Kyle Shaun Thomas
Review - Doctor Sleep
2019 is the return of old school movie franchises, this time audiences are treated with a return to the Overlook Hotel, with the latest adaption in a long line of Stephan King movies. Doctor Sleep has been cited as “one of the best King movies since Shawshank Redemption”. While the film is thoroughly entertaining, with it adding more to the pre-existing history set up in The Shining, it isn’t without its faults. On top of that, the faults described below are by no means any that largely impact the movie.
Besides these minor issues, Doctor Sleep hits on all other cylinders. The performances turned in from Ewan McGregor and Rebecca Ferguson are both well-constructed, believable and downright entertaining to watch. With Ferguson’s Rose the Hat acting as a kind of supernatural Charles Manson, each time she is on screen she creates suspense purely with her eerily poised mannerism. While McGregor captures the innocence of a young boy tortured by a gift he never asked to be blessed with, his performance grips you from the very moment he steps on screen and by the end will have you fully immersed and caring about what will happen to him.
The film gives light to film newcomer Kyliegh Curran in the role of Abra Stone, while this film is only her second outing as an actor, there is no way that this is noticeable whatsoever. With the young star holding her own with her co-stars, she also does a wonderful job of creating a child character that is convincing and likable, without ever treating into annoying which is sometimes expected when children play large roles in movies.
One of the most distracting issues lies with the recasting of original characters Jack, Danny and Wendy. Firstly, using actor Alex Essoe for the role of Wendy comes across as jarring, purely speaking from a visual stand point, since she appears to make Wendy incredibly youthful which causes issues considering she is appearing after the events of the first movie. Secondly, recasting of the iconic role of Jack fell to Henry Thomas who many may recognise for his work in The Haunting of Hill House and Gerald’s Game. This was problematic because while he was styled to look the part of Jack, nothing about his mannerisms were correct. Coming across as more of a bad Halloween impression of the character.
However, the casting for Danny is most believable, the time frame allows for change in age since the character is the age of 5 in the first movie and might be at least 7 in the early scenes of Doctor Sleep. The final thing that can cause a negative reaction in audiences is how much the movie addresses some of the more ominous moments that make the Shining so mysterious. Going so far as to explain what made the Overlook Hotel “haunted”.
What I found incredibly interesting about Doctor Sleep is the way it approaches the pressure to being a sequel to one of the most iconic King adaptions. By creating tension and atmosphere in a completely different fashion from that which can be found in its predecessor.
Where the Shining builds suspense by creating a world where audiences aren’t certain what is real and what isn’t, Doctor Sleep on the other hand creates tension with Rose the Hat in the way that there is an indescribable off-putting nature of the character. There are clear parallels between Rose and Jack Torrence which can clearly be seen when she lurks towards Danny up the stairs of The Overlook, which puts her in the exact same framing and situation as Jack.
I also believe that one of the reasons that this film was so successful is Director Mike Flanagan’s previous work on Gerald’s Game, allowing for him to become comfortable with adapting and moulding King’s work into film format whilst also respecting the original source material. This is evident in the way that the film references the Shining, perfectly replicating the office scene with Ewan McGregor’s Danny sitting in a situation similar to the one his father was once in. This is done again when Flanagan replicates the iconic cat and mouse scene, where Jack stalks Wendy up the stairs, now with Rose the Hat stalking Danny. With having history working on King project also come reoccurring crew that have also worked with Flanagan, such as composers The Newton Brothers who manage to compose a score that could be replaced within The Shining and I believe there wouldn’t be many that could tell the difference.
As for my final thoughts on Doctor Sleep, after the perpetual disappointments It Chapter 2 and Pet Sematary it was up-lifting to see King adaptions return to form. An overall enjoyable movie, that while it may not be the best sequel works on its own merits and gives fans of the Shining the chance to sink their teeth back in the world Stanley Kubrick created in 1980.