ARTNEWSPRESS: Doctor Sleep (Bumbray’s take)
PLOT: Thirty nine years after surviving the Overlook Hotel, a now-adult Danny Torrance (Ewan McGregor) is a recovering alcoholic, living a low key life as an orderly in a small town. His newfound sobriety reawakens the psychic gifts he had as a child, and he uses his powers to give his patients peace as they pass away, earning him the moniker “Doctor Sleep.” Yet, he will soon need to put his powers to less benign use when a young woman (Kyliegh Curran) with whom he has a psychic connection is hunted by a pack of immortals led by the sadistic Rose the Hat (Rebecca Ferguson), who feeds on children possessing these psychic abilities.
REVIEW: THE SHINING was my first real horror movie, and I saw it at such an impressionable age I must admit that it’s the barometer I measure all horror movies against. So, I was cautiously optimistic when I heard Stephen King’s sequel to his original novel was being made, although I also wondered how they would handle the relationship to Kubrick’s film given how outspoken King has been against it. Mike Flanagan probably had an impossible job, needing to make a movie that would please both fans of the two books and Kubrick’s film, but he’s managed to pull it off by finding something of a middle ground. While Flanagan’s film does redeem the idea of Jack Torrance in a way that’s more King than Kubrick, he’s also made a film that’s very much in the spirit of Kubrick’s film – without being an imitation.
Flanagan seems to get King better than a lot of directors, opting to make this a long enough film (at 150 minutes) that the story and characterization King is known for finds its way into the film, while also not being so slavishly devoted to the page to be a straight-up adaption. In this way, it’s the most confident adaptation since the first IT, helped along by a pitch-perfect ensemble cast, led by Ewan McGregor in what’s arguably his best “movie star” turn in years.
In many ways, his casting is the most vital aspect of the film as Danny goes through the emotional wringer here, with some surprisingly heavy scenes depicting the depths of his addiction (including a harrowing moment with a mother and her newborn), but McGregor keeps you firmly in the troubled Danny’s corner. He’s not the only ideally cast person in the film, with newcomer Kyliegh Curran a real find as a teen with the same “Shining”, and she’s given the chance to be a fully rounded, surprisingly badass character, with some nice chemistry with the fatherly McGregor. I also loved seeing Carl Lumbly turn up as Dick Halloran, doing a pitch-perfect Scatman Crothers, with Halloran still not off the hook with Danny, despite arguably giving his life for him all those years ago.
The scene-stealer here though is most certainly Rebecca Ferguson, in a transformative turn as Rose the Hat, one of the most loathsome villains in recent memories. Often wasted in colorless parts (outside of her awesome part in the MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE films) she’s having a whale of a time as the scenery-chewing villainess, with her gang’s viciousness amped up in a disturbingly gruesome scene where young Jacob Tremblay of all people meets a gruesome fate. “Fargo”’s Zack McClarnon is similarly good as her right-hand man, while young Emily Alyn Lind makes a big impression as the newest, and most vicious, recruit to the evil fold. Meanwhile, on the side of the angels, we get Cliff Curtis as Danny’s kindly, but badass, AA sponsor- in a very effective supporting part.
With a good score by The Newton Brothers, and cinematography by Michael Fimognari that pays homage to the style of Kubrick in THE SHINING without copying it, DOCTOR SLEEP is all-around one of the better blockbusters to hit theaters in recent years and a surefire crowdpleaser. While I didn’t find it especially scary (but I didn’t find IT scary either – so there you go), DOCTOR SLEEP is an utterly absorbing supernatural thriller that has everything but the kitchen sink thrown in – you get some heavy drama, a few good comedic moments, some gore and even a little action. What more could you ask for? In the pantheon of King adaptations, this ranks near the top.