Doctor Sleep

Doctor Sleep ★★★★½

This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.

This review may contain spoilers.

Stephen King’s book The Shining means a lot to me. It was my gateway into King’s work and has cemented itself as one of my favourite books of all time. 
Stanley Kubrick’s film The Shining also means a lot to me. I think it truly deserves it’s spot as one of the greatest horror films ever made, and even now, what Kubrick created truly was a terrifying film. 

But they mean a lot to me separately. I don’t enjoy Kubrick’s film as an adaptation of King’s book. There’s no doubt that King initially hated Kubrick’s adaption of his book, and even went on to produce Stephen King’s The Shining following his dissatisfaction. While I can agree that the film isn’t a true adaption of the book, what Kubrick created was a masterpiece. His deviations from the source material made for some of the most iconic horror scenes in history, and created a film which could be enjoyed on its own, separately from the book, and without having to of read it beforehand. 

When I heard King was releasing Doctor Sleep I was excited. The Shining wasn’t a book I felt needed a sequel, but I was excited none the less. What I read was an enjoyable follow on, with some world building for Danny’s shining and others who had the same power; a villain who never felt as threatening as The Overlook did, but was charismatic and intriguing; and closure on Jack Tolerance’s fate, which I never knew I needed until I read Doctor Sleep. Overall I was satisfied. 

When I saw the trailer for Doctor Sleep I was not excited, and I decided that it wasn’t worth my time. But oh lord was I wrong! Watching this film was like reading the book, page for page, and I wasn’t mad about it. Because it follows the book so closely, I could see the film not being as enjoyable to people who hadn’t read the source material beforehand. But to watch the film unfold, with no deviations from the book and only minor details missed, made me smile. 

Then we got down to the last 30 minutes. So Mike Flanagan’s film is a continuation of Kubrick’s The Shining, where Jack dies at The Overlook and becomes another ghost. In the book, the hotel is destroyed due to the boiler exploding, and the grounds where The Overlook once stood becomes a camp site hosted by the True Knot. Up until the last 30 minutes, Doctor Sleep follows its source material extremely closely, but it’s one major change is that The Overlook is still standing, and from here the film shifts to begin incorporating Kubrick’s The Shining and his deviations. 

I wasn’t keen on this change at first. Although the final showdown between Dan and Rose in the book was anticlimactic, I felt that Dan moving through The Overlook and having callbacks to events from Kubrick’s The Shining, was a cheap attempt at fan service and didn’t add to the story. But then Dan is killed off. He doesn’t die in the book, and after Rose is killed he remains a part of Abra’s life and continues his role of Doctor Sleep. So Flanagan’s decision to kill him during the hotel’s destruction shocked me, mostly because of how right it felt. I didn’t make the connection to Dan turning on the boiler after he entered the hotel at first, and without reading King’s The Shining and knowing that this is how the hotel was originally destroyed, it would of felt like an easy cop out. But the connection of all three pieces of media, King’s original book, Kubrick’s film, and Doctor Sleep, and the introduction of a new ending which is completely different to the book’s, honestly made me so happy and I wish that this was the true ending of the book too. 

There’s a couple things I would of changed, most notably how Jack was handled. In the book, Jack’s ghost helps Dan to defeat Rose, and Dan sees his father wave goodbye to him before he leaves the hotel grounds for good. I really liked this part of the book; it redeemed Jack and offered a sense of closure. In the film, I was touched by Dan’s reconnection with Wendy before he dies in the explosion, but I wish Jack was included in this final moment, too. 

Doctor Sleep offered me something different, something which The Shining could not - a film which I could enjoy alongside it’s book, as a faithful adaption. And also a film I could enjoy separately, on its own, because of its alternative bittersweet ending which surprisingly, I actually preferred.