Review Roundup: DOCTOR SLEEP - What Did the Critics Think of the Sequel to THE SHINING?
Doctor Sleep is a 2019 American horror film based on the 2013 novel of the same name by Stephen King, which is a sequel to King's 1977 novel The Shining.
The film, set several decades after the events of The Shining, being a sequel to its 1980 film adaptation of the same name directed by Stanley Kubrick, combining elements of the 1977 novel as well.
Doctor Sleep is written, directed, and edited by Mike Flanagan. It stars Ewan McGregor as Danny Torrance, a man with psychic abilities who struggles with childhood trauma. The film also stars Rebecca Ferguson, Kyliegh Curran (in her feature film debut), and Cliff Curtis in supporting roles
Let's see what the critics are saying...
A.O. Scott, The New York Times: In print, "Doctor Sleep" runs to 531 pages, which is fairly compact by King's recent standards. This screen adaptation feels like a clumsy hybrid. It's a little too long and winding to work as a feature film, especially in the horror genre, and might have worked better as a limited series, with a little more room for the many characters who populate its grimly imagined American landscape. Its slow pacing and diffuse suspense make the experience more like a book on tape than anything else, in spite of a few lively performances.
Owen Gleiberman, Variety: That the movie works at all says something about how irresistible it is to go back there. That it works as well as it does is a testament to the ominous pull of Stephen King's imagination. I still don't know if "The Shining" needed a second act, but "Doctor Sleep" presents one that's fresh and unsettling enough to justify its existence. The film runs on for an unnecessarily extended 151 minutes, and that's undoubtedly a by-product of the success of "It," the lengthy 2017 adaptation of the first half of King's killer-clown novel. But in this case the contrast only serves to heighten how "Doctor Sleep," unlike the whack-a-demon "It" films, at least uses its length to sink into a mood of genuine contemplative dread.
Sean Keane, CNET: It's utterly gripping stuff and feels quite different to the rest of the movie, but Flanagan manages to marry the two experiences pretty smoothly. You may not want to play with it forever and ever and ever, but Doctor Sleep is well worth a few hours of your time.
Brian Lowry, CNN: "Dare to go back," the movie poster says, and "Doctor Sleep" does tap into a strong sense of nostalgia, while providing enough tension and thrills to make it worth seeing -- certainly for King completists and aficionados -- despite its shortcomings. Still, when a film with so much going for it -- from the first-rate cast to the meaty premise -- basically unravels and loses steam, it's a reminder that the challenge of wrestling one of King's epic books into a genuinely satisfying movie can be, well, redrum.
K. Austin Collins, Vanity Fair: Doctor Sleep is a horror movie, but what's immediately striking is its sudden breadth, it's humble resistance to the usual perils and thrills of blockbuster. It's refreshing. This is a story that feels larger than it is, in part because this story takes the shine and does something with it, reveals it for the tenuous, impermanent, vulnerable force that it is. There's a 15-year-old girl named Abra Stone (Kyliegh Curran), for example, who also shines-more powerfully than probably anyone else-and whose powers eventually prove necessary to protect.
Peter Travers, Rolling Stone: What's more, Flanagan appropriates actual scenes from The Shining, complete with Jack Nicholson lookalike and elevators spewing blood. Thankfully, he also a few of his own tricks in store to hold your rapt attention. Doctor Sleep relies way too much on borrowed inspiration and eventually runs out of - pardon the word - steam. But this flawed hybrid and King and Kubrick still has the stuff to keep you up nights.
Nicholas Barber, BBC: It could well start a franchise of its own. Flanagan doesn't emphasise its connections to the rest of King's work, but his film encompasses so many of the author's obsessions - cats, psychics, missing children - that it will prompt viewers to ask if the events of Carrie, The Dead Zone, Cat's Eye and Pet Sematary all unfolded in a shared fictional universe. If Doctor Sleep does well at the box office, it may lead to a spate of explicit sequels and spin-offs set in the 'King-verse'. If they shine as brightly as this warm and well-constructed supernatural thriller, that wouldn't be a bad thing.
Robert Abele, The Wrap: Ultimately this well-intentioned but unsatisfactory movie of "Doctor Sleep" suffers just like Dan Torrance does, trying to live its own life before succumbing to the tempting pull of recognizable terrors.
Simran Hans, The Guardian: The new material is fresher and considerably more fun. A cult who call themselves the True Knot are hunting children with powers, keeping the ghosts of the little boys and girls they catch in silver canisters. Led by Rebecca Ferguson's seductive, fearsome Rose the Hat, they eat screams and drink pain in exchange for a longer (if not necessarily eternal) life. In a striking, terrifically creepy image, Rose astral-projects herself into a victim's bedroom. She flies vertically to her destination, the camera swooping underneath to show her gliding face-down, like a bird.
Sam Adams, Slate: Those who love the ominous mystery of Kubrick's movie are likely to find Flanagan's baggy and overplotted, not to mention bristling at its literal-minded re-creation of Kubrick's iconic images. (Alex Essoe, who takes over the role of Wendy, does a startlingly good job of evoking Shelley Duvall's train whistle inflections without mimicking her; Henry Thomas, tasked with the role of embodying Wendy's late husband, falls before an admittedly impossible task.) Where The Shining mumbles some nonsense about Indian burial grounds as an all-purpose excuse for its lingering horrors, Doctor Sleep introduces us to Rose the Hat (Rebecca Ferguson) and her band of itinerant soul-eaters, a traveling caravan of quasi-immortal monsters who feast on the abilities of people like Danny, especially when they're young and pure.
Scott Tobias, NPR: When Kubrick's film starts to assert itself, particularly in the inevitable journey to the Overlook, Doctor Sleep starts to feel like secondhand cinema, drafting off the inimitable genius of another director. The True Knot rituals are mostly a bore - the usually excellent Ferguson tries way too hard to project sinewy menace - but the direct evocation of The Shining only serves as a reminder that these things that used to terrify us don't seem so threatening anymore. Those ghastly twins, REDRUM, Lloyd the bartender, the dreaded ax - all uncanny echoes in the audience's mind, just as they are in Dan's. They're no longer scary in their new context.
Kyle Smith, National Review: I couldn't resist being thrilled to hear that doomy Berlioz theme music when the movie takes us back up to the Rocky Mountain lodge where the events of the first film took place. Are we allowed to cheer when we see the hotel again? I felt like cheering. The term "fan service" comes to mind, though. It's like a class reunion at Hell High. There are moments in the final act when things turn a bit silly (one interlude in particular, a literal pile-on, seems unintentionally comical). Also, no one in any film, ever, should utter the words, "Shine on," especially not in one that takes off from The Shining.
Jennifer Ouellette, Ars Technica: It's Ewan McGregor's nuanced performance as Dan that anchors the film, along with that of his young co-star Kyliegh Curran, who plays Abra in a way that brings out both her innocence and her inner ferocity. She is stronger and more daring-and more ruthless-than young Danny ever was. That makes her a formidable threat to the True Knot. Every horror film needs a good villain, and Rebecca Ferguson is mesmerizing as Rose the Hat, equal parts seductive and sinister. It makes for a very tense and satisfying finale when all three finally face off at the Overlook for the final showdown.
A.A. Dowd, AV Club: The dirty trick of Doctor Sleep is that it's just another nostalgic franchise extension, turning one character's therapeutic journey into a convenient excuse to play the hits. Whether audiences will be willing to trudge through a slightly dopey, marginally similar fantasy yarn to reach the entrance of that old hotel is a question for the shiners.
Eric Kohn, Indie Wire: Even so, "Doctor Sleep" shows considerable effort to ingratiate itself to discerning cinephiles, from the moody Newton Brothers score to cinematographer Michael Fimognari's dark blue nighttime palette; as a whole, the movie conjures an eerie and wondrous atmosphere that blends abject terror with a somber, mournful quality unique to Flanagan's oeuvre. But his pandering to dueling source material results in a jagged puzzle beneath both of their standards.