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Doctor Sleep review - heartfelt return to the Overlook Hotel | reviews, news & interviews

Doctor Sleep review - heartfelt return to the Overlook Hotel

Doctor Sleep review - heartfelt return to the Overlook Hotel

More King than Kubrick, in effective if muted sequel to 'The Shining'

Here's Danny: Dan Torrance (Ewan McGregor) strikes a familiar pose

Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining ended in ice, Stephen King’s in fire which consumed the Overlook Hotel. King’s frightening, emotionally rich novel was written by an alcoholic about an alcoholic, Jack Torrance, and his suffering family. Kubrick’s film was about the Overlook, a chilly, impressive thing of obsessive patterns and iconic imagery. No wonder he left the hotel standing. Mike Flanagan’s adaptation of King’s sequel, Doctor Sleep, is very much a warm-blooded King film, though set in Kubrick’s familiar world. Thoughtfully merging both classic sources allows him a last check-in at the patiently waiting, still hungry Overlook.

Doctor Sleep is the story of how Jack’s tricycle-riding, 5-year-old son Danny grew up, to live with the trauma of his axe-wielding dad and the psychic powers which gave The Shining its name. Badly, is the initial answer, as we reconvene with Danny and mum Wendy months after the first film, when he’s pursued by the worst of the Overlook’s nightmares, particularly the rotting old woman from Room 237, now residing in his night-time bathroom. His mute, desperate thumb-sucking tells Wendy the worst.

Rose the Hat (Rebecca Ferguson) and Snakebite Andi (Emily Alyn Lind) in Doctor SleepKubrick’s kingdom is then forgotten as we crash into the boozy, bar-fight, one-night-stand world of middle-aged Dan Torrance (Ewan McGregor), whose alcoholic obliteration of his past and pesky shining is a sort of homage to dad. Joining AA (as King did; McGregor once had drink demons too), he settles into life as a hospice orderly in a quiet New England town, using the shining to comfort the dying.

Meanwhile, Abra (Kyleigh Curran) is growing up with an even greater shining, a Leia in need of another McGregor Obi-Wan as she runs into Rose the Hat (Rebecca Ferguson) and her ancient gypsy crew, who roam America eating the essences of psychic children, in vampiric feasts with a post-coital edge. A vignette of an 11-year-old boy walking home from baseball between vast cornfields, only to be snatched, staked out and stabbed by Rose’s crew, and her contrasting seduction of 15-year-old Snakebite Andi (Emily Alyn Lynd, pictured above right with Ferguson), who has been setting Lolita traps for perverted older men, are where Flanagan pushes at studio blockbusters’ constraints. He also offers a humane horror Kubrick was indifferent to.

Dan Torrance (Ewan McGregor) in Doctor SleepKubrick’s hotel of course housed a Jack Nicholson performance pitched at one hysterical note. Casting underacting everyman McGregor as his son shows Flanagan’s more muted approach. Only in the final reel, as Dan reminisces about the “shit-eating grin” of the Overlook’s ghost bartender, and that glinting Jack smirk creeps into his face, does Doctor Sleep raise its temperature, and really wrestle with Kubrick’s legacy. The snow begins to fall amidst the score’s ominous Kubrickian chords as a return to the Overlook is required, where former E.T. child star Henry Thomas’s familiar-looking barkeep aids an emotionally satisfying resolution to King and Kubrick’s tale.

Elsewhere, though, Flanagan’s flat-toned faith in King’s episodic narrative underwhelms. Lacking time to build a world as King’s long novel and the director’s admired The Haunting of Hill House series did, or a distinctive McGregor performance to deepen Dan’s alcoholic suffering, its effects feel soft and diffuse. It recalls another tardy Kubrick sequel, Peter Hyams’ adaptation of Arthur C. Clarke’s 2010 (1984), in diligently continuing a tale its directorial heft can’t match. Flanagan’s genuine warmth is still welcome after Kubrick’s frost.

Flanagan offers a humane horror Kubrick was indifferent to

rating

Editor Rating: 
3
Average: 3 (1 vote)

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