Alexandr Ogden’s review published on Letterboxd:
i feel that, before i begin my review of “Doctor Sleep”, i should lay my cards our on table.
so here goes.
i am not an excessive fan of “the Shinning”. in fact, i have always been underwhelmed by it. from my first viewing of the monolithic horror film back in late middle school/early high school when i didn’t understand it, to rewatching it two more times or so after watching more Kubrick. i still, have yet to really be frightened by it. i admire Kubrick, Nicholson and co for what they created, but i never really championed that film as one of the greatest horror films ever. to me, it’s always been a very well crafted family drama with some dated horror tropes. but, again, i’m not emotionally attached to this film. thus, i don’t have a fan boy approach to the film.
two, i haven’t read either novels, and don’t really care much to read them.
three, i AM NOT A KING FAN. he has a few good works and some that have made solid adaptations. however, i tend to dislike King in my very core. i stand against him and his work and his views that i just can’t get in board. i think he’s a mediocre writer. his horror seems to have two types of endings; horribly depressing (but unearned), or tediously predictable with how the protagonist wins.
okay. that should suffice as an intro.
so lets begin.
it was announced a little while ago that King’s sequel would be produced into a feature length film with upper up-and-coming director, Mike Flanagan, would be tapped to direct it. which, while it didn’t seem like there was much fanfare for the film’s release, there was a very curious sense of anticipation as to, how would this film would approach both King’s novels and Kubrick’s iconoclastic approach to the aforementioned author. where would this film lie? would it double down on Kubrick’s Nietzschean, hammer shamming, burn the idols, approach towards King’s sacred cathedral of a novel and the author’s reverence for his work? or would Flanagan retcon Kubrick’s monolithic film, and uphold the holy scriptures of King’s manuscripts?
well, it does a bit of both, and struggles to find balance between its two core influences.
“Doctor Sleep” continues the story of “the Shinning” both King’s original novel and Kubrick’s films, which Flanagan melds together, with Danny and his mother’s escape and Danny’s adulthood and subsequent fall into alcoholism and homelessness. from there, he attempts to further run from his past and abilities. he finds some semblance of solace in a small town in New Hampshire, wherein, he meets a man who helps him with getting a job and work on his alcoholism. along the way, Flanagan sets up the immediate aftermath of “the Shinning” (again, both the novel and Kubrick film), sets up the antagonists, and Danny’s current situation. thus, the film begins as a combination of blatant set up for the rest of the film, and well produced but off-putting recreation of Kubrick’s film/recast scenes of the Torrance’s life post-Overlook.
after what, honestly, could’ve been 45 minutes of set up, the film truly begins its story in full. sure, the set up is debatable on whether or not it was necessary. yeah, there is an argument to be made that it helped build character and story... but, nope. i don’t think so. for example, Ferguson and her sexual tension filled squeeze and right hand man, Crow Daddy (groan), scout out a new recruit, Andi. while it shows how the group works, and the “Casablanca” playing in the theater was nice to see, but it hyped up Andi, making her seem far more important than she really is. it’s nice to see some sort of character development, but in hindsight, what does it add to the film, besides introducing us to Andi’s powers... but still... it just draws out this already overly long film.
the film’s plot takes awhile to get to the core of its story, which while i can admire the dedication of Flanagan to set up his various plot points in half the time and could’ve included it within the core of the plot. speaking of the True Knot (do they ever refer to themselves as such?!? i didn’t know they were called this until i looked it up), one of my biggest gripes of the film revolves around them entirely. almost ever aspect about them is sooo f*cking annoying. for starters, Rebecca Ferguson’s Rose the Hat is easily one of the most egregiously bland, boring, and non-compelling characters to get shat onto a script and, in turn, onto the screen of 2019. (seriously, Ferguson and her cult give “Hellboy”’s cast a run for their money. seriously, it’s that bad). she is so horribly uncharismatic. there is nothing about her or her cult that ever makes for a interesting or threading group of antagonists. their costumes look tacky as all hell. seriously, vaguely Cajun/Southern stylings are just so bad. everything about them looks like a feature length version of a SyFy original television show. their abilities and reliance on feeding on other’s “shine”, or spirits, or life force, or whatever you want to call it, is lame. first, it makes them nothing more than a slight reworking of vampires or werewolves.
“wooooow, really reinvented the wheel there King.”
blah. not to mention, that this feeding on someone’s life source completely begins to demystify Kubrick’s opaque and enigmatic film. this takes all the ghostly horror of Kubrick’s film and this film as well, and turns it into something tangible and explainable. not only is the group’s whole shtick really uninteresting but also fails to ever be frightening. this brings the film away from ghostly and psychological horror of a contemporary like “Hereditary” into the realm of something more akin to the monster mash up of the naughty’s “Van Helsing”; which is to say, dull and far from horrifying. despite the fact that there is a distinct lack of jump-scares, this film prefers to show us rather than tell us. the film shows how the victims are killed, hoe the cut gets killed (which is effective all of once, Andi’s), and just about everything else. anything revolving around the, (already forgot their name), oh... wait, True Knot, anything about them is so horribly morning. Ferguson is the only one who has any modicum of development and character, even she is so horrendously tedious to watch. i hated her character! she and her character subsequently feel cartoonish at times and feel so horribly like a misfire. everything about them feels tone deaf in regards to what proceeded it. again, the film takes everything about “the Shinning” and does a 180’ towards misdirected, SyFy television fodder. seriously, it felt like watching a made for TV movie or mini series.
Flanagan assembles nothing much of any appeal. once again, he demonstrates that he certainly has talent, i have just yet to see that talent on full display.
Ewan McGregor actually makes a very believable older Danny. i enjoyed him in the roll, sadist, he doesn’t get much to do. i appreciate what the film attempts to do... but it never quite works. McGregor’s stand out points are when he is in hospice with the older patients and when he enters into the bar. otherwise, he never really stands out, thanks in part to his lack of agency as protector and surrogate teacher for Abra. Danny doesn’t really do much, so much as things happen to him, and people interact and meet him. a few times Danny acts and interacts, but largely, he just sort of exists.
um, i’m kinda tired of writing this review... much like how i was exhausted trying to keep up my intention. so let’s end with this.
the film is not frightening, much less horrifying. it shines the most when Flanagan desperately attempts to recreate Kubrick’s set... yet, it also is extremely off putting at times. the tireless attempt to recreate ends up feeling more like fan fiction. that’s what this whole film feels like, fan fiction. everything about the film feels amateur. it never succeeds in creating tension. it adds to the mythology, but not in a fulfilling or fan pleasing way. McGregor does his best, and i’ll credit him with that. but this film is so horrendously dull. i was never expecting much, yet still walked away disappointed. yet, i never felt cheated, so there’s that. between an inability to pick sides in adapting source material and a demystifying plot and lackluster villain, the film feels like everything i thought it would be...
a messy, mediocre production that offers nothing to the long list of King adaptations, nor does Kubrick’s film justice. it never let me down, but it also never did much for me.
i don’t want to say it’s trash, but it’s kind of trash.
also, Crow Daddy sucks too.
also, Jacob Tremblay is I’m this, and it’s so downplayed that’s it’s upsetting. like it tries to hide the fact that Tremblay’s performance is easily the best in the film.
Cliff Curtis’ ending is actually super sad and depressing. his face of passive and tired resignation is absolutely immaculate. like, terrific. mighta been my favorite part... no, wait.
my favorite part about this whole film is that it features a Toyota Camry LE (circa 1995-99, roughly), which is what i drive... and i’m just so freaking happy the 90s Camry is getting its big break. smiled warmly to ear when it first appeared on screen.
give that Camry and the hospital cat an Oscar!