Mike Flanagan has managed to become one of the most recurring auteurs for Stephen King’s adaptations, and “Doctor Sleep” is a particularly heavy undertaking. Even for the now seasoned filmmaker, “Doctor Sleep” is a tough artistic task that has to appeal to general audiences, while also tying in to Stanley Kubrick’s original masterpiece, and appeasing King, who went through every length to ensure “Doctor Sleep” was detached from Stanley Kubrick’s adaptation. It’s a shame the movie didn’t quite click with audiences and grab higher numbers, as it’s easily my favorite film of 2019, bar none.
Danny Torrance is still haunted by his escape from Overlook Hotel after being chased by his father who’d succumbed to pure evil and alcoholism. While adult, reclusive Danny still lingers over the demons of his confrontation in the Overlook Hotel, he inevitably has to come to terms with his demons, and confront a cult of murderers known as The True Knot that are kidnapping local children and consuming their power of “The Shining.” When they begin to target his niece Abra, who possesses great potential in the “Shining,” Danny has to go to war with their leader Rose the Hat and save her from a brutal fate.
“Doctor Sleep” is unlike a lot of what we’ve seen in Stephen King films, and it’s a wonderful unique turn in the King film library that expands on a classic, while also standing alone as a stellar horror drama. Flanagan has the task of placating three various audiences, and he does so with his typical flair of being able to handle so many themes and unique turn of events. The shining is still very much a burden, and once again a sought after ability for pure evil, but now in the form of what we can only really call “Shining” vampires. The way Flanagan depicts the cult on screen makes them one of the more disturbing horror villains of the decade, with their penchant for ensnaring vulnerable children at their weakest moments.
The film gives us an all too blunt depiction of how they manage to consume “The Shining” from their victims, and it’s an especially nerve wracking moment skillfully complimented by a brief walk on by Jacob Tremblay. The cast is fantastic from Ewan McGregor’s somber turn as the older, slightly exhausted Danny Torrance, and Cliff Curtis, to the two stand outs Rebecca Ferguson and Kyliegh Curran. As Rosie, Ferguson is a slimy, cunning snake who delights in getting exactly what she needs to, often bearing little conscience in her actions. Meanwhile Abra grows in to a vulnerable young girl who grasps her newfound abilities, as she’s hunted by the relentless True Knot, who literally thrives on pain and torment.
“Doctor Sleep” tackles a lot of unique and compelling overtones about grief, guilt, abuse, and how often times the specter of our parents’ addictions can loom over us like a monster, consistently antagonizing us until it either drives us mad, or we strike it down. “Doctor Sleep” is a marvel in the Stephen King library that pays great respect to the legacy of “The Shining,” both the novel and the Kubrick masterpiece.
The Blu-Ray release comes packed with both the original Theatrical Cut, and the 180 minute Director’s Cut which is a step above the original and offers a more layered and detailed exploration of the narrative. From Shining to Sleep is a five minute discussion with Director Mike Flanagan and author Stephen King, both of whom talks about the challenges of continuing a modern classic, differences between the two novels, Stanley Kubrick’s movie, ending with fire and ice, resurrecting some of the original book’s themes, and merging worlds.
The Making of Doctor Sleep: A New Vision is a fourteen minutes visit with Flanagan and King who — along with actor Ewan McGregor, producer Trevor Macy, actresses Kyliegh Curran and Rachel Ferguson, costume designer Terry Anderson, and others — returns to speak about the film’s development, casting Abra, The True Knot, and much more. Finally, Return to The Overlook is another fifteen minute discussion with Mike Flanagan with more of the same individuals, (and a few new ones) who speaks more about his first exposure to Kubrick’s film on VHS, rebuilding and tearing down the iconic Overlook Hotel, production design highlights, hunting down a few vintage props, a quick set tour, casting familiar characters with different actors, imitation vs. homage and much more.