Thursday, 7 November 2019

Film: 'Doctor Sleep'

Sequel to Stephen King's 1977 novel 'The Shining' and the Stanley Kubrick film of three years after (which King himself famously disliked), this one I found mediocre in comparison, director Mike Flanagan in no way being another Kubrick. 

I've read the novel twice and liked the 1980 film a lot (aside from a couple of quibbles, virtually all in the very final minutes), though haven't read this newer novel. 
Back in the late 70s and into the 80s I was a major fan of King's works and could hardly wait to read his latest published novel as they came out, but found that at the end of that very decade he went off the boil quite significantly, though with the odd exception - 'Misery', both book and film being a major comeback, the latter not quite as successfully realised as the book, yet still a most satisfying accomplishment.  

I don't know to what extent this new film is a faithful translation of the written word to the screen but one of the merits of the original film is that it had a very simple storyline with a cast of, basically, four - apart from excursions at the start and a certain scene in the middle. This sequel has a cast approaching a dozen with some weird off-piste additions to the continued story, so reducing the special impact of the original's claustrophobic, cut-off-from-the-world location,

Ewan McGregor is now the alcoholic adult persona of the corridor-tricycling Danny of the original, thirty-plus years later, now driven to drink and getting into fist fights because of unresolved issues brought about by what happened to him and his parents and his own 'talent' of being able to exercise 'The Shining', a rare psychic ability to connect with others possessing the same, and to recognise and sometimes see 'evil', appearing to him by both hallucinatory and reality means. I didn't feel that McGregor acted his part with quite the conviction the role demands. He didn't strike me as comfortable playing the mental-problem ridden and drink-addled struggler. 
This film rather muddies the comparatively simple concept of the original story by introducing a gang of ten or so odd-bods (vagrants?), superficially trustworthy men and women, led by 'Rose the Hat' (Rebecca Ferguson) but whose real intent is to search out and prey on children who have this 'shining' quality, kidnapping them, then murdering them in slow fashion so as to inhale the vapours which arise from the children's tortured bodies as they slowly expire. (There's one particularly harrowing scene showing the gang doing this to a captured boy).
Meanwhile the adult Danny receives a mental connection to teenage girl 'Abra' (Kyliegh Curran) who warns him of the threats from the group, the remainder of the film being a quest to find and destroy them which is exactly what Rose the Hat wants them to try. I have to say I found the appearances of this Rose more irritating than being the creepy and menacing figure we're supposed to see.

Throughout the film there are a lot of the 'Quiet.....quiet......BANG!" type of 'shocks' which always strike me as lazy and unimaginative. It's a film too full of such feeble attempts to make one jump a feature which rather detracts from the far fewer genuinely scary moments.   

I was, frankly, getting rather bored with the whole thing, something which could never be said of the 1980 film - this new one being  five minutes longer than the original at two and a half hours. It only picked up for me towards the end when Danny and Abra go to the 'Overlook Hotel' for the final great confrontation and we see some of the same rooms with which we've become familiar, including the ballroom with its bar, the hall, staircase, boiler room as well as the snow-covered maze. There are also split-second interpolations from the Kubrick film of Jack Nicholson and Shelley Duvall. It says a lot that it needed these reminders of the original to make me sit up and get interested. 

I'm out on a limb (again!) in finding this film something less than a number of reviews give it credit for. If I hadn't been so familiar with the original book and film I might have had a higher opinion, but as it is I found this a marked disappointment, though following in Kubrick's footsteps was always going to be a high bar to clear.........4.

(IMDb.......................7.5 - Rott.Toms........4.5/5 ) 


  1. I loved the original...and even withstanding the storyline was scary enough with Shelley Duvall alone. That woman is just odd and creepy looking. Not sure I plan to see this. Sometimes it's best to let successful sleeping dogs lie.

    On a side note, finally caught Midsommer. Oh. My. Goodness. Most bizarre film I saw in ages. I wasn't sure what to think, or still, if I even liked it...I'm still in stun and shock. Especially that cliff scene.....

    1. If anything, this film only underlines just how good the original was, M.M. I think it was a serious error to attempt to follow it, a mistake foremost by King himself, followed up by this celluloid version.
      Shelly Duvall WAS very good in the 1980 film. Even if her acting turned out to be what Kubrick considered as his greatest problem in the film it doesn't show as such on screen, whereas Nicholson's contribution, steadily getting more and more deranged, was a bit more predictable despite doing exactly what he was required to do.

      Now that the dust has settled (though it's still stirring) after my seeing 'Midsommar' months ago I can say with some confidence that it's the most disturbing film I've ever seen in my entire life. It still haunts me just about every single day and I just wish I'd never seen the blasted thing. Really got under my skin, and it won't leave me, dammit!

  2. Like you, loved the book, but the film, and the TV movie, fell far short.

    I like McGregor, but every preview I see of this laves me utterly uninterested.

    It's really a pass, now that you've reviewed it for me!

    1. I never saw the TV film, Bob, though wish I had, being as it was endorsed by the author.
      Although Ewan McG seemed earnest in playing the adult Danny here he also appeared somewhat detached and a bit out-of-sympathy with the character.

      I'm sorry if what I say about this new film is the deciding factor in your not going but I have to be honest. However, if you weren't that keen on the film of the original story I doubt very much if you're going to think this sequel is anything above average.

  3. You seem to be in the majority with your opinion of the film... But I really enjoyed it, especially the continuation of the music from The Shining, that made it feel more connected, and the actress who played Danny's Mum, had Shelly Duvall's intonation perfect....I almost jumped for joy when I realised they were going to have the finale at The Overlook Hotel.

    1. The music you refer to, D, the 'Dies Irae' medieval plainchant, sounds to me, even in the original film, much too portentously signalling (DOOM! DOOM!), yet especially so when played as here on orchestral brass - tubas I presume.
      But like you I was also pleased with the returning use of the Overlook Hotel, the only point in the film, belated as it was, when I sat up keenly.
      I'm pleased that you liked this new film. I only wish I'd been of your mind.

  4. Interested in hearing your review on The Good Liar

    1. Booked for this Tues, JayGee. Was looking forward to it very much, then yesterday heard Mark Kermode's take on it......