DOCTOR SLEEP review by Ronnie Malik – THE SHINING’s little Danny is all grown up

DOCTOR SLEEP review by Ronnie Malik – THE SHINING’s little Danny is all grown up

Director: Mike Flanagan

Cast: Ewan McGregor, Rebecca Ferguson, Cliff Curtis, Kyliegh Curram, Zahn McClarnon, Emily Alyn Lind, Selena Anduze, Robert Longstreet, Carel Struycken, Catherine Parker, and James Flanagan

Rating: C+

Many who saw the 1980 psychological horror thriller THE SHINING will rank the film a 10+ on creepy, scary, foreboding, and make-the-hairs-on-the-back-of-your-neck-stand-up Richter scale. That movie was based on the classic 1977 Stephen King novel which followed the story of Jack Torrance, an aspiring writer who takes his family to the Overlook Hotel for quiet and relaxation so that he can concentrate on his next project. As the story unfolds, it is revealed that some terrible evil dwells in the hotel and focuses on Jack’s son Danny, who possesses a supernatural ability known as “the shining.” Moviegoers watched the fear and terror a small child faces as things he doesn’t understand are revealed to him while his father slowly deteriorates into madness, forcing Danny and his mother to fight for survival. Jack falls prey to his madness but his wife and son manage to escape the clutches of the haunted hotel. Now, director Mike Flanagan is bringing to life the story of Danny as an adult coping with the chilling memories reminding him of the trauma he faced as a small boy.

Dan Torrance (Ewan McGregor), a man struggling with his demons, uses the lessons his mentor, Dick (Carl Lumbly), a ghostly spirit only Danny can see, who taught him to control the spirits that haunt him. As a double whammy, Dan turns to alcohol to numb his shining abilities. Fast forward 8 years and Dan is now living in the town of Teenytown, a quaint New Hampshire suburb. He meets a new friend Billy (Cliff Curtis), who convinces Dan to join AA meetings to kick his alcoholism. Volunteering in a hospice facility, Dan uses his power to help those patients ready to die transition from life to the afterlife. All seems well as Dan settles into his new life.

Meanwhile, we are introduced to a group of beings known as The True Knot. This group of nasty wandering gypsies survives on the energy of children possessing the shining. They find, kidnap, and torture the children until their energy is released and absorbed by the vampire like creatures. The True Knot are led by Rose the Hat (Rebecca Ferguson) who is able to use a trance-like state to find unsuspecting youngsters to capture and steal their shining. Once her victims are dying, Rose harnesses their remaining shining into canisters that her tribe can save for later. But, as time has gone on the resources for them to feed upon are becoming scarce and The True Knot are slowly withering away.

As Dan moves on with his life, he is pleasantly surprised by messages he is receiving via a chalkboard from a young girl named Abra (Kyliegh Curran) whose shine far surpasses anyone else with the ability. The two engage in playful messages from across the cosmos until one day Abra senses a child being murdered by The True Knot. Her energy screams and begs for the demonic group to stop torturing their victim and that brings her to the attention of Rose, who is now on a mission to find Abra and use the spunky cheerful fun-loving girl for her own evil purpose. Abra reaches out to Dan for help and he is convinced that the only way to defeat Rose the Hat is lure her to the Overlook Hotel.

Ewen McGregor creates an earnest and venerable Danny with a heart of gold. Audiences that are familiar with 1980 version of THE SHINING now get to know Danny as a noble man struggling to find a balance so that he can live a normal life. McGregor manages to generate quite a bit of empathy for this silent hero that does not know his own strength. Rebecca Ferguson is a sultry conniving vicious devil in disguise. She is awesome as the charming, clever, and sensual leader of a vampire-like race that will stop at nothing to get what she wants. Ferguson is extremely memorable as the movie’s villain and shows off her acting chops in this role. Newcomer Kyliegh Curran plays a vibrant sweet pre-teen coming to terms with her abilities, but often the character’s reaction seems unnatural as she faces unimaginable and difficult challenges. Her character is a child and does not seem to possess the normal reactions an inexperienced youngster would normally give in the face of death and danger, and this makes the actress, although pleasant to see on screen, very unbelievable.

DOCTOR SLEEP is way too long and some of the homages to its 1980 predecessor come off as cheap and tacky giving somewhat of an insult to the original film that was so brilliant. There are moments of suspense but there is no wow factor in this second half of the tale. It is possible that Stephen King’s second novel continuing THE SHINING storyline does provide explanations to the strange and unexplained, but sadly the movie does little to connect the dots making the whole thing feel very silly. Many with high expectations to get scared out of their wits will be very disappointed by flatness of this production. The ghosts that once freaked movie audiences out come off as rather ridiculous and laughable in this recent chapter. The villains hunting children are not convincing and rather ridiculous, thus adding nothing to the horror flick.

DOCTOR SLEEP sports a sluggish second half of what could have been a memorable scary tale to tell in the dark, doesn’t shine and is just dull. For those that saw the first half of the story via the 1980 film directed by Stanely Kurbick (and even those who have not seen the original film), you’re better of re-watching his classic adaption of the Stephen King novel so that the memory of a great movie watching experience with thrills and chills stay intact.

DOCTOR SLEEP opens November 8, 2019

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