Years after the events of ‘The Shining‘, Danny Torrence (Ewan MacGregor) seeks solace in alcoholism to quieten the ghosts in his head. However, when savant children are abducted by the mysterious Doctor Sleep (Rebecca Ferguson), Danny feels to compelled to act.
… (a) surfeit of acknowledgements dressed as chills sadly confirms every suspicion.
Delivering a sequel to Stanley Kubrick’s ‘The Shining‘ is no easy thing. In adapting Stephen King’s novel ‘Doctor Sleep’ director Mike Flanagan has tried to pay homage to two different texts. There is ‘The Shining’ as written by Stephen King and ‘The Shining‘ as reimagined by Stanley Kubrick and they are not the same thing. Unfortunately, in trying to serve two masters, Flanagan has resulted in serving none.
‘Doctor Sleep’ the film is positioned as the main chapter in a story where ‘The Shining‘ serves as a prequel. Similar to Stephen’s ‘It’, the story of Danny Torrence is played across differing decades where what was fearful as a child is still scary in later life. However, for fans of Kubrick, the visual motifs that so marked out his seminal horror movie have become acknowledgements without pause.
The bludgeoning brass section that spoke for the Overlook Hotel in ‘The Shining‘, now serves as a conscientious census taker on the trail of fava beans and other overly trumpeted scares. Arriving on cue, all the favourite moments from ‘The Shining‘ are dragged out from the shadows. Unwisely including E.T.‘s Henry Thomas for the irreplaceable Jack Nicholson and Alex Essoe for Shelly Duvall, ‘Doctor Sleep’ jars your memory further with their inevitable comparison. In the main role as Danny, Ewan MacGregor is fine in what feels like an underwritten part. Shuffling from one embarrassment to the next, he effectively ends up channelling Bill Bixby’s David Banner from ‘The Incredible Hulk‘. Similarly, Rebecca Ferguson’s Doctor Sleep is another odd composite of influences. Not Cajun enough to be creepy, not Native Indian enough to be relevant, she ultimately becomes a fetching hat in an otherwise plain ensemble.
In the end, similar to the shattering impact of ‘Glass‘ upon the further appreciations of ‘Split’ and ‘Unbreakable‘, ‘Doctor Sleep’ becomes both a sequel and an origin story that robs tension as much as it does children. With mystery and dread as its missing ingredients, the surfeit of acknowledgements dressed as chills sadly confirms every suspicion.
Blood gushing through the elevator? -Check. Twins in the corridor? -Check. Face through the splintered door? -Check. The barman from ‘Bladerunner‘? -Check. Dead on arrival? Don’t bother to check. The pulse that Kubrick beat through King’s novel is long gone.