One of the most interesting films of fall 2019, “Doctor Sleep,” follows Dan Torrance (the young boy from “The Shining”), the True Knot (a gang that feeds off killing people who “shine”) and a young girl named Abra.
While enjoyable, this movie does not carry the same feel as its predecessor. “The Shining” is a psychological thriller, using camera angles and eerie music to further terrify the audience. “Doctor Sleep,” however, is meant to be a separate story with a different feel.
This movie is a set of different sad life tales told through Dan Torrance. Haunted by the events at the Overlook Hotel, the loss of his mother and his friend, Dick Hollaran, the spirit of his father lives in Torrance through his alcoholism. Dan learns how to deal with his hauntings by “locking them in mental boxes,” alluding to struggles of PTSD.
As the movie progresses, Dan learns to utilize his “shining” again for the betterment of his life, helping those in hospice care pass onto the next life peacefully. When the climax of the movie is reached, Dan has fully redeemed himself for helping Abra escape from the clutches of Rose The Hat. While “The Shining” had no clear message at the end of the movie, Doctor Sleep does: you can overcome even the worst past.
This movie pulls a big plot point from the book “The Shining,” but alters that point ever so slightly. In the book, Jack Torrance, who briefly escapes the influence of the hotel, urges Dan to leave the hotel because he knows the boiler will eventually blow. In this movie, it is Dan who is possessed by the hotel and urges Abra to leave. This minor change adds continuity to the story, and actually made Stephen King happy. King was unhappy for the longest time about the film’s adaptation of “The Shining,” so this ending was a mutual good for both the audience and the author.
Ewen McGregor portrays Dan Torrance, a part that seemed unusual for McGregor. However, he plays the character with despondent honesty. His performance is both heartbreaking and authentic, as Torrance was meant to be played by someone who could play sadness accurately.
This movie builds from the less scary parts of “The Shining” and explains more about what “shining” really is. The most interesting plot points come from The True Knot, a group who tracks down those who shine and feeds off their energy. Rose The Hat, portrayed by Rebecca Ferguson, is a cold-hearted character who thrives off of making those who shine suffer when they die. Although her performance is slightly overlooked, Ferguson delivers a believable villain.
Jack Torrance makes an appearance in the form of a bartender, as portrayed by Henry Thomas. He has the same haircut and same persona as Jack Nicholson’s Jack Torrance, but does not attempt to do more with the character. One might think that is a bad thing, but frankly, Nicholson’s performance of Torrance needed to be left alone and this appearance is more for circumstantial context in regards to Dan’s personal growth.
All in all, as a fan of the predecessor, I enjoyed this movie a lot. It was slow in the first half, but Dan’s redemption tale needed time to blossom and the movie was just fun to watch. I would classify this movie as a horror, although the horror parts aren’t as scary as in “The Shining.” If you are someone who enjoys a good story and nostalgia from a thriller classic, I would go see this movie. Otherwise, all the references appear out of context. Rating: 8/10