Updated: Jul 19, 2021
The 287th review!
So I get off work at 11:32 PM every night and that’s when I watch a movie. Deciding on a film, I see the movie I want to watch is 2.5 hours long, so I pop it in and be resigned to being tired the next day. Unbeknownst to me, what I put on was the director’s cut and it ended up being three hours long... This also happened to be a day when President Baby decided to wake up a bit earlier than usual. Anyways, on to the movie which was...
Dr. Sleep (2019). Family Video rental (but also streaming on HBO Max)
I’ve been debating how I want to go about reviewing this movie. It’s based off a Stephen King novel which is a sequel to The Shining. For those of you familiar, The Shining book and novel are vastly different. The movie is also notoriously hated by Stephen King. That puts the director of the sequel, Mike Flanagan, in a bit of a tough spot because he has to bridge the gap between King’s work and the much more popular Stanley Kubrick film. So this movie is a bit of a mashup between the book and movie while trying to balance the two storylines into one movie. He’s trying to appease both book and movie fans, but it left me frustrated, which I’ll get into later.
Dr. Sleep, the movie follows Danny Torrance still traumatized by the events of the Overlook Hotel. The years haven’t been kind to him so he drowns his problems and his “Shine” in alcohol and drugs. It takes him hitting rock bottom before he tries to get his life together where he makes an unexpected “Shining” connection with a young girl. This girl ends up being super powerful in the ways of the “Shining,” attracting a group of... psychic vampires for lack of a better phrase. They’re mostly immortal and they feed on people who have the gift. Their fear and pain make for better “Steam” (what they call it), so anyone they capture is brutally tortured for a very long time before they die. Eventually all three camps meet up for a showdown.
It’s a Stephen King story so there’s a lot going on. If I took the actual time to flesh out the plot, this review would be 30 pages long. For the most part, I enjoyed it. Danny Torrance is played by Ewan McGregor who is always a treat and all the human characters are likable and easy to root for. But the baddies... They call themselves “The True Knot” and I hated them. I didn’t hate them in the, “Oh, they’re so evil I dislike them!” I hated them in the, “Oh great, the movie shifted back to these clowns.”
It took them until the very end before they got interesting, and when you’re dealing with a movie that’s three hours long there’s a whole lot of nonsense you have to put up with. Granted, I thought they were boring and was annoyed with them from the jump, but the scene where they get the “baseball boy” is so horrific. To give you some context, the first time they filmed it, young actor Jacob Tremblay’s performance was so intense it surprised and scared the actors from The True Knot. Rebecca Ferguson, who plays Rose the Hat, spent the whole take stammering and couldn’t get her words out. It’s so disturbing I wanted to fast forward. Ever since having a child of my own, violence towards kids in movies really gets to me.
Now we get to Rose. This might be the pettiest gripe I’ve ever had in a movie, but I absolutely hated her hat. There’s a retired wrestler named JBL who played a heel (bad guy) for the majority of his career. For his entrance he wore a jacket and towel draped over his shoulders. He did that because he once saw a guy working out at a gym wearing that same attire and just wanted to hit him and I can’t believe that’s not what they were going for. Each of the members of the evil group have a nickname based on their personality or abilities, her is “The Hat.” Her entire persona with the group is she wears a stupid hat. I realize I’m sounding like my brother here and I know that’s what she wore in the book, but I hated it and before you point it out, yes I realize how petty that sounds.
However, My biggest, non-clothing, gripe is the ending. There are could be spoilers here if you’ve read the first book, so if you don’t want to know, I’d suggest skipping the next two paragraphs...
OK, the finale of this movie and it’s book counterpart takes place at the Overlook Hotel. Stephen King was being a baby and didn’t want the hotel to look like it did in the Kubrick version, because as you know, in the book the hotel burnt to the ground at the climax. To appease King, Flanagan just pretty much took the ending of The Shining book and slapped a Dr. Sleep sticker on it. The only difference was he made Danny be Jack and the young girl, Abra be Danny. I didn’t like that at all. In the original book, Jack gets redeemed. He manages to overcome the Hotel temporarily and give Danny a fighting chance. He even appears at the end of the Dr. Sleep novel in a really cool way, giving Danny the closure he needed. Jack Torrance eventually does show up in the movie, but he’s an asshole and wants Danny to leave Abra to fend for herself. That really annoyed me.
This one follows the exact same beats as the first book but doesn’t have the same effect. When Danny manages to fight off the hotel, that’s to be expected. He’s already been redeemed and has become a good person, helping a complete stranger and traveling across the country with her. Jack doing it was way more impactful because the hotel and alcohol had their claws very deep into him. In my opinion, in order to appease King’s whining they made a lesser story. For once, I think Stephen King’s novel had the better ending.
I thought the ending kind of sucked but the rest of it isn’t a bad film. I thought the battle of wills between Abra and Hat Lady were a lot of fun even if they brought up, thankfully forgotten, images of Dreamcatcher. As much as I disliked the baddies, they were a very powerful threat and it made for some compelling scenes as they try to tangle with a force they haven’t come across yet. I especially loved the trap Abra set because the look of shock and fear on Hat’s face was very well acted. It was extremely satisfying seeing this centuries-old monster so confused that it’s being outsmarted and overpowered by a child.
Maybe I would like the theatrical version because it probably trims the fat, 3 hours in this universe is too long. Still, ending aside I enjoyed it when The True Knot weren’t on screen. It’s well acted all around, it delights in showing off iconic moments from Kubrick’s version and while Alex Essoe isn’t Shelley Duvall, she did a real nice job of playing the character. There were times you could actually see Shelley in Alex’ performance.
In short, it’s a good movie, hampered by an ending that tries to please everyone, but at least for me, has the opposite effect.
6 Dr. Chainsaws!
Doctor Sleep (HBO)
Stop Searching, Start Streaming
In this sequel to Stephen King's "The Shining," the troubled, now-adult Dan Torrance (Ewan McGregor) meets a teen who shares his extrasensory gift of the "shine" and tries to protect her from a cult whose members feed off the shine of innocents to become immortal.