On October 30, Doctor Sleep, the sequel, 39 years later, of the horror masterpiece, The Shining, was released. Directed by genre specialist Mike Flanagan and helmed by the wonderful Ewan McGregor, this new film adaptation of the book by Stephen King has an extraordinary challenge – and overall it does.
“The world is vicious, son, and it is filled with ever-hungry darkness.” If there’s only one lesson to be learned from the work of horror king Stephen King about the world around us, it’s this. And Doctor Sleep, Mike Flanagan’s new film (The Haunting, Ouija: The origins) adapted from the eponymous novel by the American author released in 2013, has studied it well. The direct sequel to The Shining (whose novel came out in 1977 and its film adaptation, by Stanley Kubrick, in 1980) at first reminds us of little Danny Torrance, known as “Doc”, and his mother, who had just settled in Florida after the tragic events of at the Overlook Hotel.
The boy, who is endowed with telepathic abilities and inscription characterized by the name “shining”, is not only traumatized by what he is going through but he also finds himself haunted by the ghosts of a famous hotel. One of them, the wise chef Dick (played here by Carl Lumbly) who also owns Shine, advises Danny to put them under lock and key in his mind.
Years later, Danny, grown into an adult and portrayed on screen by Ewan McGregor (Star Wars, Trainspotting), appears to have become like his father, thrust into a murderous madness by a hotel spirit. Violence, alcohol and homelessness, he continues to see ghosts and is now haunted by the dead they left unnoticed. While forging a friendship that will lead him to brave alcoholism and bring him to sobriety, he meets Abra (Kyliegh Curran), the holder of an amazing shine.
This young girl has been found by a group of immortal Travelers – the ‘true knot’, led by Rose Le Chapeau (Rebecca Ferguson) – who prey on the souls they torture, and especially the ‘shining’ ones. Like Obi-Wan Kenobi with Luke Skywalker, Danny will in turn take on the role of a mentor to fight the creatures stalking young Abra and will take the opportunity to complete his own demon burial.
As its director put it, Doctor Sleep balances Stephen King’s literary masterpiece very well with Stanley Kubrick’s legendary film adaptation. On the one hand, it evokes the film Shining with elegance thanks to a very serious and harsh musical atmosphere.(using the original theme, of course), but also by stopping often closely at the character’s expression and by spoiling us with views of the sky on the long lost road. rural America.
We even find in some scenes exact takebacks from shots used in the 1980 film. The near-perfect symmetry effect it produces is pleasing to fans of Stanley Kubrick’s version. The film also deals with themes that Stephen King loves with rare accuracy. In the way Danny (literally sometimes) digs into the deaths and ghosts of his past, Mike Flanagan’s films are clearly inspired by Simetierre. And with the leap of time, the consequences of trauma and the determination to go full circle (talking about knots) to leave the latter, he’s clearly using That. Therefore, Stephen King’s spirit was there and shone with a thousand lights.
Doctor Sleep also shines with the quality of treatment the topics it raises. In the first place, the repression he develops as a psychological solution – here, conscious and advising rather than unconscious – is with a double advantage. Locking up the ghosts that haunt him in the boxes he has in mind certainly makes Danny live part of his life but (apart from then playing the role of the actual Pandora’s box) encourages him to follow the same path as his father to alcoholism. This addiction is, in fact, an integral part of Danny’s journey and manifests a very real demon among the flashy and fantastical spirits that torment the protagonists. Although, thanks to the support of a Good Samaritan, Danny survives, the film shows that alcoholism has continued to haunt him throughout his life.
Sleep Doctor doesn’t put anyone to sleep
Struggling to keep him from forgetting her is a real challenge, and achievement, for a former alcoholic. Even the psychological reasons for his association with alcohol were mentioned: to fill out an identity with his father, as well as alcohol, were prevented by the Overlook Hotel. Finally, in a list far more fantastical than The Shining, Doctor Sleep takes on the theme of death (where juthe film title and Danny’s nickname have full meaning, later in the plot) and immortality., especially in the case of “true knot”. This antagonist is not a simple one-dimensional monster that the protagonist has to deal with. They have their own personalities, their own goals and their own histories. If their thirst for soul is very animalistic, their way of life benefits the group in the first place. Going through the centuries and staying young is not an easy task and is accompanied by a lot of suffering. In this case, someone else. Not accepting death is a real burden for Rose and her cronies. What they struggle to understand, however, is the lesson Dick taught Danny: The world always devours us, and death awaits all of us, whoever we are.
Mastered themes and scenarios too. While it fails to compete with Stanley Kubrick’s masterpieces, the film enjoys excellent symmetry and resolution. Moreover, it leaves no obvious inconsistencies. All script implants have uses. And if we find Shining at the beginning of the film, then, in filigree throughout, the climax inside the abandoned Overlook Hotel is a real part of the resistance of the feature film. Mike Flanagan, a fan of the writers, treats the place like a true villain. The Overlook Hotel is towering, spooky, and terrifying – on par with what happened when Shining was revealed.
As for the actors, Rebecca Ferguson’s performances and, what’s more, Ewan McGregor sublimates the whole with mind-boggling ease. Even the layers (which the director wisely didn’t choose a digital double from the 1980 film) of young Danny Torrance, his mother and father, and especially Dick, pick up with precision, without betrayal or awkwardness, of Stanley Kubrick’s iconic character Shining.
If a film isn’t destined to scare its audience, it isn’t afraid to sacrifice characters to increase the stakes. And if he stays predictable and finds nothing at the narrative level, he knows how to play well enough with his universe and its rules to keep the audience awake and encourage him to follow the story from start to finish. However, Doctor Sleep isn’t perfect at this point: following a character’s movement, whether it’s from one geographic place to another or from one mind to another, sometimes requires extra effort to concentrate. Beyond this point of detail, it’s hard to get ahead of Doctor Sleep, for fans of The Shining or Stephen King, in general.