“Doctor Sleep” stands among some of the greatest book adaptations ever made, capturing the same terror you feel reading a horror story alone in the dark.
Doctor Sleep is a perfectly blended movie, pulling just enough from the book to keep readers happy while also honoring the peculiarity that made The Shining a hit with audiences. The cherry on top of this well-crafted sequel is Stephen King’s appreciation of the film.
King’s great dislike for The Shining film is well-known; he is always very vocal about it during interviews whenever the question arises. King himself has made claims stating Doctor Sleep saves the series cinematically, and praised it on Twitter. Stephen King can be seen as the authoritative master on all things horror, and praise for any film adaptations of his work are taken seriously by the fans.
Doctor Sleep faces many hurdles even before the movie starts.
The first hurdle is that this film is a sequel of a movie made nearly forty years ago, one that famously made drastic changes to its source material, directly insulting the creator. For example, in The Shining, the character of Dick is killed off. However, he doesn’t meet the same fate in the book. While fans expected Flanagan to stay truer to the book, doing so could have been tough given this film was meant to be a direct sequel to The Shining.
Another problem with making a sequel after so many years have passed is that it isn’t always possible to hire the same actors to reprise their roles. This hurdle is gracefully vaulted by the casting of Alexandra Essoe (Starry Eyes, Midnighters) as Wendy Torrence and Carl Lumbly (Supergirl, Alias) as Dick Hallorann. Not only are these two made to look strikingly similar to their predecessors, Shelley Duvall and Scatman Crothers, but the work the crew put into voice-matching does not go unnoticed.
Essoe captures the high pitched, wavering screaming of Danny’s name that Duvall so perfectly used to portray her horror in The Shining. Lumbly portrays Dick with the same levelheaded coolness as Scatman, making an almost unnoticeable difference between him and his predecessor. Roger Dale Floyd (Kronos) succeeds in portraying the strangeness of Danny that Danny Lloyd portrayed so well in The Shining — but took it a step further by showcasing just how damaged the events at The Overlook has left him.
The thought to fully connect to the characters in Kubrick’s The Shining comes to fruition all within the first fifteen minutes of the film.
Ewan McGregor (Star Wars Episode 1-3) shows off his acting chops by playing the mentally destroyed Dan Torrence while Kyliegh Curran completely takes over as the steadfast and strong-willed Abra Stone. Each member of The True Knot brings to life the terror of their associated characters from the pages of Doctor Sleep as well. Overall, the casting in this movie was phenomenal.
The second hurdle Doctor Sleep overcomes simply by staying true to the book. Many movies walk the line of trying to maintain the integrity of its foundation while also adding something new so the director and crew can mold it into their own version of the story. Some movies have great success with this, such as Harry Potter, while others fail so miserably that any future films are scrapped, like with Eragon.
While Doctor Sleep needn’t worry about tarnishing the hope for future sequels, as there are no current plans for more books in The Shining universe, the film still has to worry about fan backlash.
Doctor Sleep manages to not only stick with the source material, but it follows the same general pacing and story development.
The movie is built like a book, which was incredibly rewarding to watch as someone who has read Doctor Sleep more times than I can count.
Doctor Sleep doesn’t rely on jump scares or other cheap parlor tricks to drum up feelings of terror. Instead, it relies on a more psychological approach, dabbling in things such as PTSD, torture, kidnapping, and general fears of the unknown. Each character has their own internal and external struggles which define and mold them as the movie progresses. These struggles are the true root of terror of this film and are likely relatable to many viewers.
Doctor Sleep not only gives these fears a face, but an entire cast that come after the audience’s psyche at every turn.
Even in their victories, no character walks away unscathed from the battles that take place within the film. There is no true happy ending for this story. While some terrors do come to an end, the mental scars they leave behind will haunt all those involved in the aftermath. These scars, as many know, can be as deadly as any physical wound for those who “shine”.
DOCTOR SLEEP is a masterfully crafted horror film that understands the importance of a slow-building story. Knowing that Stephen King not only approves of this sequel but praises it should be enough to get people in theaters to see this gem.
Doctor Sleep quickly skyrocketed to my favorite film of 2019. Horror fans and Stephen King fans alike need to go support this film in theaters for these types of horror movies to continue being made. While $39.3 million worldwide might seem like a lot, studios require a much larger return on high-budget films.
You won’t be disappointed.