WARNING: There are a few spoilers here, so if you’ve never seen Doctor Sleep, go ahead and consider this a fair warning.
I feel I should begin by saying I didn’t hate Mike Flanagan’s Doctor Sleep. However, I can’t exactly say it knocked my socks off. Part of the reason for that is the villains of the piece, the “True Knot.” Don’t get me wrong here. I wouldn’t want to be a victim of the True Knot, and I appreciate that Danny Torrance (Ewan McGregor) required strategy and cunning to save Abra Stone (Kyleigh Curran).
At the same time, I never felt the main characters would likely be thwarted by Rose the Hat (Rebecca Ferguson) and the gang. Why? Because, despite being depicted as psychic vampires (or whatever), they can actually be taken out by simple shotguns and never appear all that tough.
That being the case, it sort of seems like Dan and Abra never needed to go to the Overlook, other than for story conventions of forcing him to confront his demons and his own shining. In doing so, it makes the story come off a bit gimmicky.
Am I just whining about Doctor Sleep?
Again, I feel the need to say I actually don’t hate this film, so you can put away those torches and pitchforks, oh righteous horror fandom! In fact, I like practically every Stephen King movie (aside from Cell, which I won’t elaborate on here). There are good things about Doctor Sleep, and those primarily have to do with the drama of Danny’s fractured life as a result of his own grief, anger, and pain. I also appreciate that he’s not a danger to others, as he most certainly had first feared.
Basically, I appreciate how Doctor Sleep ruminates over possession of the Shining and what it would mean for one’s psyche and personal life. Danny is prominent here, eventually managing to destroy the cursed hotel and symbolically revitalize his life.
Sure, this isn’t quite Kubrikian imagery, where the images of snowy mountains and artful cinematography stand alone, but it does capture that dreamlike essence that made his version of The Shining captivating (and yes, I am aware that some, including Stephen King himself, are not fans of that film).
Other good things about Doctor Sleep
With the success of the 2017 horror film, It, and a well-reviewed first season of Castle Rock on Hulu, Stephen King was very much a dominant force at the time. That being said, Doctor Sleep was done well enough that, honestly, I never compared it that much to other King films or mentally regarded it as “Shining 2: Electric Dream Boogaloo” (or whatever its joke title might be). Thematically, it stands well enough alone as its own film while still acting as a continuation of The Shining universe.
It’s also perhaps for the best that, ultimately, most people won’t dissect this one as much as a Kubrik film. There’s an entire film about what room 237 represents in Stanley Kubrick’s film (and that well-done documentary’s fittingly called Room 237).
However, most people will watch Doctor Sleep without pondering human existence, the American Dream, philosophy, and religion, as people inevitably do with Kubrik. Sometimes it’s good to just sit there, taking part in the voyage without getting too carried away in philosophical meanderings. Doctor Sleep isn’t quite a shallow film, but it won’t likely get bogged down by anything like the cult of Kubrik.
What are your thoughts on Doctor Sleep and The Shining? Let us know in the comments!