DOCTOR SLEEP – Come Play With Us Again Danny!

It is time to return to The Overlook hotel with Doctor Sleep, unless of course you have read The Shining Book and Doctor Sleep book and are now slightly confused. In the book the Overlook blows up at the end because Jack failed to the release the STEAM from the boiler causing it to explode. In the movie he just turns into a popsicle. And while author Stephen King despised and still bangs on about how much he hated Kubrik’s version of the movie that tops a plethora of film critic’s favourite film list, he managed to actually get on board with Mike Flanagan’s cinematic sequel even though the last act is a complete re-write of the end of the book to honour the movie.

Most of the Kernels at the Salty Popcorn Cob worship THE SHINING – both book and movie, and there could only be one – Kernel Claire got the honours of reviewing this one. It is out now from the fine folks at Warner Bros/ Roadshow Films. It is rated MA15+ and runs for 152mins. I’m off to see it this weekend, especially after reading Claire’s review and because I am obsessed with Rebecca Ferguson lol. Enough about me, enjoy Claire’s review……..all the best……Salty.

Doctor Sleep Ewan McGregor RedRum
Ewan McGregor RedRum

BY CLAIRE SMITH

DOCTOR SLEEP is the newest film from STEPHEN KING’s book catalogue – that guy seriously must have an army of ghost writers, he pumps out books so damn quickly! Not that I’m complaining, I read those things like they’re an addictive substance for my eyeballs.

SLEEP is set as a sequel to KING’s 1977 book THE SHINING and follows a close aesthetic to the 1980 KUBRICK film of the same name.

SOBRIETY, STRANGERS AND “SHINING”

Little Danny Torrance is all grow’d up! He’s understandably suffering from PTSD from the events of the Overlook Hotel in his childhood and is struggling with sobriety from addictions to drugs and alcohol. He works in a palliative care unit where he’s known as Doctor Sleep, because he uses his powers of “Shining” to assist the perishing in-patients to be calm and recount their life’s highlights during their last moments.

Danny is awoken one night by an unexpected message from someone else who “shines.” Abra, a 14 year old girl living in another state. She seeks out Danny’s help when she becomes privy to missing children across the country who have fallen victim to a band of shine-stealing gypsies known as The True Knot. These guys are really bad news – they torture and murder children to steal their “steam.” Steam is the manifestation of what powers the kids’ ability to “shine.” (Stay with me here, reader. STEPHEN KING has a strange mind, but just go with it and you’ll be ok. We got through a story of a murderous clown alien. We can do this).

The True Knot report that children have the purest steam, and by torturing and scaring them, their steam is further intensified. Not quite human but something else, The True Knot feed only on steam and require it to stay immortal. Abra and Danny must pair together if they’re to protect other kids who shine from falling prey to these horrific, homicidal hippies.

Doctor Sleep image
Soul Sucking The True Knot

FAMILIAR FACES IN NEW ROLES:

EWEN McGREGOR (MOULIN ROUGE, TRAINSPOTTING) plays the adult Danny Torrance. He’s now middle aged and fighting many demons – both literal and metaphorical. Still haunted by the events of The Overlook and his own actions after it, Danny numbs and dulls his shine with drugs and alcohol. Director MIKE FLANAGAN (ABSENTIA, HAUNTING OF HILL HOUSE) stated in a press conference that McGREGOR was cast as Danny because he looked like he could be the offspring of Wendy and Jack Torrance from KUBRIK’s SHINING. I can see why.

Originally portrayed by the unmistakable JACK NICHOLSON (CHINATOWN, THE DEPARTED), Jack Torrance was Danny’s alcoholic and abusive father who was overcome by the lures of The Outlook and committed himself to killing his family there.

McGREGOR does his best to portray the grunges of addiction but he’s just a bit too clean cut to be believable. Despite a billy-goats gruff beard and a few stooped conversations, he’s just a little too vanilla to be taken seriously as a man battling with PTSD and alcoholism. (Editor’s Note: Have you seen TRAINSPOTTING?)

A nice touch of the storyline, which McGREGOR portrayed exceptionally was the concept of addictive substances being tangible demons. Watching Danny struggle with opening and closing a bottle of whisky and crying while trying not to take a swig during a particularly stressful plot point for him was absolute scriptwriting poetry. The demons of The Overlook are not nearly as scary for Danny as the readily available apparitions that form Danny’s addiction to alcohol.

Doctor Sleep Rebecca Ferguson
JK Would Turn For Rebecca Ferguson

RE-CASTING THE FAMILIAR FACES: CAN THE STORY SHINE ON?

One admirable decision from the team behind DOCTOR SLEEP is the use of actors, rather than CGI to incorporate old scenes and create new scenes with the characters from THE SHINING. Danny’s mother Wendy Torrance was originally played by SHELLEY DUVALL (POPEYE, ANNIE HALL). Her bug-eyed, overwrought, abused portrayal of Wendy brought a terrifying sense of humanistic realism to the insanity of her husband Jack as he gradually derailed into the madness of The Overlook.

Instead of digitally recreating the character for flashback scenes, or story exposition scenes, Wendy was recast. Played by ALEX ESSOE (STARRY EYES, HOUSE OF LIES) it’s an almost identical performance. ESSOE SELLS THIS ROLE! Her mannerisms, her facial expressions, even her vocal variances all match up to DUVALL’s performance exactly. It’s a really great example of trusting the audience to understand the actor’s performance and making the leap to believe that this is the same Wendy. In these days of digital de-ageing and CGI character recreation, it’s a brave decision from the production team and it really pays off.

Similarly, CARL LUMBLY (MEN OF HONOR, A CURE FOR WELLNESS) is cast to portray Dick Halloran – the cook of THE SHINING. Previously played by SCATMAN CROTHERS (ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO’S NEST, THE ARISTOCATS), LUMBLY deftly recreates the performance of the doomed cook who operates as Danny’s mentor into the Shining world. LUMBLY’s tight vocals, stern words and crooked stance are a dead ringer for the original portrayal.

Doctor Sleep Ewan McGregor RedRum
Ewan McGregor

RECREATING THE OVERLOOK – THE CREEPTASTIC WORLD OF KUBRIK

DOCTOR SLEEP features flashback scenes to the events of THE SHINING so a reacreation of the sets was required in order to create these scenes. Incredible detail is included – entire rooms with detailed bookshelves and ornaments have been reproduced to create KUBRIK’s world once more. The design team worked from the archived blueprints of The Overlook Hotel (where THE SHINING is set) in order to faithfully recreate this build. Not only was an identical Overlook creation required, but the team also had work on a second build to show The Overlook in its current decrepit state after years of being abandoned. The result is an identical view of the Overlook scenes from THE SHINING, and an effective and believable run-down, dusty and decaying hotel for the final act.

The sound track is revisited and reused from THE SHINING for DOCTOR SLEEP and just hearing the tinkling plink of the piano high notes, or the synthesised trombone bass notes brings reminiscent goosebumps to your arms when hearing it in the blaring surround system.

Doctor Sleep Not Scary Not Scary
Not Scary Not Scary

CLOSING TIME – DOES THE OVERLOOK SHINE ON?

Doctor Sleep deftly fits in and closes out the story of Danny Torrance. The concept of steam and The True Knot seem more of a universe-inclusion piece of story fodder than a continuance of the cinematic story told in THE SHINING.

DOCTOR SLEEP remains true to the book in all but the final act – where the characters return to the decrepit Overlook Hotel. Surprisingly, even with the concepts of pedicidal travellers and telepathic communication, returning to The Overlook felt like the most hokey plot point. Although it was incredible to see The Overlook brought back to the screen, it may have been better to let it rest. Underutilised in the ending rewrite, the return didn’t feel necessary to the story. It felt more of a fan-pandering attempt to reminisce with the KUBRIK cult followers and caused a down-shift in the film’s pacing. Pair this with the leader of The True Knot being largely unresponsive to the Overlook’s spooky mind tricks and it felt like we either should have left well enough alone and let The Overlook lay dormant, or utilise it in a more expansive way.

DOCTOR SLEEP is product as described. It’s a STEPHEN KING story so we know it’s going to be kooky and strange, but It’s good cinematic escapism. It’s engaging, well cast and fulfilling to watch. It won’t destroy your memories of THE SHINING but it won’t enhance them either. If you’re interested in this franchise, you’ll enjoy the film.

YOUR CRITIC:

Kernel Claire retired from the Salty Popcorn cob in 2014 with full honors, but was lured back to the shine of the silver screen and the Salt of the Popcorn a mere four years later. When not hand-modelling for Kernel Jason’s food-reviews, Claire can be found scootering through Sydney at a reasonable, defensive driving speed; or fussing far too much over her little black rescue cat Baxter.

Claire has worked in the Australian Cinema Industry for over 13yrs and loves it the most when she can report “sometimes I get paid to watch movies”. She’ll pretty much attend any event that includes a lanyard.

** Images used are courtesy of various sources on Google or direct from the distributor or publisher. Credit has been given to photographers where known – images will be removed on request.