Doctor Sleep (2019) – Dir Mike Flanagan

Based on the novel by Stephen King and starring Ewan McGregor (Revenge of the Sith), Rebecca Ferguson (The Greatest Showman) and newcomer Kyliegh Curren.

 

This is a film which has to balance the expectations of fans of Stanley Kubrick’s “The Shining” (which Stephen King famously didn’t like) and the source novel. It is partly successful in as far as was ever going to be possible.

I was surprised to find out how close this picks up the story from the end of the original and I think it was a clever move to recast the characters rather than using CGI de-ageing as has become popular recently. Although the technology works very well, recasting is an effective way to show that it is a follow up to the book.

This is a different tone to Kubrick’s film. Much more like a traditional King horror with more supernatural happenings and a feel of the movies made in the 80’s from his novels. Ewan McGregor is superb as the grown-up Dan Torrance who is struggling to control the ghosts of his past. Also, Rebecca Furguson is excellent as the leader of the vampiric cult known as “the Knot”. Newcomer, Kyliegh Curren also deals well with a considerable amount of screen time.

Once you accept the newness of the direction, it is an enjoyable horror film. I had my worries going into the cinema due to the quality of The Shining and having been underwhelmed by the trailers. On the whole, I enjoyed it. The unfolding of the mystery kept my interest and the recreation of the Overlook Hotel was fun. On the downside, the violence towards kids (while making sense to the story) was uncomfortable and there are a few story decisions that didn’t stand up to scrutiny.

Ultimately, it does well to live with the shadow of Kubricks masterpiece and makes some intelligent choices to be its “own thing” while not ignoring its big brother. However, by returning to the Overlook Hotel and recreating key shots and music, it can’t help but end up tight walking between two legends.

Rating – 7.5/10 – an enjoyable 80’s an inflected horror movie. King fans will be happy. Kubrick fans may find themselves conflicted.

 

 

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