'Doctor Sleep' (2019) A Shining Movie Review

Updated on November 21, 2019
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Redrum. Redrum. Redrum. Redrum. Redrum. What? Is that not good enough? Ugh... All work and no play makes John a dull boy...

It’s No Secret

As of late, I have definitely made it no secret in some of my more recent articles that Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining is my absolute favorite horror film of all time. Also ranking damn near the top as one of my favorite films in general. To me, The Shining is one of the most perfect horror pictures ever created and holds a special place for me personally. To know more about my thoughts on the horror masterpiece, click down below for the two articles mentioned where I go more in depth on the subject and my personal connection with the film.

Paging Doctor Sleep

Full disclosure, I have not read Stephen King’s 2013 sequel novel to The Shining, Doctor Sleep. So if anyone is curious to know a comparison between book to film adaptation with this review, I apologize, but you have come to the wrong critic. There will be no sort of comparison to any form of literary source materials within my review.

Haven't read it... I'm sorry!
Haven't read it... I'm sorry!

Revisiting The Shine

After almost forty years since the Torrances checked into their deadly stay at the Overlook Hotel. Now Danny Torrance (Ewan McGregor), a grown man, has lost his way in life. Falling into similar unhealthy habits of alcohol abuse as his father once did in his youth, until one day, Dan finds his place helping others in need through his abilities. Then when a young girl (Kyliegh Curran) needs protecting from a sinister cult who prey on children who have the “shine” in order to remain immortal, it’s up to Dan to save the girl before they add her to the long list of lost souls under this supernatural tribe’s belt.

A Pleasant Trip Back

Being able to come back into the world of The Shining was honestly an enjoyable treat; seeing how Wendy and Danny Torrance moved on from the events of the first movie was something I never thought I’d ever see as a fan, witnessing how a crazy incident such as what happened at the Overlook Hotel affects Danny into his adulthood to the point where him trying to cope slowly parallels his own father’s addictions, there was multiple aspects to admire about this continuation of Danny’s story. Not to mention that the entire cast, including those who fill in pre-existing characters from the original film, are all terrific. Another major aspect to appreciate about Doctor Sleep is that rare entry in the modern horror age to hold ambitions for supplying an epic quality to the picture, which is reminiscent of Kubrick’s vision.

Bumps in the Road

As much as there is to marvel at about this two and a half hour horror epic, there are also some minor criticisms as well. For instance, even though I was delighted to see so much attentive detail and aspiration for a grand scale status of story shine through from Kubrick’s film, I however was not a fan of the numerous callbacks to his classic. Not that paying homage to The Shining is necessarily a bad thing, not at all, but when there seems to be an endless abundance of pointless nods that add nothing except for the filmmakers to basically go, “Hey, hey, you remember this thing from the first movie? Here it is again! Isn’t that great? Love us!” Truthfully, those scenes were obnoxious to see pop up so frequently. Luckily, not to the extent to ruin the entire experience, only enough to taint it slightly. Although, with that said, there are whole scenes that stop the pace dead in its tracks to strictly be a callback to the Kubrick movie rather than progressing the narrative in its own voice. Eventually the hinderance became somewhat overwhelming, but at least ceased once the third act hits.

Despite there being hiccups in the homage department of the screenplay, there were still plenty of effective tributes that the sequel had successfully paid to the first movie. Recreations of the Overlook sets were astonishing to behold, revitalizing every single shred of the hotel’s essence down to the most miniscule of details. The meticulous craftmanship to bring the Overlook back from the grave was quite impressive! Not to limit that praise to solely the hotel itself, but also in the iconic ghosts that once infested those ominous walls. Everything that had to do with truly breathing life back into this unique world was achieved flawlessly. If there is anything that I walked away from this film with, it’s the massive respect it had for its 1980 predecessor.

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You get it? You remember this iconic scene from the first movie? We did it again! Remember the twins? We have twins too!In all honesty, there are a lot of nods and recreations such as this that do work really well as fan service.They milk the absolute hell out of the bathtub ghost though...This was actually really cool to see.Here's Danny!The actress only slightly resembles Shelly Duvalle, but she really captured her voice.Halloran: How would you like some ice cream, Doc?  Danny: Dude, I'm in my 40s. Quit that!
You get it? You remember this iconic scene from the first movie? We did it again!
You get it? You remember this iconic scene from the first movie? We did it again!
Remember the twins? We have twins too!
Remember the twins? We have twins too!
In all honesty, there are a lot of nods and recreations such as this that do work really well as fan service.
In all honesty, there are a lot of nods and recreations such as this that do work really well as fan service.
They milk the absolute hell out of the bathtub ghost though...
They milk the absolute hell out of the bathtub ghost though...
This was actually really cool to see.
This was actually really cool to see.
Here's Danny!
Here's Danny!
The actress only slightly resembles Shelly Duvalle, but she really captured her voice.
The actress only slightly resembles Shelly Duvalle, but she really captured her voice.
Halloran: How would you like some ice cream, Doc?  Danny: Dude, I'm in my 40s. Quit that!
Halloran: How would you like some ice cream, Doc? Danny: Dude, I'm in my 40s. Quit that!

A Slow Burn

An iconic component of Kubrick’s masterpiece was that it was certainly a slow burn horror in one of the best ways imaginable. Every second of screen time dedicates itself to entirely focusing on steadily tightening the tension with a surreal and creepy atmosphere until erupting into a ghoulish fever dream of insanity in its climax. Doctor Sleep definitely took note of that arc as it too mirrors a slow burning suspense that ramps up into a mostly satisfying payoff.

During the unhurried pace, a great deal of time is spent developing Dan Torrance as this recovering alcoholic finding refuge in a small sleepy town where he begins to help the elderly pass on. Quickly earning the title ‘Doctor Sleep’ amongst the sickly that seek guidance as they breathe their last breaths. Ewan McGregor is an actor that I have adored for probably twenty years now and he continues to do wonders in front of the camera. McGregor pulls off a believable adult Danny showing signs of his father inside his eyes. Admittedly, I did yearn for the script to have taken more of an advantage of Dan revisiting the Overlook and the terrors he could have faced while inside. Then again, what I received was pretty cool to see unravel, so I can’t complain too terribly.

The Villains

We eat kids... oh yes.
We eat kids... oh yes.

The wicked cult known as the True Knot may not be anything special in the grand scheme of cinema, I have to say though that I found it quite refreshing to have a major mainstream motion picture featuring antagonists whose only goal is to horrifically murder children. Twisted? No sh*t! These intense baddies injected a real sense of danger lacking in most blockbusters nowadays, I’m ecstatic to see such a risk being displayed on the big screen again. A bright spot in this tribe is the role of ‘Rose the Hat’ played by Rebecca Ferguson; she was a genuine treasure to watch as she sank her teeth deep into having as much fun on screen as she possibly could. I won’t go so far as to say that this is the most fleshed out villain I’ve ever seen, but Ferguson is performing in such a way that I am always captivated the very second she pops back up again with her devilish grin. Every one of her scenes was always entertaining in some way shape or form and I couldn’t get enough.

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Editing & Cinematography

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Before I say anything… this is a nitpick. This is 100% a nitpick that should in no way be construed as a legitimate criticism against the movie as the editing and cinematography is honestly fine. Here’s the thing, Mike Flanagan is a master editor in the modern horror era. What he does in terms of editing his productions is no short of remarkable, but it is undoubtedly in his own style and no one else’s. To me, his specific style of editing and camera work does not exactly mesh with that of a Stanley Kubrick film. Again, it’s not bad by any stretch of the imagination. What he turned in is still a visually stunning flick. My only issue is that sometimes I found it relatively difficult to immerse myself in believing this is actually the same world of The Shining because of how drastically different the visual aesthetic is to one another for huge portions of the runtime. From the flow of scenes and transitions to the lighting of sets and the color schemes, there is zero resemblance. Flanagan is one of the most innovative horror filmmakers of our time, but he’s not Kubrick. And that’s okay.

Overall

Doctor Sleep isn’t on par with The Shining, but with everything considered pertaining to the story, there was no chance of that ever happening. What we did get though was a thoroughly enjoyable ride in this atmospherically strange world. Will this make it on my ‘Best of the Year’ list? No, and I won’t likely be checking back into this sequel nearly as much as I do with Kubrick’s masterpiece. That doesn’t mean this isn’t worth a watch for any fan of the 1980 classic or Stephen King movie adaptations in general. If someone can look passed the issues I mentioned previously then they should have an overall decently creepy time here. So, if Doctor Sleep is still playing in a theater near you then I highly suggest to book your screening before time runs out!

Which Shined Brightest?

Which iteration is your favorite from the world of 'The Shining'?

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That’s All Folks!

Doctor Sleep… are you sleepy? What did you think of this long-awaited sequel? Like or dislike? Agree or disagree? Wish the axe had a more meaty role? Comment down below and let me know! Also, if you so happened to have enjoyed my review then please do me a favor and share this article around the social media world. Thank you all so much for reading and have yourselves a shining good day!

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    © 2019 John Plocar

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