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Overall Rating
3.75

Awesome: 37.5%
Worth A Look: 12.5%
Just Average43.75%
Pretty Crappy: 0%
Sucks: 6.25%

2 reviews, 4 user ratings


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Doctor Sleep
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by Rob Gonsalves

"A worthy (if not superior) sequel."
5 stars

Few, I imagine, will be surprised by the news that "Doctor Sleep" — based on Stephen King’s novel, a sequel to his "The Shining" — packs a heftier emotional punch than does Stanley Kubrick’s "The Shining."

That doesn’t mean Doctor Sleep is the better movie; very few films can touch Kubrick’s The Shining. It does mean that the new film’s source material grapples with very human concerns — enduring childhood trauma, addiction, predators, the cycle of abuse, the fear of death. (Kubrick’s The Shining was imperiously disinterested in King’s own themes, chiefly alcoholic demons literalized as vicious spirits; like most Kubrick films, it had a broader target in mind, the hubris of mankind’s delusion of control.)

Still, Doctor Sleep is less a horror movie than a supernatural drama — only intermittently frightening, but engaging and saddening. It feels like the deep dull pain of a slowly forming bruise. The story’s protagonist, Danny Torrance (Ewan McGregor), still has the telepathic gifts he had as a boy in The Shining; in his forties now, he is a recovering alcoholic, having turned to drink to blunt his visions (as his father Jack also may have). King’s narrative has three prongs. The second deals with an itinerant band of psychic vampires called the True Knot, who feed off the “steam” exuded by dying people who, like Danny, have “the shine.” The third follows a teenage girl, Abra (Kayliegh Curran), who may have more intense powers even than Danny, and whose steam is coveted hungrily by the on-their-uppers Knot monsters, headed by a demon known as Rose the Hat (Rebecca Ferguson). Abra contacts Danny for help, and we’re off.

I haven’t seen them all, but Doctor Sleep may be the most morose Stephen King adaptation since The Dead Zone. That’s not a criticism; the film’s writer-director Mike Flanagan pauses from time to time to take the full measure of death and pain. A ghastly sequence has to do with the Knot’s sacrifice of a little boy; Flanagan stages it as an atrocity that we need to see to understand the stakes, not as a gory tickle for Saturday-night horror fans. It’s not especially graphic, but we feel the boy’s pain and terror. This, I have to say, is not an effect Kubrick attempted (or was interested in). And a horror director with a healthy respect for human frailty and a cold revulsion for dealers of pain is not to be sneezed at. I have questions about a morally cowardly choice Danny makes near the beginning, in his pre-sober days, which after one ghostly visit is never referenced again; perhaps Flanagan’s longer cut, reportedly clocking in at three hours, acknowledges it more deeply. Otherwise, what Flanagan does here is decent in the ethical sense, and a fine tribute to both King’s and Kubrick’s The Shining. (King’s Doctor Sleep, on the other hand, I remember enjoying, but have forgotten most of its specifics. It cuts more mustard as a redemption narrative for an alcoholic; King wrote the sequel after many years sober, while he penned The Shining as very much an active alcoholic.)

I’ll be curious to see that longer cut; I appreciated Flanagan’s Doctor Sleep for its solidity, its commitment to the raw emotions of the situation. McGregor more or less can’t help conveying virtue even when his character wallows in the dregs — whether the worst toilet in Scotland or George Lucas dialogue — and he gives us a Danny who squares with the Danny we know from the Shining book and movie, fearful but taking peril full in the face anyway. The real hero, though, is Abra, whom Curran imbues with a certain equipoise that comes from serious abilities. In contrast, we’re catching Rose the Hat and her pack at a low ebb, from a shortage of “steam,” and Ferguson shows us hints of the lioness Rose once was and how her desperation and weakness have made her, if anything, more dangerous than ever. In part, Doctor Sleep is a meditation on power and those enhanced or burned out by it. I respect it and feel warmly towards it.

Like The Shawshank Redemption, it’s somber and oblivious to hot-shot cleverness, and it deserves a home cult like Shawshank’s.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=32255&reviewer=416
originally posted: 02/04/20 09:13:08
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User Comments

2/17/20 Jack "Steamers"? Vampires who feed on "steamers"? This was a comedy, right? 1 stars
11/14/19 Bob Dog If I had left at the two hour mark, I would rate this *****. 3 stars
11/13/19 Ham Burglar It wasn't bad and had its moments of suspense 4 stars
11/08/19 morris campbell not as good as the shining but still good 4 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  08-Nov-2019 (R)
  DVD: 04-Feb-2020

UK
  31-Oct-2019 (15)

Australia
  07-Nov-2019 (MA)
  DVD: 04-Feb-2020




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