Movie Review: Doctor Sleep

It’s October, so we’re officially in spooky season. I decided to start things off with Doctor Sleep, a sequel to The Shining. I really wasn’t sure what to expect from the film. I haven’t read the King book, but I’ve read the original and watched the film multiple times. They’re different from each other, but a great example of adaptation theory at work. (Both are fantastic, leaning into the strengths of their media.) How do you make a sequel to something as iconic as that movie and that book?

By doing a fantastic job of it, of course.

The premise is straightforward: Danny Torrance has grown up. Forty years or so have gone by since the events of the original. He still shines, but he’s reached a sort of equilibrium where he’s comfortable. But we’re introduced to another sort of creature: a group of traveling shine vampires, of sort. They prey on anyone with psychic powers, and they have psychic powers of their own. They focus their hunt on children, and they’re very good at what they do.

As soon as they come on Danny’s radar, you know where this is heading. This world isn’t big enough for the both of them. There are instances where some predictability isn’t a bad thing, however. We’re not sure how it’s going to end, and we’re not sure how it all will affect the characters we’ve been introduced to.

It’s quite a ride.

One of the best aspects of the film was the way it tied in the original. The Overlook Hotel, the ghosts, Danny’s parents, Halloran. All of it’s there, though the film makes the conscious decision not to digitally recreate Jack Nicholson and Shelly Duvall. (A good call, in my opinion. They picked actors who resembled them, and they acted and dressed the same way, but there was no “that’s not really them” sort of thoughts that kicked me out of the movie. That said, would I have loved to have somehow had the original actors time travel so they could be in the movie at their original ages? Of course. But time doesn’t work like that, and computers can’t make up the difference. (And if they could, would I want them to?))

It all builds on the world established in the original, expanding on it in new and exciting ways. (It also has a riff on some of the same things I dealt with in The Memory Thief, though it only plays a side role in the movie. Our minds as libraries.)

Is it perfect? No. The ending struggles to be as epic as I was hoping, even though it does a fine job of tying it all up. (I’d just wanted more, based on how great it had been to that point.) But the fact that it holds up at all to its much more famous predecessor is impressive just by itself. I think they’d make for a very fun double feature.

How scary is it? Not nearly as intense as the Kubrik movie, so that might disappoint some. But at the same time, that might make it more accessible to others. (Though it still has some very disturbing scenes, so . . . maybe not.)

I loved it. 9/10, and a great way to start October.

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