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FilmSoc Reviews: Doctor Sleep

Posted by FilmSoc on Sat, 02-11-2019

By Eoin McCambridge

For those that don’t know, new big Halloween release Doctor Sleep is the sequel to the 1980 classic horror The Shining directed by the late Stanley Kubrick and based on the book by Stephen King. Doctor Sleep, also based on a 2013 book by King, tells the story of Danny Torrance (originally played in The Shining by child actor Danny Lloyd) decades after the traumatic events of the first film as he encounters more people with his supernatural ability ‘to shine’ and has to protect ‘shining’ teen Abra from a travelling gang of similarly supernatural villains. Ewan McGregor takes over from Lloyd as Torrance and director Mike Flanagan takes over from Kubrick on directing duties. I regard The Shining as one of my favourite films ever so right from the films announcement Doctor Sleep had me interested.  

Doctor Sleep is quite different from The Shining in many ways. While the latter was a claustrophobic horror film located almost entirely in one hotel Doctor Sleep takes place across multiple American states and doesn’t try to be very scary. The Shining also told a very simple story that plays out great, but as expected. Meanwhile you never really know where Doctor Sleep is headed. Depending on your tastes in movies these might be welcome changes but as someone who holds the first film in such high regard I was put off, particularly the way the story unfolds. The film spends way too long establishing how Danny’s life has been over the years and introducing us to the new villains and their powers before anything of substance actually happens. 

Despite the long exposition I was still left confused about certain parts. Most notably about ‘the shining’ ability itself. The first film appeared to establish ‘the shining’ as some sort of supernatural instinct that can see things invisible to the normal eye. ‘The shining’ in this film is very ill defined and is basically an excuse for anything weird to happen. ‘The characters can fly now?’ ‘Oh that’s cause of their ‘shine’’. ‘Characters can demonically possess other characters?’ ‘Yeah they’re just ‘shining’’. It seems more like The Force or magic from Doctor Strange than anything from the first film and after a while just felt silly. Its primarily because of this use of Danny’s ability that causes a genre shift from one movie in the series to the other. Id call Doctor Sleep a sci fi movie more than anything. 

That being said, as a sci fi film Doctor Sleep has some good ideas and well-done set pieces. They just feel out of place in a sequel to a beloved horror film. As its own thing its an interesting risk-taking movie from a director with a bright future but that’s about it. Not only does Doctor Sleep not come close to the quality of The Shining, but it also seems to not want to be like it either. Hard to justify this sequels existence. 

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