My friend Sidney and I have watched a strange collection of movies together. We saw Midsommar, Rambo: Last Blood, and Joker together, and if you’ve seen those three movies, you’ll know that it’s a major up-and-down experience. (The down part being totally Rambo: Last Blood’s fault.)
So when he invited me to see Doctor Sleep this past weekend, I was oh so totally down for it. I’ve learned that whatever movie I watch with Sidney, whether it’s good or terrible, it’ll be a side-splitting blast. Plus, Doctor Sleep had been on my radar since the trailer came out.
See, I’ve read both The Shining and Doctor Sleep, both written by Stephen King. I’ve also seen the Stanley Kubrick film, The Shining. And anyone who is a Stephen King fan knows that The Shining movie is a different beast from the book. There’s this huge debate about which version is better, and I’m honestly in the weird camp that really likes both. I don’t think I have it in me to dislike anything Stephen King writes, and Kubrick’s movie is one of my go-to films for when I’m feeling sick.
So, my first impressions when seeing that they were going to make a film about King’s sequel to The Shining, Doctor Sleep was confusion. How could they reconcile Kubrick’s vision with King’s? I mean, it’s obvious from the imagery and music in the trailer that it was a sequel to Kubrick’s film. But the story of Doctor Sleep that I knew from having read the book was deeply integrated with the events of King’s The Shining.
So I had no idea how the hell this new film was going to turn out.
Well, as it turned out, Doctor Sleep turned out fucking awesome!
They did it. This movie accomplished the impossible. It gave homage to Kubrick’s film while remaining true to everything about “the Shine” that Stephen King imagined.
Visually, the movie tries to emulate Kubrick’s The Shining where it can. The set decorations, the camera movements, the costumes of returning characters, they all make fans of Kubrick get a tingling in the backs of their heads. Even the music, those iconic horns, drums, and rattles will be reminscent of the film.
But story-wise, it is a child of Stephen King.
All too often, movies fail to capture Stephen King’s kind of magic. I think It comes the closest to embodying his kind of mysticism, but even then, given how every iteration of It falls short towards the end, I’d still say It pales in comparison to Doctor Sleep. Doctor Sleep shows audiences what the Shine is supposed to be like, and it does a fantastic job of it. I won’t spoil it here, but it’s mind-bending.
If you can recall from Kubrick’s Shining, when young Danny Torrance is calling out for help to Dick Hallorann, it’s conveyed to you by a high-pitched ringing, Danny shaking and drooling, and quick cuts to scary images. That was supposed to show how Danny uses his Shine to contact Dick.
Doctor Sleep blows it out of the water in this regard. The way in which characters use the Shine is phenomenally portrayed. It’s the best thing about the movie, honestly.
The one thing that bugs me about the movie is the lack of explanation for where those dang canisters come from. (Total spoiler, I guess, but if you don’t know anything about the movie, you won’t know what I’m talking about until you actually see it. So it’s a safe spoiler?) The canisters that contain the “Steam” look futuristic and high tech, but the True Knot state they’ve been around for ages. So what gives?
Anyways, bottom line, if you’re a Stephen King fan, you absolutely have to watch Doctor Sleep. It gives you those twisting narratives and deep emotions we love so well, and it gives Danny Torrance the ending he deserved.
I rate Doctor Sleep a surprising-delight-for-both-fans-of-the-King-and-Kubrick-classics.
2 thoughts on “Doctor Sleep Movie Review: The Shining Sequel We All Deserved”
I just saw this movie today and definitely agree with your assessment! It was great. Way better than I expected. I was pretty lukewarm on the book, tbh, but seeing the events realised on screen like this made me really appreciate it. The direction, acting, sound design and effects (Rose zeroing in on Abra looked so cool!) were all top notch. Dan’s sobriety stuff was perfect and I actually really liked the way the explored the True Knot’s culture (sorta reminded me of The Walking Dead’s Whisperers in that they’re nomadic weirdos).
The only criticisms I have are more so directed at the book (Abra’s gifts mean the True Knot aren’t especially threatening). It was a bit too long, but then this was a difficult story to adapt as it’s pretty sprawling, has a lot of characters, has to explain all its psychic mumbo jumbo and tie in the events of The Shining. But because of that I felt the last quarter was a bit rushed. Still, omg the way they reconciled the book and movie differences was amazing. Absolutely perfect.
I’m just glad someone else liked this. I think it deserves a higher rating than what it has on RT, and I hear it generally underperformed at the box office, which is a huge bummer (it’s way better than It, people!). I think it should have come out in October and (much as I would have hated this) they should have better emphasized its connection to The Shining. Like calling it The Shining 2: Doctor Sleep would have been so gross, but it probably would have helped to explain what it is. No one in my life knew what this movie was or that it was related to The Shining. Frustrating!
But anyway. Glad you liked it! Agree about the future tech canisters, lol. Sorry for long comment!
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Dude! I’m right there with you! For the life of me, I can’t understand why it tanked! It’s honestly one of the best King adaptations out there! I’m so happy you liked it too. And there is nothing I like more than a long comment. Interaction on the blog is a highlight of my days. (Though admittedly, it takes me too long to get to it sometimes.)
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