DIRECTOR: Mike flanagan (gerald's game, before I wake)
STARRING: ewan mcgregor, kyle curran, rebecca ferguson, and bruce greenwood
REVIEWER: purdie picot
Years following the events of "The Shining", a now-adult Dan Torrence meets a young girl with similar powers as his and tries to protect her from a cult known as The True Knots who prey on children with powers to remain immortal.
Dan Torrance, all grown up from the events in The Shining, is still traumatised by his past. However, he is connected to a teenage girl, Abra, who is also gifted with shine. They have to work together to put an end to the True Knot, a cult who feeds off of children’s powers. It’s a mental game of cat and mouse, as the hunters become the hunted.
So what happens when a child grows up after experiencing a deeply traumatic experience? What happens when that child is something special himself? How would he run away from the pain of the past? Can he even run away from it?
Doctor Sleep, based on the book of the same name, takes Dan Torrance, the little boy in The Shining, and explores what his adult life is like. Unsurprisingly, his life is not that great, he’s developed a drinking problem to help hold back the demons of his past and lives an unstable life. Ewen McGregor as Dan has a wide-eyed sense of horror, the emotional pain and power are brought to life. He lives his struggle throughout the film, moral decisions, reliving the past, and trying to understand his gift, his shine. That little boy in the hotel is long gone, but his past hasn’t forgotten him.
Doctor Sleep is a great sequel, there are many call backs, and references to The Shining which will reward fans of both the book and film. One thing I particularly enjoyed was the pacing, running at two and a half hours allowed for the luxury of time. After a large selection of horror films this year - coming in closer to the 90 minute mark, it feels rewarding to have something to really chew on, let the terror build up, the characters develop, and to be completely involved in the world. This world is deeply terrifying, not only do we bring back the experiences from The Shining, we also experience the new horror of the True Knot, who stalk children and suck their shine from their bodies. This is a horrific world to be a part of, and it’s no surprise that Dan is struggling.
Rebecca Ferguson as Rose the Hat, a key member of the True Knot is such a brilliant character. I love how much I loathed her, she was dripping in a sexy confidence, and flirting with some kind of almost-unhinged immortality. The origins and mystery of the True Knot is never fully explained, in classic Stephen King fashion - sometimes your own imagination is your own worst enemy. Cults are an unnerving topic, but mix that in with child hunting, energy sucking, immortal bad guys who travel the country to find their next meal, it’s a bad combo, and one that is entirely unsettling. That being said, if Rose the Hat offered me the promise of a long life, it would be quite hard to turn her down.
This is our fourth Stephen King film this year (Pet Sematary, It: Chapter Two and on Netflix - In the Tall Grass), it’s been quite a good year for horror overall, but a great year to be a King fan. I love to celebrate new original films, but there is something that is always visually and emotionally enticing about King films. Perhaps, it’s the real characters fighting against very surreal situations and horrors, or maybe it’s something dark and moody, something that gets to your very soul, to the things you didn’t even know you should be scared of, something that puts you out of kilter just enough that you aren’t sure what’s around the corner. Doctor Sleep is a film for fans of King, fans of thrillers, fans of The Shining film (or not, as King himself even thinks Doctor Sleep redeems Kubrick’s Shining), and definitely fans of Ewan McGregor.
It’s a fantastic film, one that I’m going to enjoy going back to watch, there will be plenty of easter eggs I missed. The tension was high, the thrills were chilling and the acting was superb. It brings life back to the Overlook Hotel while bringing new characters to the screen, a delicate balance between servicing fans of The Shining and fans of the book. Mike Flanagan is becoming an excellent thriller director.
The characters of Doctor Sleep bring the film to life, but the tension created is what drives this to be one of the best thrillers of the year.