Doctor Sleep

Doctor Sleep ★★

Don't shine.

Look I gotta lot of thoughts, but here's the really important one: the first twenty minutes and last forty minutes of this Doctor Sleep (I watched the director's cut) are some of the most ill-advised decision making I've ever seen in a film, and I think that's a position that extends beyond my personal affection and bias for Stanley Kubrick's landmark horror masterpiece, The Shining. I don't like that I feel this way, because this movie is not bad. When it is Doctor Sleep, that is an adaptation of the 2013 Stephen King novel, it's honestly quite good. It has emotional merit, good characters and a couple standout performances. I don't love everything about it: it has a bunch of clunky dialogue, it overexplains basically every piece of subtext Kubrick trusted you to pick up on, that gunfight scene is really stupid. But for all that, the emotional and thematic core of this film really, honestly, had won me over. In particular the scenes in which a recovered Dan is finding his calling as a psychic hospice worker and his beautiful AA speech, it really, truly moved me. It cannot go unsaid that Ewan McGregor is giving this role everything he has, and the film is all the stronger for it.

Flanagan has a tough task here. He's adapting a sequel, but he has little in the way of a cinematic original to fall back on, in that Kubrick's take and King's take are famously extremely discordant. He, not unlike a young Danny Torrance, is caught between two influences in conflict with one another. And for 135 minutes, he really gets good mileage out of the tension and his attempt to marry these two. He homages Kubrick's film as much as he needs to to make Dan's trauma real, because this story's power is defined by the book's nature as a sequel. It's contained in its metatextual relationship to an original novel, and Flanagan doesn't have much of a choice but to cite both the source novel Doctor Sleep and Kubrick's The Shining. And while it flubs it hard for me at points, I can hardly tear it apart for quoting that film: just last year Midsommar, Us and especially The Lighthouse (all films which I enjoy) quoted The Shining. For forty years, every horror movie has, hell, even some non-horror movies have!

It's ok! We're making peace with the past! This movie's gonna be good! Honest to god, when Dick Hallorann says, "Ka is a wheel, Dan," that shit kinda got me going! You got your Kubick in my King! You got your King in my Kubrick! Huzzah

And then "Chapter Six" happens. There's an orchestral rendition of the famous opening synths and just. Fuck me, man. We're gliding over that familiar water, and a subtitle reads, "What Was Forgotten." And just... ah, man does the movie fall all the way apart for me here. I can't tease that out without spoilers, so I won't, but man, I hate it. I'll say that it early in this scene it homages the iconic bathroom scene with recast Duvall, and just. No, dude.

I'm so bummed. This wasn't bad, until it really, really was.

Let Flanagan adapt another King, one not so much tied to the cinematic legacy of my favorite film. Wizard and Glass, anyone?

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