#REVIEW: “DOCTOR SLEEP”
Review by David Baldwin for Mr. Will Wong
“Here’s Johnny!” Unless you grew up watching Johnny Carson on late night, chances are you immediately thought of Jack Nicholson peeking his head through a broken door frame – or you pictured any number of the parodies that followed. That moment and many others from The Shining have been burned into the collective minds of multiple generations. And while the Film inspired multiple readings and theories, we never saw a followup in the nearly forty years since its release. Until now.
Dan Torrance (Ewan McGregor) is a recovering alcoholic who is still tormented by the trauma of his experiences at the Overlook Hotel. By chance, he starts communicating telepathically with Abra (Kyliegh Curran), a young girl who shares similar abilities. But their friendship turns serious when Dan realizes he must help protect her from a deadly cult group called The True Knot who have a habit of capturing, torturing and murdering children in order to obtain their inner steam and live forever.
If that synopsis sounds like a mouthful, then you may need extra help preparing for Doctor Sleep. The Film clocks in at 2 hours and 31 minutes, and may be one of the most densely packed Narrative Features in recent memory. The Flm acts as both an adaptation of Stephen King’s Novel Doctor Sleep as well as a proper Sequel to Stanley Kubrick’s rendition of The Shining. It is no tall order following up either piece, but Writer/Editor/Director Mike Flanagan has done an admirable job trying. He gives just enough details on all of the main players – including Rebecca Ferguson’s wildly-audacious villain Rose the Hat (yes, that is actually her name) – keeps the pacing quick and the story moving. Yes, there are a few moments that meander and go on too long (or worse, scenes that feel like they could be distilled down into small fragments as opposed to extended segments), but I never felt bored.
The Film truly shines however (see what I did there?) when Flanagan drops in references, homages, and nods to Kubrick’s legendary Film. Some are integrated better than others, but you can tell he is having an absolute blast meticulously recreating the sets and scenes from The Shining. The level of sheer detail he is able to recapture here is simply astounding. There is a lot of love and admiration that went into many of these moments, and even though I knew the actors standing in for The Torrances are just doing their best impressions of Nicholson, Shelley Duvall and Danny Lloyd, it never stopped me from smiling ear to ear.
While I have questions about Flanagan reusing a gory scare from one of his other films – not to mention why he included a particularly grisly, visceral and downright nasty torture scene involving a child – I feel like the entire experience of watching Doctor Sleep felt a little hollow. The look is great and the performances are well done (especially Curran, who literally outshines everyone), but I am not sure the Film ever really needed to exist. It is not particularly scary, and comes off a bit too campy for its own good. Even more egregious is the fact that it never manages to match the intensity, the atmosphere or the anxiety of Kubrick’s film. If it wants to compete or feel like a worthy Sequel, then it should at least try to check-off some of those boxes. In the end, Doctor Sleep just feels like really well-made Fan Fiction. That may be enough for some fans, but will no doubt leave others feeling entirely indifferent.
Warner Bros. Canada release DOCTOR SLEEP Friday, November 8, 2019.