Justin Peterson’s review published on Letterboxd:
(Halloween Movie Fest 2019 Hangover)
Building off the foundation of Stanley Kubrick's iconic Stephen King adaptation, comes a thrilling new journey into the world of those who Shine.
'If we're going to do it, then let's do it!'
Bottom Line: As a huge fan of 'The Shining' movie and book, I was unsure what to think about a sequel coming decades later. But I must say that I absolutely loved the expanded mythology of 'The Shining', that Director Mike Flanagan delivers, in addition to paying tribute to both Kubrick and King's visions of the story. And I think it's fair to say that where Doctor Sleep takes the story of Danny Torrance, lets King have the final word on the overall cinematic legacy of The Overlook Hotel.
"I don't know about magic ... I always called it 'the shining'."
I would highly recommend that everyone go check this out, but please be sure to watch the original first. I heard at least one Youtuber say this was not a horror movie, and I think that comment is nonsense. Making a great sequel IMO to an iconic horror film years later is so rare, and I think Doctor Sleep pulled it off.
In Doctor Sleep we see Danny develop his powers in order to lock away the forces of The OverLook that continue to haunt him. This leads him down the same road his father went on, when it comes to alcohol abuse. If you are familiar with The Shining book, you will notice this movie makes many call backs to how it depicted Jack's overall arc, and passes those moments to Danny.
The threat in the film comes from a group lead by Rose The Hat played by Rebecca Ferguson, that hunts down children that shine and kills them in order to suck out their life essence, so they can extend their own lives. Rose and her crew had this unique southern vibe that I really dug. But the group meets their match when a powerful young girl that shines named Abra calls on Danny to help her stop them.
- The movie has several recreated flashbacks to Kubrick's film. It is obvious they are recreations, but I thought they worked ok in order to keep continuity and expand on those scenes. I would say the best character from these scenes, who actually made me do a double-take was Alex Essoe as Wendy
- It was pretty weird to see Ullman's office recreated for Danny's job interview
- I liked how we are shown a lot of Roses' group, so we understand their motivations, and the two groups felt evenly matched. But at the same time, we didn't exactly know what Rose was capable of. It was great to see Rose be shocked by how powerful Abra is, like when she manages to push her back in a grocery store
- Danny finds peace by using his gift to help hospice patients find peace, and that's how he gets dubbed Doctor Sleep
- Like any story, Danny is reluctant to get involved at first. But I am glad things press forward quickly once Dick Hallorann shows up to urge him to help Abra
- What happens to Rose's gang was wicked when they die. As they each rot down to their skeletons, before turning into a cloud of life essence smoke
- They only iffy effect for me was a scene where Rose actually flys (or maybe it is just her mind), to go after Abra
- The main ways Mike Flanagan paid tribute to Kubrick was with his great use of overhead shots, to show the characters driving down the long roads ahead of them. And there are also callbacks to the amazing original soundtrack. There was a whole lot of that heartbeat sound to create an eerie mood, which may have been overused a bit
- I knew coming in they would likely use the power of the Overlook to defeat Rose, but I did not expect that gnarly shoot out in the woods to take out the rest of her crew
And that brings us to the long-anticipated return to the Overlook Hotel. Some of the scenes gave me those great nostalgic chills, some felt like King retcons, and thankfully only a moment or two felt like pandering.
1. Danny's drive to the Overlook with the original music was wonderful, and they update it by setting it at night in the snow. I guess it was early enough in the winter that he did not need a snowcat
2. Rose seeing the elevator of blood. I have seen this scene countless times so I am pretty numb to it. But it was fun to see Rose give it a little smirk of admiration
3. Having Rose and Danny confront each other on the stairs just like Jack and Wendy in the original was an interesting homage
4. One of my favorite scenes from 'The Shining' is Jack and Lloyd at the bar. In Doctor Sleep we get to see Danny reject that drink Jack took, with Jack being the bartender. 'No, you are the caretaker. You have always been the caretaker.' This is the first of the scenes where King retcons Jack not having a moment of redemption in Kubrick's version, by having Danny redeem his father. We also get the classic line 'Take your medicine' from the book
5. I almost felt like the movie had lost me with the Overlook stuff, until we see Danny unleash all the ghosts to go after Rose, which was BADASS! Also, I actually found the old lady creepy in this one. I am mixed on if I liked seeing Danny and Abra's eyes go white when they are using their powers
6. Then in an unexpected twist the ghosts possess Danny, and we get a retcon that shows the book ending where Jack is going after Danny, but then suddenly fights off the ghosts for a moment so Danny can escape. Of course in Doctor Sleep this happens between Danny and Abra
7. Then we get the firey conclusion King originally wrote with the Overlook burning down as a result of the boilers overheating. I thought we might not get this ending, since I was not sure if the boilers could overheat that quickly. I really wanted to see an explosion too, but o well. Also, Danny sacrifices himself just like Jack from the book, to ensure the boilers would blow
8. Then in the final scene, we get to see Danny appear as a shining ghost for Abra. And we find out that she too has the ability to lock away the scary ghosts of the Overlook who go after her, just like Danny at the beginning of the movie
Do I love 'The Shining' more than this ... yes of course. The atmosphere and the tense moments of that movie are masterful. But it is fun to see Doctor Sleep do a great job of building off our love for 'The Shining', and create a whole new experience that complements it, instead of just giving us nostalgic pandering.
Now I am super curious to read the rest of the Doctor Sleep book to see how King makes that story all come together.
Thanks for reading.
Happy movie watching ... SKOL!