‘Doctor Sleep’ review: Another failed attempt to cannibalize a classic

A solid Ewan McGregor notwithstanding, this pale image of ‘The Shining’ is just not scary or interesting enough

No, Doctor Sleep did not put me to sleep. I was laughing too hard to doze off. Oh, but isn’t this supposed to be a horror film? A sequel to Stephen King’s The Shining, which auteur Stanley Kubrick made into a deeply disturbing film? The elevators of blood, scary twins, axe, typewriter, mouldy lady in the bath, the Overlook Hotel, the kid trundling on the tricycle and the battered door through which demented, deranged Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson in fine fettle) screeched “Here’s Johnny!” are all present and correct…. but Doctor Sleep unfortunately feels like something the Zucker Brothers put together. I expected Charlie Sheen to pop up at any moment.

Based on the King’s eponymous 2013 novel, Doctor Sleep is in a strange space where it cannot ignore Kubrick’s movie, which incidentally King hated. Kubrick took the source material and made it his own; we don’t know if the horrors are real or only in Torrance’s brain and the film was the scarier for it. So the movie tips a hat to Kubrick many a time unfortunately underlining what a pale image of The Shining, Doctor Sleep is.

Doctor Sleep

  • Director: Mike Flanagan
  • Cast: Ewan McGregor, Rebecca Ferguson, Kyliegh Curran, Zahn McClarnon, Emily Alyn Lind, Henry Thomas
  • Story line: Almost 40 years after the events at Overlook Hotel, Danny Torrance helps a teenager fight a cult
  • Run time: 152 minutes

However hard he pedals his little tricycle through the carpeted and uncarpeted floors of the Overlook, Danny doesn’t seem to be able to escape the ghosts of the cursed hotel. He tries to drown his ‘shining’ (psychic ability) in alcohol and anger. Then in 2011 he decides to go clean, attends Alcoholic Anonymous meetings and provides comfort to the dying (hence his moniker, Doctor Sleep).

He telepathically talks to a teenager, Abra who also has’ the shining’. A wicked cult, called True Knot that feeds on the psychic power of children, is on the hunt for Abra and that sets up a confrontation at the Overlook. The True Knot is not scary enough and feels rather commonplace. Yes, there is bone-chilling horror to be found in the everyday, but just not in this film with its mentions of steam making one think of idlis.

Mike Flanagan who created the super-creepy The Haunting of Hill House has written, directed, and edited Doctor Sleep. Ewan McGregor is solid as ever as Danny, and he doesn’t look like he broke a sweat playing the tortured Torrance. Rebecca Ferguson as True Knot leader Rose the Hat still seems stuck in Ilsa Faust’s (Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation and Mission Impossible: Fallout) skin and you expect Ethan Hunt to run across the screen with wildly wind-milling arms, behind Charlie Sheen of course. Kyliegh Curran plays Abra, Zahn McClarnon and Emily Alyn Lind play True Knot baddies while Henry Thomas is the Bartender/Jack Torrance.

After last week’s Terminator Dark Fate, here is another attempt to cannibalize a classic. The ‘shining’ seems to be not so much psychic ability as the glitter of greed in studio executives’ eyes. Oh, the horror of it!

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