As a director, it’s hard to direct a sequel from one of the best horror films of all time into a decent flick. Mike Flanagan carries a heavy load in this situation. He must link the Stephen King version of “The Shining” as well as the Stanley Kubrick version. Flanagan has many decent yet successful horror films. There are “Oculus”, “Ouija: Origin of Evil”, and “The Haunting of Hill House”. Flanagan also, before, has adapted Stephen King’s novel titled “Gerald’s Game”, a psychological movie metaphor. And this year, Flanagan received a lot of work including adapting the second novel from “The Shining” series entitled “Doctor Sleep”.
Flanagan had a tough challenge because King himself didn’t like the Kubrick adaptation. Automatically, Flanagan was in a position where he had to satisfy both sides. And it works well in this movie even though Flanagan is not Kubrick. Especially if you compare “Doctor Sleep” with “The Shining”, it’s clear who the winner is. However, Flanagan can still treat King’s work with respect. He incorporated his characteristics and strengths as a horror filmmaker in this decade.
The story sets after the event in “The Shining”. Danny Torrance (Ewan McGregor) doesn’t just watch his father slowly go crazy. However, he must also continue to live together with the spirits of the Overlook Hotel. Captivated by the shine, this movie explores a psychic and more impressed by King’s film adaptations in general. Being both a blessing and a source of problems, Danny learned to use his shine to lock down evil spirits. He must also be an alcoholic to reduce trauma from his past.
The universe in “Doctor Sleep” is more than in “The Shining”. Not only Danny has the shining but some people have the power too. Some are evil and some are good. One of them is Rose the Hat (Rebecca Ferguson) and her gang. Rose and her gang use their shining to hunt people, especially children, so they can live young. Danny must reopen his strength after meeting one of a young girl, Abra (Kyliegh Curran), who is also overpowered.
“Doctor Sleep” has a factor that horror films, in general, don’t have. Yeah, this movie has lots of jumpscare and others. But, what distinguishes this movie from ordinary horror films is the execution. The horror genre is broad and horror isn’t only a marker of ghosts or demons. What makes horror is a unique genre it’s because of the implication and reality. You can say horror too when talking about drama and non-horror films. It’s horror because it happens in reality and you can see it from any movie.
I love arthouse horror, I love absurd horror, and I love psychological horror. You can classify “Doctor Sleep” as one of the mainstream things you have ever seen. But, that’s not the case honestly. If you compare it to “The Shining”, then why is this so special? This movie also not scares, but it’s unique. There is no terrible face – except one of the spirit – no plot twist, and just a simple conclusion. This is also not a typical horror movie for many people because this is two hours and a half movie. It’s a slow burn type of horror. From the first act to the second act, almost nothing happens except in the third act and the ending. This movie just wants to focus us on every character in the story especially if you don’t watch “The Shining”, you will be troubled.
The tension slowly emerged. You not only see from the standpoint of the protagonist but from the antagonist too. The movie has three points of view. There are Ewan McGregor, Kyliegh Curran, and Rebecca Ferguson. The movie introduces slowly and then the story becomes terrifying because the execution doesn’t only come from the protagonist and antagonist. Yeah, as I say, this movie is more Stephen King.
This movie also used a lot of children. Adult characters prey on children who are still young. They have a lot of fresh shining. But, one specific moment when the adult character eats steam from the kid’s shine was a bit of ridiculously. However, it’s just a time when you get used to it. This film explores our ideas more towards children and adults. And this also seems to apply with McGregor’s character. He learned from his trauma that there are many things we have never known in this world. Regarding which, he gives peace to patients who die to arrive at a quiet place. And that’s why people call him Doctor Sleep.
Yeah, the movie has a lot of violent scenes, especially in children. There is some specific terrifying moment also in this film. However, the movie never directly shows the execution scene. It makes you think that you don’t have to linger or hold it up to one specific scene. Flanagan achieved this unique tension thanks to the storytelling. Like “The Haunting of Hill House”, the movie uses a lot of blue. The effects and the editing are great although the CGI is a little laughable. But, there is a lot of beautiful landscape of shot in this film too. Come to think of it, not many mainstream horror films have beautiful shots.
Let’s talk about fan service. There are many different types of fan service. If you are an anime fan, don’t think of fan service such a thing. But, I’m talking about nostalgic fan service. Yeah, this movie has a bit of a throwback especially in the first opening sequence and the third act. The nostalgic moment also in this film doesn’t just fan service. To be honest, I almost fell into this trap. This trap makes you wonder about memory when you watch “The Shining” or the original version. Yeah, seeing the clip from the movie “The Shining” made me think that I still watched Stanley Kubrick in 2019. And that’s a charming thing for me.
Yet, people will easily say this film because it relies more on fan service or “The Shining”. There is a moment, especially in the third act, where the protagonist surrounds the Overlook Hotel. It’s like the director wants to tell you that, “do you remember this scene?” or “you might like it if I included this scene”. But, I don’t think this is a fan service that doesn’t understand what they were doing. There is one fan service and I can give an example from the “Suicide Squad”. The fan service in this movie is the Joker. With no important things to tell and didn’t know what they want to tell you about, the character is pointless to exist in the first place. “Doctor Sleep” isn’t included in the fan service category.
This movie has a solid performance and characterization. Ewan McGregor as Danny Torrance is fit with the character. As an individual figure who lives PTSD, he isn’t trapped as a depressed man all the time. Rebecca Ferguson as Rose as well is fantastic. Although the writing on this character is very one-dimensional, she played as one of the most flashes out characters in this movie. Kyliegh Curran as a new kid actor managed to carry all the different emotions. She is confident with her shine but also brave. This is one important character in this film and many take part in each story.
Nothing can beat “The Shining” and it will never happen. “The Shining” is one of the best horror movies at all times. “Doctor Sleep” is indeed not as good as “The Shining” because it’s a different movie. And if you say this is also a sequel, it’s hard. Just like with “2001: A Space Odyssey” and Peter Hyams‘ “2010: The Year We Make Contact”. This movie has its style that sticks out and successfully sustains the legacy of “The Shining”. It’s cliche, slow, and dull to say at least. But, with the same implications, there will be horror films like this.
4 out of 5 stars.