prefer him in other films I have seen him in. Rebecca Ferguson plays Rose the Hat – for me she is the real standout in the film. She is a great villain and flips between warm and welcoming and maniacal and twisted superbly. Kyliegh Curran plays Abra Stone, with Dakota Hickman also playing her, albeit the younger version seen early on in the film. She does well for someone so young, but there are times where her delivery of the script felt a little forced. It was not a terrible thing and I only noticed it at times. I am sure she has a bright future ahead of her though. – I just wonder if there was a lot of pressure put on her to deliver things in a particular way. Carl Lumbly takes over from Scatman Crothers as Dick Halloran, which felt natural and did not feel out of place at all. The role of Wendy Torrance goes from Shelley Duvall to Alex Essoe. Henry Thomas plays the Overlook bartender called Lloyd who was originally played by Joe Turkel, who also has the face of Jack Torrance – who was Jack Nicholson in the first film. Other top talent is littered throughout too, all of whom do great jobs in their performances.
Any less confused yet?
This is a decent film, that kept me engaged throughout. It is less of a horror film and more of a drama pitting good versus evil, the acting is decent, and the imagery is good. I liked that new actors were cast in some of the reoccurring roles, using digital might have been a little off-putting. I watched this without expecting it to be as dark and gritty as the Kubrick 1980 film. With a low expectation I anticipated that I could only be surprised and enjoy the film, and that I did in parts. It was a little drawn out at times, and also a bit obvious in places, but that’s the direction that modern films seem to have gone – signposting what is coming up rather than just springing it on the audience. The story telling is king here, which is reassuring as it is also written by a King too. Seeing how the Danny/Dan character had developed was strangely satisfying – turning out like his dad, only to try and change himself out of that mold as the film progressed. Watching Rose the Hat, and how that character developed was great too. Despite those two admissions I wonder if I should not have been more engaged in the Abra character, after all she is the new generation of power that could take things forward if future films were to be made.
The gap between the novels and the previous film/TV series is bridged well under the helmsmanship of director Mike Flanagan and he gives us something which has the ability to stand on its own two feet. Will this be a classic in years to come like Kubrick’s version of “The Shining” though? Time will obviously tell but I doubt it. A good film which takes the audience on a decent journey that had me engaged for the 3 or so hours it was on, but not one that will haunt me like the original’s did (both novel and film). A visually appealing film with some well-crafted dream-like sequences, but still not as memorable as what was experienced in the Overlook during Kubrick’s time at the wheel. The first act sets the film up and explains things to the audience, it was decent but not brilliant. Then the second act sets up what this film was going to do and starts the ball rolling – and it was good enough. The third act which was supposed to be the big climax didn’t fully deliver for me though, it felt like it was an overdose of nostalgia and did not really satisfy my need for a great conclusion to the film.
Ultimately the film is decent without being outstanding. Some good performances, some decent imagery, a good enough story that differs from what the audience might have expected and cried out for in a sequel. This does bridge a gap between film, TV, and the novels quite well, but it for me it isn’t going to be as celebrated in years to come as the work that came before it.