Doctor Sleep (2019)

Mike Flanagan directs Ewan McGregor, Rebecca Ferguson and Kyliegh Curran in this horror adaptation of Stephen King‘s literary sequel to The Shining where a middle aged Danny Torrance tries to save a psychic child from a group of soul vampires.

Having read the book on release in 2013, I knew exactly what to expect. Stephen King wrote 200 pages of sheer terror, some of the best horror writing since his Eighties heyday. Each chapter was a self contained tale of terror relating to the aftermath of The Shining and a new group of ghouls – The True Knot. Then when it tries to move the action to The Overlook and tie up all the expansive threads together it became an alright mess. Guess what the film is like? There are plenty of positives. McGregor and Ferguson do attractive work… her especially! Rose The Hat is a gloriously out of sync, seductive antagonist. Flanagan, a King aficionado, lends the whole affair a glossy, prestigious air. I do think he maybe drops the ball in terms of scares but there’s plenty of creeping unease. Infrequent bursts of fear are stingily deployed; the shots of the soul suckers cycling to their death are Fangoria worthy even if everything else is a bit too respectfully well made. When bad stuff occasionally happens it still jolts or discombobulates you though. The fan service to Kubrick’s masterpiece starts well but slowly become rotten as we get to that impending Overlook showdown. As with the slightly different ending in King’s novel, the pressure relents to a sigh once we are on that accursed Indian burial ground. Nothing great happens, the film peters out, the iconography feels off and the inevitable ressurection of Jack Torrance is mishandled. If you can’t get Nicholson to show up for a day’s filming, then don’t show a chubby actor with the correct hairline’s face. We could have accepted the strange cameo from the grave if they just stuck to a mimicking voice and back of head and serving hands. In fact, who knows what grotesqueries our minds might have poured into that blank. A shame that Doctor Sleep loses itself in the final act as the bulk of it is very good, if not the Halloween carnival ride we probably all need right now.

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