Doctor Sleep (2019)

A bludgeoningly-dark, sumptuous slow-burn with new genre-icon in Rose The Hat, phenomenal McGregor lead, & seasoned Flanagan direction brimming with Easter Eggs & smart progressivism, D.S. worthily sequels the greatest horror movie ever made. 8.5/10.

Plot Synopsis: Struggling with alcoholism, Dan Torrance remains traumatized by the sinister events that occurred at the Overlook Hotel when he was a child. His hope for a peaceful existence soon becomes shattered when he meets Abra, a teen who shares his extrasensory gift of the “shine.” Together, they form an unlikely alliance to battle the True Knot, a cult whose members try to feed off the shine of innocents to become immortal.

*Possible spoilers ahead*

Review

Back To The Overlook Hotel:

How Do You Sequel The Greatest Horror Movie Ever Made?

Photo Courtesy Of: Warner Bros.

The Greatest Horror Movie Ever Made. Legendary director Stanley Kubrick shocked the world in 1980 releasing an ice-cold, Colorado mountain-set, dark-atmospheric showpiece that messed with your mind as much as your body. A masterpiece of slowly-hypnotic cabin fever that not only ripped the door of Pandora’s Box off its hinges paving way for a new era of psychological horror but supplied genre junkies the ultimate haunted house fix too with every single room & wing of a gargantuan monolithic hotel packing lurking ghouls & symbolism, how could you possibly follow that up? Coming fresh off a Netflix limited series CLC noticed back in 2017 had similar (stellar) dark+thick Kubrickian atmospherics: The Haunting Of Hill House, Mike Flanagan got approached with the opportunity – and riskiest bet – of a lifetime: make a sequel to The Shining. Now, ~40 years later and one of the bravest undertakings in a project most filmmakers would quiver frozen at like Jack in its predecessor’s finale, we have that sequel. And it’s a WILD one. A bludgeoningly-dark, sumptuous slow-burn with a new genre-icon in Rose The Hat, phenomenal McGregor lead, & seasoned Flanagan direction brimming with Easter Eggs & smart progressivism, D.S. is a worthy sequel to the greatest horror movie ever made.

Picking Up Right Where Kubrick Left Off: A Haunted, PTSD-Stricken Danny After The Events Of The Shining

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A new direction. Easily what’s most strikingly-brilliant about Doctor Sleep is the incredible new direction the story is taken in. Picking up right where the original left off – with Danny and Ms. Torrance on the road after the unconscionable events that befell their family at The Overlook Hotel – we are taken into a continuation where our child hero is still haunted by the ghosts he met desperately wishing to feed off his ‘shine.’ Learning eventually from our old friend Dick – with fan-satisfying lookalike castings and period authenticity – that there’s a way to lock demons away so they finally stop haunting you, Danny is freed up to (at least try) to join the rest of the world. However, that isn’t as easy as he imagined – still haunted by the trauma he experienced as now a recovering alcoholic who starts getting beguiled by bizarre visions and penpals around him telling him of a mysterious cult of marauders hunting Shiners. King’s new direction for the story – bringing an almost supervillain flair soaked in theatricality and indie macabre as much as its spellbinding magician-hatted lead woman – is sensational, feeling completely different & boldly original individualizing from its predecessor, yet still just enough tapped into the lore for a skillfull tightrope-traversion that seems to have balanced the visions of both Kubrick and King magnificently.

Rose The Hat: A New Genre Icon

Photo Courtesy Of: Warner Bros.

Dark atmospheric preservation with seasoned Flanagan direction. Make no mistake from its wildly-different story direction, the film still feels like The Shining – spectacularly achievinng the most difficult thing to emulate: Kubrick’s idiosyncratic, powerful atmosphere so thick in macabre, you could cut it with a knife. Before we’re even assaulted with disturbing imagery or dark storytelling, we hear the return of that blood-curdling, crunchy, warbled synth-booming from the first second of the film letting us know we’re in for the slow-burn experience fans came to see. The Newton Brothers’ score is on-key utilizing effectively resamples from the ’80 original with a few tricks of its own as well – like thumping bass to mimic heartbeats and crescendoing drums to add some blockbuster epicness to the mix. Cinematographer Michael Filmognari delivers visually too with disturbing imagery that would make Kubrick proud, in a glorious dark-blueish tint that structurally recreates or reuses many of the original’s shots and sets like the inimitable snow maze, opening lake pan, walking through a decrepit Overlook Hotel ‘waking it up’ after years of sleep, the infamous axe-chase, ‘hello danny’, and Redrum. Fantastic.

A New Direction Steeped In Fear-Drinking, Sumptuous Prophecy Terror

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The performances. Rose The Hat has the potential to become a new horror-icon – with a show-stealing Rebecca Ferguson performance both chilling as villain and bizarrely-captivating as a character bent on power and immortal decadance building an empire of the greatest Shine talents and feasts of fear. Her entire band of supernatural marauders are phenomenally-acted – especially Zahn McClermon’s Crow and Emily Lind’s Anni – and scary, going after children as the ‘purest’ for even more horror and stylistic costume design and VFX with those ghostly glowing eyes when they’re literally drinking in the fear of their victims. Ewan McGregor is a lifetime casting as grown-up Danny too – getting the proverbial innocence, childlike charm, & haunted presence of a character with that much psychological baggage/issues perfectly in conjunction with a surprising newcomer performance by child actor Kyleigh Curran’s Abra. There are even exact lookalikes in casting that strikingly-resemble their ’80’s counterparts – like Alexandra Essoe’s spot-on Ms. Torrance and Henry Thomas double-take worthy perfect match as the infamous Jack (wish they’d deaged Nicholson, but it’s clear enough the parallels and adds to the difference feel).

Shot-For-Shot Recreations Of The Original’s Best For Fan Service & Darkness-Preservation

Photo Courtesy Of: Warner Bros.

In fact, Doctor Sleep accomplishes something all studios and modern Hollywood needs to take notice of: smart, (smooth) filmic progressivism. There’s a reason every abrasively-politicized movie coming to theaters nowadays – from Ghostbusters to Ocean’s 8 to Terminator: Dark Fate releasing mere weeks ago – is getting absolutely *obliterated* at the box office: people go to the movies for escapism – not to be lectured on politics or the views of a multi-billion dollar studio caring about little else but capitalistic profiteering & bottom lines only forcing it in to appear “woke”/virtuous and (I guess?) sell a few more tickets to people who never cared about the film, but will suddenly go pay to see it because it aligns with their beliefs. Doctor Sleep manages to, impressively, include many of the controversially-handled spotlight points with great aplomb – from feminism having both sides of the aisle be equal amongst genders in Danny/Abra and Rose/Crow to diversity with a cast spanning from African-American to Middle Eastern to white representationally – without making it the least bit offensive to even the staunchest conservative’s or skeptic’s sensibilities. It even balances any moments it feels like it might push over into questionable territory with views from the other sides of the aisle – even, for the first time I’ve ever seen, including points of view from rarely-asked sources like how men feel that today’s society basically teaches all women and children to be afraid of even talking to them on a park bench when he’s trying to save you from demonic cults, and the pressure society puts on providing for constant ‘mouths to feed.’ The original’s themes like family, gender dynamics, isolation, cabin fever, trauma, alcoholism/drug-abuse, and the afterlife are all juggled and maintained by D.S.’ screenplay – with an added one of facing your fears and confronting your demons so you control them and they don’t control you.

Flaws

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Flaws center around the fact the film doesn’t (as is wholly to be expected and ~excused with the shoes it’s trying to fill) quite match the masterpiece terror of the original. The imagery – while horrifying in its own right by almost all modern horror standards – does not mess you up quite like Kubrick’s did (in fairness, not something to be ashamed about as no one has matched it since and D.S. at least got in the same ballpark). Roger Dayle Lloyd’s child-Danny is tremendously-miscast as well, not reading at all like the Danny Torrance of the ’80 original. Finally, the end framing is a bit disappointing – get the point was facing your fears, but it should’ve ended at The Overlook or something more Kubrick-invoking or epic/scary than.. a suburban bathroom.

Conclusion

A Worthy Sequel To The Shining

A Masterful Showcase By Seasoned Atmospheric Talent & HOHH Provocateur Mike Flanagan

Photo Courtesy Of: Warner Bros.

Overall, Doctor Sleep has managed to do the unconscionable: make a great sequel to the greatest horror movie ever made. A bludgeoningly-dark, sumptuous slow-burn with a new genre-icon in Rose The Hat, phenomenal McGregor lead, & seasoned Flanagan direction brimming with Easter Eggs & smart progressivism, D.S. is a worthy sequel to Kubrick’s masterpiece that impressively traverses the line between Stanley’s and King’s visions – respecting the original’s lore and magnitudinal impact/atmosphere while adding some new and exciting flair too.

Official CLC Score: 8.5/10