Cinematic Releases: Shine On - Doctor Sleep (2019) - Reviewed

At long last, Stephen King's follow up to The Shining hits the cineplex this weekend in Mike Flanagan's latest horror based directorial effort, Doctor Sleep. With a long resume of genre films like Hush, The Haunting of Hill House and Gerald's Game behind him, Flanagan easily swings for the fences with his newest project. Sometimes he hits it home. Sometimes he totally strikes out. Surely to destroy all other new features at the box office this weekend, this new offering takes long strides to bring old school horror magic back to theaters with a hodgepodge of stylistic successes and minor failures.

Nearly 40 years after Mr. Kubrick's master work, we find ourselves revisiting the past as a new evil presence has been unleashed on the present world. With an absolutely stunning Rebecca Ferguson outshining the always perfected lead star Ewan McGregor, the stage is set for a supernatural battle of wills that's methodically great but mildly hampered by a slow pace that might not work for modern filmgoers. Borrowing tone and a similar shooting style as The Shining, we're once again fixated by long aerial shots, confusing camera movements, and the same eery musical cues with a story that moves at a lulled gait. 

Doctor Sleep has numerous markers of the Kubrick style, but luckily doesn't rehash the same story again. If you haven't kept up with this continuation of the Torrance saga, the sequel follows an older Danny Torrance decades after the events of the first book. Battling personal demons that are left over from his youth while the ghosts of the past are locked away deep inside his mind, a new series of events begin to unravel that call him back to the place where it all began. Doctor Sleep uses callbacks in limited form in the first two acts, as it pays tribute to its much better predecessor, but slowly ramps up to a crescendo that begins to fall apart in the last third. Die hard fans of The Shining (1980) may take issue with some choices they made in the filming phase. I'll just stop there. 

I am a Jedi like my father before me. 

Unlike many sequels that took years to get into production, this doesn't repeat too much from The Shining but stands on its own two legs for the most part, but does start to linger on nostalgia more and more as the film rolls on. As expected, trying to continue in the footsteps of Stanley Kubrick is an effort that's no simple task. Recreating many moments, characters, and the iconic Overlook Hotel is a brutal undertaking that required due diligence on the part of all creatives involved. Luckily enough, they do a phenomenal job when cloning many of the previous film's iconic locations and scenery. But, it does get to a point that it becomes distracting, drawing focus away from the actual story at hand. 

The great thing about Doctor Sleep is that it could exist on its own. It doesn't necessarily require connectivity to exist. On the flip side of that coin, the narrative that's put to film definitely rests on the context of the Overlook to survive. If you're looking for a film that's going to redefine cinema, this isn't it. But Flanagan definitely knows how to create tension, interesting on screen characters, and does a phenomenal job in the director's chair. 

Word to the wise, this talk of 'pure nightmare fuel' is a straight marketing gimmick. It's never really that scary other than a couple killings that might hit too close to home for parents of small children. Go into this one with a clear head. It's never going to rest on the same high pedestal as The Shining. It doesn't have that same brand of totally unhinged acting or the level of stress or confusion we felt before. The actors do a fine job carrying the material, but there's never that same loss of absolute control that made Kubrick's movie such a classic.  

As a stand alone movie, Doctor Sleep has enough to keep things interesting but lacks the purist cinematic DNA of its parental unit. See this but know it's not perfect.  

-Chris George