(director/writer: Mike Flanagan; screenwriter: based on the novel by Stephen King; cinematographer: Michael Fimognari; editor: Mike Flanagan; music: The Newton Brothers; cast: Ewan McGregor (Dan Torrance), Cliff Curtis (Billy Freeman), Bruce Greenwood (Dr. John), Kyliegh Curran (Abra Stone), Rebecca Ferguson (Rose The Hat), Carl Lumbly (Dick Hallorann), Zahn McClarnon (Crow Daddy), Emily Alyn Lind (Snakebite Andi), Zakary Momoh (David Stone), Jocelin Donahue (Lucy Stone), Robert Longstreet (Barry the Chunk), Alex Essoe (Wendy Torrence,the young wife), Jacob Tremblay (Bradley Trevor), Carel Struycken (Grandpa Flick), Jacob Tremblay (Bradley Trevor); Runtime: 151; MPAA Rating: R; producer: Jon Berg; Warner Bros. Pictures; 2019)

“Underwhelming sequel.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Mike Flanagan (“Hush”/”Oculus”) directs and writes this underwhelming sequel to Stanley Kubrick’s 1980 film The Shining, that’s based on the 2013 Stanley King novel. Both films are based on Stephen King novels (Kubrick’s on his 1977 work). It has been reported that King hated the Kubrick film but likes this version. Flanagan might be a promising horror film director of today (noted for his multi-episode TV version of The Haunting of Hill House) but is no Kubrick and it shows in the sequel, which compares unfavorably with The Shining. This doesn’t mean it’s a bad film, just one that’s middling, prosaic, too reliant on Kubrick’s Overlook Hotel atmospheric scares (like blood running out of the hotel elevators), too long and too dull at times. Kubrick’s was a masterpiece, a unique haunting and scary film that got in your head and made you afraid of evil ghosts. This one, though turning out to be truly King’s version of his novel, owes its successes mainly to using many of Kubrick’s created impressionable visions and of laying out a story that can credibly lead back to the infamous Overlook (where it shoots its most Kubrick homage scene).

It opens in Florida in 1980 and shows that the young kid with the ability to shine (possess ESP), Danny Torrance, and his mom Wendy (Alex Essoe), escaped the tragedy of the haunted Colorado’s Overlook Hotel and of the madman caretaker trying to kill his child and wife with an axe. With his mom dead soon after living in Florida, we pick up Danny (Ewan McGregor) as a confused adult many years later in 2011 where he’s struggling with alcohol like his dad and is a drifter. When he gets off the bus in a small New Hampshire town he immediately has a good vibe encounter with a sympathetic good guy, Billy Freeman (Cliff Curtis), who brings him to AA meetings led by Dr. John (Bruce Greenwood) and that leads to him finding work as an nighttime orderly in a hospice and finding redemption from the past by sitting with dying patients and earning his nickname of Doctor Sleep by convincingly telling them not to be afraid of death. Danny keeps the shine under wraps for the eight years he’s there, as he was taught to do by his wise man cook mentor Dick Hallorann (Carl Lumbly) from the Overlook.

But one day a 13-year-old girl named Abra Stone (Kyliegh Curran), from a nearby town in N.H., who has a more powerful version of the shine than him, uses that ability to communicate to him by telepathy (on his apartment blackboard she writes REDRUM). She soon meets in person with him to ask for his help in tracking down an evil vampire-like cult called the True Knot, who use their extra-sensory ability to shine in order to live a long life by torturing and killing others with the shine to sustain themselves on their essence (something they call steam, which they inhale and can store in canisters). The roving cult, led by Rose the Hat (Rebecca Ferguson), who might be as old as 500 years but looks like someone who might be in her late twenties, and her number one bad guy, Crow Daddy (Zahn McClarnon), travel en masse in their vans to Iowa to torture and kill a 9-year-old Little Leaguer (Jacob Tremblay), who has the shine, and bury him so he won’t be found. Danny refuses to get involved in tracking down the cult and where the body is buried, until his mentor Dick Hallorann pays him a ghostly visit and tells him to pay back his debt owed to him for giving his life at the Overlook to save him.

It will lead to Rose the Hatter locating Abra as a “looker,” someone with the power to see her kidnapping the kid, and going after her in her home to destroy her. That threat will call for a return visit to the Overlook for the now fully involved Dan, who takes along Abra to confront Rose the Hat in a trap he sets for her after setting a deadly trap in the woods for her gang. The hotel is superbly recreated to look just as Kubrick created it. But the action though creepy still seems cumbersome, as the climax seems to be sucking the essence out of Kubrick’s film which seems unfitting after King condemned him for murdering his novel.

Doctor Sleep

REVIEWED ON 11/17/2019    GRADE: B-