Let The Past Die
In 2013, Stephen King crafted a pretty decent sequel to his 1977 novel The Shining and called it Doctor Sleep, in which Danny Torrance is able to actively trap and neutralize certain ghosts from his past, namely the ones that inhabited The Overlook Hotel in Colorado.
You remember what happened to Danny there. Or, at least, director Mike Flanagan hopes that you remember, because he, in turn, has crafted a direct sequel to Stanley Kubrick’s 1980 masterpiece adaptation of The Shining.
He’s Got Big Balls
What fucking hubris, to attempt to follow up Kubrick and unashamedly use some of the techniques that made his movie so enduringly great.
The pounding sound of a heartbeat is back, played during scenes of terror and psychic mayhem.
Most noticeably, Flanagan liberally uses those sudden, startling musical notes, played on strings, that highlighted the heightening terror in The Overlook Hotel, though at times he uses them much too much.
The musical cues are effective as Kubrick used them, but Flanagan once uses them to highlight adult Danny walking along a sidewalk. I’m not sure what he was going for.
There are also visual cameos in the movie, such as Mr. Ullman’s office, aerial shots, and bleeding elevators. It’s fun to spot them.
Just Like Pictures In A Book
One thing that Flanagan does very well is to give us a look back at some of the characters from the 1980 adaptation, all of them recast for Doctor Sleep, while also introducing us to the new characters and ghosts that Danny will be up against.
I give Flanagan points for not using CGI to bring these characters back.
Young Danny, his mother Wendy, his friend Dick Hallorann, and some of the ghosts from the Overlook make appearances here. The actress in the role of Wendy (Alex Essoe) absolutely nails Shelley Duvall’s breathless voice.
Even Jack Torrance shows up, though I won’t mention who plays him nor his role in this movie. It’s a very weird moment. Enjoy!
In addition to adult Danny (Ewan McGregor, who continues to sport one of the best heads of hair on screen) and his struggle to deal with the horrors of his past, the plot of Doctor Sleep concerns a group of psychic vampires called the True Knot and their neverending quest to feed on the essence of children that possess the shining. That essence is released at the moment of death in a ghostly vapor called “steam” that the vampires huff like paint fumes.
A teen girl named Abra Stone comes to the attention of both the True Knot and Danny. To this point, Danny thought that he had the most powerful shine in the world. Abra, however, makes him seem like a small lightbulb next to her eternal bonfire.
She is able to use her shine to manifest a kind of astral projection to communicate with Danny across the entire east coast of the United States, while also spying on the True Knot and their horrifying activities.
The stage is thus set for the vampires to seek out Abra for her steam, and for Danny and Abra to join forces to end their nightmares.
The movie clocks in at almost two-and-a-half hours, though it doesn’t seem so, with the middle act unfolding almost like an MCU movie. It’s great fun watching Abra and Rose spar, as they each use their supernatural abilities to try and outsmart each other while also trying to get close enough to strike a death blow.
You Will Remember What He Forgot
I don’t clearly recall the reasoning in the novel, but Danny takes Abra and returns to the ruin of The Overlook Hotel to make a stand against Rose.
In the movie, Danny does the same because he simply figures that Rose will find the hotel to be a dangerous psychic trap. He mentions that the hotel has been shut down and condemned.
As they approach the hotel over a snowy landscape, the main theme to The Shining (Wendy Carlos and Rachel Elkind) puts the crown on all of the many callbacks to the 1980 classic. It’s been reworked for this movie but the ominous notes still forced chills down my spine.
Perhaps not surprisingly, Doctor Sleep completely fucks up at the end.
Director Flanagan decides that Danny should never escape the ghosts of his past but should instead die to close the crypt door on them forever.
This is like everyone at an AA meeting committing suicide after introducing themselves. It completely misses the point of the novel, that it is possible to beat alcoholism and the demons of the past.
Danny releases his trapped Overlook ghosts and they dig their fingers into Rose as she collapses into steam. The ghosts, now powered by Rose’s steam, possess Danny and use his body to try to murder Abra.
Abra of course saves him with the power of love and Danny tells her to get out of the hotel, while he proceeds to use the For- er, psychically power up the hotel’s dormant boiler, causing a real fire that destroys the entire structure, his own life, and all the good things that this movie did early on.
To pour salt in the cut, Danny appears to Abra as a aura-less Force Ghost and tells her to shine on. I’m serious.
Fuck you, Hollywood. Fuck you.
I appreciate your time, friends. Keep your ear to the ground, your eyes on the horizon, and your heart open.
Until next time,