On November 8th, 2019, Dr. Sleep, directed by Mike Flanagan, was released in theaters around the country. Flanagan, known for his horror movies which he both writes and directs, was given quite large shoes to fill as he tried to follow Stanley Kubrick’s highly praised film The Shining. Though Dr. Sleep is not as critically successful, the film is a satisfying, modern follow up to it's 1980 original. Though both the movies are based off of novels of the same names by Stephen King, they should be regarded and admired as their own series. Dr. Sleep is a mix of an adaptation from the book, and a sequel to The Shining, but leans heavily towards Kubrick’s work. This movie works in several genres, though most would define it as a thriller. It has several elements of horror, including jump scares, mild gore, and long tense scenes that draw the viewer closer to the screen in anticipation. However, there is greater on the characters and how they develop throughout the story, which a lot of horror movies seem to leave out in favor of more fear factor.
In the film Danny Torrance, a person with a psychic power he calls the shining, grows up and attempts to cope with the trauma of what happened in the previous film. He turns to alcohol, just like his father, and ends up in a small town in New England. There he is contacted by a girl with his same powers and they discover a group of very dangerous people who also “shine”.
Ewan McGregor, a Scottish actor famous for roles in the Star Wars series, the Danny Boyle black comedy Trainspotting, and an upcoming role in DC’s Birds of Prey, acts with palpable sincerity and pain. He plays the tortured soul of Danny, and delivers a convincing performance, topped with a New England accent, that is extremely immersive. Opposite him is Rebecca Ferguson, a Swedish actress who was in recent installments of the Mission Impossible series, Men In Black, and The Greatest Showman. Her performance doesn’t hinder the film, though it is quite unremarkable. Her accent occasionally makes it through and displaces any accent buffs. She does, however, deliver a menacing performance as the antagonist, threatening the viewer by merely appearing on screen. Sadly, Jack Nicholson and Shelly Duvall did not appear for the sequel, and instead Henry Thomas and Alexandra Essoe played Jack and Wendy Torrance.
Dr. Sleep reaches much further into the magical elements explored in The Shining and explains all the events of the previous film. There are many explanations that are not told to the audience, but shown. The powers don’t seem to overwhelm the viewer, even though most of the plot revolves around it. The cinematography is nothing to sing songs about but it's cohesive and beautiful. There are some shots that succeed fantastically at building suspense. However, there is a sequence where there are many crossfades between shots that are jarring and out of place. Though these are meant as an homage to Kubrick’s film, it simply does not achieve the same effect as it is overused. There is also a sequence in which a young child is subject to unspeakable actions, and it is displayed gruesomely.
Though Rotten Tomatoes rated the movie at 76 out of 100, I believe the movie deserves a higher grade of at least 80. At a run time of 2 hours and 32 minutes, the movie does not bring anything revolutionary to the art of film, but it is still a great thrilling movie. Critics and box office numbers may disagree, but I say it's a movie definitely worth watching.
Reporter: John Servin