In “DOCTOR SLEEP” little Danny Torrance is now a grown up Dan Torrance (Ewan McGregor), and is still understandably haunted by the things that happened to him at the Overlook Hotel as a small child. Most days he drinks his hours away to silence the voices in his head. After one drug-fueled drinking rampage, waking hungover and getting ready to rob the last dollars from his one-night stands wallet – even upon seeing the fact that she has a toddler – but not even so much as blinking an eye over being such a degenerate, he gets interrupted by his still very present ghost mentor Dick Hallorann (Carl Lumbly). This all leads his decision to hop on a bus to go across the country to a new town and once there immediately meets good Samaritan Billy Freeman (Cliff Curtis). Freeman, who inexplicably within minutes of meeting Dan, just up and pays for his room and board, then magically gives him a job as well. Oh! to be of this place where all lives are wonderfully and simply mended right? And yes, of course all this helps Dan get his life back together, as he ‘meets’ and connects with a young Abra Stone (Kyliegh Curran), through the chalkboard wall in the room as she ‘Shines’ just like he does and they exchange messages through this medium. Seemingly against his will (yawn), he ends up protecting her from a group of powerful psychics, lead by Rose the Hat (Rebecca Ferguson), who hunt young children with psychic powers in order to feed on them to make themselves live forever. Oh how the plot thickens as in a twists of all twists (dripping sarcasm) in order to keep Abra (yes, as in Abra-ka-dabra) safe, Torrance will of course be forced to return to the place of all his nightmares, The Overlook and face his ghosts.
The first hour is spent to a certain extent, explaining ‘The Shining’ and what the intentions of the merciless cult-group The True Knot are. As we follow Dan Torrance as a middle-aged man plagued by all these horrific memories, they take liberties left and right rolling right thru a completely inconsistent tone of plot due to the mass sprawl of locational changes. One minute we’re in a sleepy town, the next a woodland area, and then all of a sudden eight years have been and gone. The zippy nature of the editing and bloated explanation results in zero feeling of terror and needles to say, the tension is non-existent.
The second act gives more of an explanation in detailed effect, of the who, what, how, and why’s of the cult group led by Rose. They show us how the group hunt the children and we get to know the some of the main characters that follow her from Crow Daddy (Zahn McClarnon), Snakebite Andi (Emily Alyn Lind), Barry the Chunk (Robert Longstreet) to the creepy Grampa Flick (Carel Struycken) and Silent Sarey (Catherine Parker). We also get a lot of recurring visuals (The naked Lady in the Bathtub for example) that were meant to be scary, but by the end, are just eye roll inducing. While the acts of Rose and her group of cannibalistic crazies are horrific, most especially the not needed but much detailed kidnapping and killing of Bradley ‘Baseball Boy’ Trevor (Jacob Tremblay), the fact is, they just aren’t scary. The absolute revolting nature of this heinous act doesn’t make you frightened, it repulses you, which doesn’t make for a good horror scare in the slightest. It also makes you realize that all you have to do is change these characters to vampires and the ‘steam’ to blood, and you’ve got a typical tween vampire flick going for you here, with about the same embodiment of zest to the performances as well. Ferguson, who shines so well in action flicks, comes off here as a gypsy Rose caricature channeling Stevie Nicks, while McGregor doesn’t come close to giving us the feels that child Danny Torrance gave us. One point in particular, there is a ridiculous ‘Buffy the Vampire’ type fight sequence where a supernaturally charged Rebecca Ferguson takes out an axe-wielding Ewen McGregor in a martial arts type scenario that is so out of place in this film that holding in the laughter is difficult because they are trying to have us believe this is serious stuff. The ridiculousness of scenes like this screeches throughout the film. There is however, one big stand out performance here in Kyliegh Curran, a superb young actress (whom I hope we see much more of in the future) who makes her character so believable and gives us her all.
The third and final act then arrives, and the entire story crumbles much like the Overlook itself. Plagued by an overshadowing sickness that ‘The Shining’ had produced. Nostalgia. Remember that time where Jack viciously chopped the bedroom door down with an axe? Or that moment where blood came hurtling through the hallways in slow motion? What about Room 237? The introductory swooping camera movement that Kubrick embraced whilst the Torrance’s drove to the hotel? The typewriter? Slowly walking up the stairs in a confrontational manner? The snow-covered hedge maze? The twins? No? You don’t remember? No worries as Director Mike Flanagan has got you covered. Nostalgia is a powerful tool, yet it must be handled with delicacy. The difference between imitating and homage is very fine, and unfortunately Flanagan settled for the former.
Sadly most of this film was just..meh. It lacked the nail biting atmosphere that ‘The Shining’ had in spades. It lacked a lot of fear of any kind really. One can argue that it is wrong and unfair to compare the two films given the uniqueness of Kubrick’s vision, but Doctor Sleep invites these comparisons by constantly referencing The Shining in flashbacks, relying on much of Kubrick’s imagery to pedal its cheap scares.
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Media Review Screening: Wednesday, November 6, 2019 ~ Courtesy of Warner Bros.
“DOCTOR SLEEP” IS OUT NOW IN THEATERS WORLDWIDE