Lee, or El Duderino, if, you're not into the whole brevity thing’s review published on Letterboxd:
🎃~ Spooktober 2019 Day 31 ~🎃
"We're all dying. The world is just one big hospice with fresh air".
I'd be lying if I said that Doctor Sleep didn't live up to its namesake because the film had me sleeping quite a few times. A worthy attempt, if not a prosaic attempt that manages to check a few boxes, but ultimately results in quite the average overlong time. I have not read the book, nor am I an enormous Mike Flanagan fan (I think he has a lot of potential), but what happened to the guy who did Oculus and The Haunting of Hill House? Where was the tension, the superb family dynamics, the creeping fear around each corridor, a sense of atmospheric unease, the excellent ensemble cast, the long take sequence? The two primary elements that carried over from Flanagan's repertoire seemed to be his skillful child actor direction, and the overall blue-tinted palette that he loves to use for some reason. Doctor Sleep not only lacked as a film capable of standing without incessant callbacks to The Shining, but it seemed completely devoid of everything Flanagan did so well in Hill House. Its tone felt like it struggled to ever find the right zen, and when it did, we didn't hang around much. While Doctor Sleep doesn't shy away from its moments of gore, nor it's multiple child killings, it just doesn't have a single scare or element of psychological eeriness to it. The film is at its best when Ferguson is given all the screen presence and time just to chew up the scenery and completely indulge herself into the role of Rose the Hat. I really loved her iteration of a literary character I can only assume is even more fleshed out and dynamic on-page. She is easily the highlight of the entire film, and I frankly felt my interest diminish when she was not in scene. Apart from a very sexy gypsy performance from Rebecca Ferguson, a decent little role for Zahn McClarnon, and the newcomer Kyleigh Curran, I really had a tough time keeping interest. Don't get me wrong, Ewan McGregor was good, but I sincerely expected much more of a character study and deconstruction of such an iconic character. There were moments of his childhood instilled PTSD, but they proved to be all too brief. I have been assured by fellow writer Kern, that the book delves far more into it, placing Dan (McGregor) at the forefront: perhaps I would find more solace in the source material, perhaps not. To be quite clear, I fully realize that many, if not all of my gripes, are more than likely a direct cause of having not read either of the novels. Doctor Sleep is quite passionately a sequel and fan letter from Flanagan, not to Kubrick, but to The Shining book. Regardless, in a year full of underwhelming Stephen King adaptations, of the three I've seen, I'd say that Doctor Sleep just edges out Pet Sematary, in being the most entertaining.
I'm sure that Doctor Sleep plays out much better to those who have read the book, especially seeing how some of the very goofy lines and ready to be memed sequences came off so comically jarring. Similar to any filmmaker who accepts the fate of having to remake or build off of an all-time classic, I don't envy Flanagan having the nearly impossible endeavor of appealing to both OG film/book Shining fans and newer Doctor Sleep readers. And while it may seem like I hated the film, I'd say I was just more underwhelmed, not hateful. I wouldn't say disappointing, because I wasn't too excited in the first place, hell I didn't even know it was going to be adapted till the trailer came out. If I sit for a moment and extract The Shining from the equation, I would admit that Flanagan manages to construct a competent film of his own. But as I stated prior, it has the tendency to continually remind you that it is directly connected to its predecessor, so much so, that it lent itself into a very predictable outcome. I'd be lying again if I said my eyes didn't roll with cringe quite a few times. There lies my most prominent question, where did all the skill and style that Flanagan accomplished with his previous work go? Was he bogged down by the limitations of the source material? Did he burden himself in trying to achieve the same impossible level of The Shining? I'm not sure, and it's truly a shame, because his work on Hill House, Oculus, and to a lesser extent, Hush, seemed like a perfect resume for a caretaker at the Overlook Hotel.