From the Crowd: ‘Doctor Sleep’ tries, fails to recapture ‘The Shining’ magic

This image released by Warner Bros. Pictures shows in a scene from "Stephen King’s Doctor Sleep." (Warner Bros. Pictures via AP) Courtesy of Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.
This image released by Warner Bros. Pictures shows Ewan McGregor in a scene from "Doctor Sleep." (Warner Bros. Pictures via AP)

The Shining is one of the greatest horror movies of all time – maybe the greatest, depending on who you ask. The 1980 Stanley Kubrick adaptation of the Stephen King novel has long been regarded as a fantastic achievement in film, so much so that The Shining is often compared to other great films, not just other great horror films.

The sequel, Doctor Sleep, playing now at Regal Concord, will never be talked about that way. In fact, the people who made this movie just hope it gets talked about at all.

Doctor Sleep is the sequel nobody ever asked for. With the way The Shining ended, there really was no way to keep that story going. It wrapped up nicely, and everything felt final once the credits rolled 39 years ago.

In today’s movie world, though, if you’re not based on comic books or some other movie that has already grossed at least $100 million, you’re toast. That’s how the world ends up with a sequel to The Shining 39 years later, starring nobody you’ve ever heard of (no offense, Ewan McGregor), directed by some guy you’ve also never heard of (sorry, Mike Flanagan). While that’s being a bit harsh, the point is this is no epic production directed by an all-timer like Kubrick and starring another all-timer like Jack Nicholson. It’s just another movie.

Right from the opening scene, Doctor Sleep goes very heavy on the Shining references. We first see the back of young Danny Torrence, riding that big-wheel tricycle through the haunting Overlook Hotel while the camera follows closely from behind. At first it’s hard to tell if we’re watching a digitally remastered clip of the original film or something new. Once the boy makes a turn, revealing his face (which looks nothing like the original Danny), it’s clear that it’s new material.

The movie is absolutely loaded with re-creations of iconic scenes from the original film, and that does not work in its favor. Every time we flash back (and by that we mean show a scene filmed recently to look like it was done in The Shining) to a scene from the first movie – pick one: the blood pouring from the elevator, the iconic “Heeeere’s Johnny” scene, the spooky twins, the labyrinth scene – it just reminds us how awesome The Shining was and how, well, not awesome Doctor Sleep is.

The plot of Doctor Sleep is a little weird, and not at all as mysterious and chilling as the plot of The Shining. In Doctor Sleep, we follow the now-grown Danny Torrence, who can still shine but not as good as when he was a kid. He can also apparently see ghosts, since we, the audience, see him talking to Dick Halloran several times throughout the movie. Halloran, of course, is the one murder victim of Jack Torrence in The Shining, so this character is clearly a ghost in Doctor Sleep. (The actor is also younger in present day than the original Halloran was in 1980, somehow.)

The main point of conflict that drives the movie is the plight of Rose the Hat, the movie’s villain. Rose is a gypsy-like spirit of sorts, who uses magic to lure other shiners – people who have powers like Danny, which include seeing the future, seeing the past and communicating with ESP, among other things. Basically, for people who shine to continue to be able to shine, they have to feed on the “steam” of others who shine. In essence, this means Rose the Hat has to kidnap and kill children so she can suck their steam out of them and make sure she retains her power. She also has a gang of misfit spirits (see: victims) that also must feed on the steam. Somehow Rose is powerful enough to sense where other shiners are, and basically devotes her life to tracking these people down, killing them and inhaling their “steam.” Rose is especially interested in finding a certain young girl, who is apparently more powerful than anyone else.

If this sounds nothing like The Shining to you, you’re correct!

This movie is a let-down, plain and simple. If you enjoy seeing many, many scenes re-created from a classic film, then you’ll probably like this. If you go into Doctor Sleep expecting anything close to what The Shining did to you the first time you saw it, you’ll be sorely disappointed.

It’s a shame, really. Flanagan, the director, is also responsible for The Haunting of Hill House, the Netflix original series that may be the best work of horror in the past decade. That show was truly chilling and full of twists and turns. Sadly, Flanagan couldn’t find any of that magic with Doctor Sleep.

Tip: Save your money, watch The Shining again and just wait for this one to hit cable, which will probably happen within a year.

Author: Jon Bodell

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