DOCTOR SLEEP Review – Mike Flanagan Takes Audiences Back to the Overlook
Starring: Ewan McGregor, Kyliegh Curran, and Rebecca Ferguson
Written by: Mike Flanagan, based on a novel by Stephen King
Directed by: Mike Flanagan
Doctor Sleep is an interesting film. It’s not quite a sequel; not quite a stand-alone; and certainly not a reboot. Regardless of what you call it, it is an excellent film, one of the best in the Stephen King oeuvre.
Based on the novel of the same name by Stephen King, Doctor Sleep follows Danny Torrance from The Shining. Now an adult, we find Dan at his lowest point: a rock-bottom alcoholic who seems dangerously close to following in his father’s footsteps. He moves to New Hampshire, where a man named Billy takes a liking to Dan. A former alcoholic himself, Billy gets Dan into AA, gets him a home and a job. Eight years later, Dan is sober and working as an orderly at a hospice. He has been nicknamed Doctor Sleep because he uses his Shine to ease dying patients into a painless, fearless death.
Meanwhile, a cult called the True Knot, led by a woman named Rose the Hat, is moving across the country, looking for people with the Shining. The True Knot kills people and consumes their Shine, allowing them to live nearly forever, and increasing their own Shining powers. Pain, torture, fear, and agony purify the Shine, making the True Knot a particularly brutal band of serial killers.
The final element here is Abra Stone, a thirteen year old who has the strongest Shine that Rose has ever discovered. Abra befriends Dan via blackboard well before they ever meet in person, but when she “sees” the True Knot killing a boy her age, which is what leads Rose the Hat to discover Abra, she becomes desperate and seeks out Dan in the flesh.
Director Mike Flanagan has cemented himself as a new master of horror with this film. He has managed to bring viewers back to the Overlook without making it feel gimmicky. Though he rebuilt the Overlook to the exact specifications from Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining, he doesn’t try to mimic Kubrick’s distinctive directing style. Returning to the Overlook was inevitable in this story, and did not disappoint.
The casting on Doctor Sleep is magnificent. The chemistry between Ewan McGregor’s Dan and newcomer Kyliegh Curran’s Abra is phenomenal. Flanagan even manages to make a joke about Dan and Abra’s first meeting being uncomfortable because Dan is an adult man meeting a teenage girl. Rebecca Ferguson’s Rose the Hat is deeply demented. The rest of the True Knot felt under-utilized. Rose’s second-in-command, Crow Daddy, mainly seemed like an enforcer. Grandpa Flick was there purely to show how True Knotters age. Snakebite Andi got a full backstory, but once she was indoctrinated into the cult, she fell into the background.
The biggest flaw with the film is that Abra always felt too powerful. From the moment you meet Abra, she is too mature, too comfortable with her powers, to have any weak spots that could be exploited. As such, there wasn’t any feeling of true danger. She and Dan always had a plan, and even if the plan didn’t go accordingly, they had backups to that plan that felt like that was the plan all along. However, you still felt Dan’s weaknesses, and many of us have similar fears: the Grady Twins, the woman in room 237, old addictions, family legacy.
Doctor Sleep creates a world of magic that is dark and disturbing, yet with a satisfying ending that leaves you – dare I say it? – hopeful.
Doctor Sleep hits theaters November 8th.
A chilling and effective return to the Overlook Hotel