Stephen King’s Doctor Sleep (2019) – Film Review

A sequel to The Shining... interesting.

You’ve got to hand it to Mike Flannagan. The man has some balls. He made a sequel to ‘The Shining’. The catch is though; he didn’t just make a sequel to the critically acclaimed, loved by millions, horror film, he made an adaption to the sequel of the book too. Let’s be honest that sounds impossible on paper, you’re dealing with King and Kubrick, but he did it. It’s pretty damn brilliant too.

Ewan McGregor plays an all-grown-up Danny Torrance who is now an alcoholic and still coming to terms with his abilities and the events of his childhood. He moves to a small town and ends up communicating with a girl, Amber, with similar, but much stronger, abilities like his own. She is being hunted by a group of children eaters lead by Rose The Hat (Rebecca Ferguson).

I want to gush over Ferguson’s performance first before touching on anything else. It is fantastic. Everything from the way she moves across the screen to the way she speaks is unsettling. Rose The Hat will easily go down in history as one of the evilest horror villains. She takes the steam out of children to keep herself alive for as long as she wants, which is the most punchable thing a person could do. The creepiness seeps off the screen whenever she is on it and gave me some genuine chills.

Ewan McGregor shines, pun intended, in his role too. There isn’t an awful lot to say about his performance overall. Still, he puts on his slightly believable American accent and enters Danny as a character. You can see where Danny progressed from child to alcoholic as literal demons from the Overlook hotel have followed him. He is searching for a purpose and finds it in Amber. It is an engaging journey that the character goes on.

As a continuation of The Shining, you’re going to get a lot of callbacks to Kubrick. They’re all there down to the casting of Jack Nicholson and Shelly Duvall lookalikes for a couple of crucial flashback sequences. This idea seems off to me, but I also thought long and hard about the idea of making digital versions of them for the world, which, when it comes down to it, is much worse than a recast. There is no getting around it, Nicholson will always be Jack. These guys look scarily alike and do give a serviceable performance for their time on screen though. But, you cannot shake the uneasiness of seeing someone else in the role.

The set pieces in this movie are visually outstanding, the way that some can use their powers to transport through space and time. The best looking of them being the finale which, of course, takes place in The Overlook hotel. Scarily recreated down to the carpets and hole in the door left by a particularly famous axe. The entire feeling of creepiness and dread is drizzled over the film with very few jump scares and more fear for any child’s life that comes into contact with the gang led by Rose The Hat

These callbacks to Kubrick’s film don’t overbear on the movie at all. Flannagan manages to craft a unique and modern world that still has ties to the other film. Still, it is very much is its own thing which could be considered easy, especially given the fact, it’s a thirty or so years later scenario. But the fact you feel like you’re watching something worthy of being related to such an esteemed older brother is impressive. Also knowing if they removed a lot of the references to the previous movie the film would still work is very high praise in my book.

DOCTOR SLEEP is on UK Blu-ray and DVD on March 23rd

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