Mike’s Review: Dr. Sleep (2019)

★★★.5 out of ★★★★★

Nearly 1,000 pages of creepy thoughts, actions, and psychic happenings were laid out between the Shining and its murderous offspring, Dr. Sleep.  It seemed impossible that 1) the Shining would be made in to a film, 2) that Stephen King would be so dissatisfied in one of the true horror greats, 3) that it would deserve a remake, 4) the story would evolve in to a 500 page psychedelic mishmash, and 5) that mishmash would be made in to its own celluloid opus.  Seem fantastical?  Well it is. 

Dr. Sleep, directed by Mike Flanagan (Hush, Absentia, and Oculus) picks up with Danny (Dan) Torrance (Ewan McGregor) deep in to the throws of alcoholism and perennially uncomfortable with his psychic powers, AKA his shine. Early on the film, Flanagan, not one to shy away from appropriation, shows a reimagined Danny as a little boy, his Mom Wendy, and the sage ghost Dick Hallorann.  Wendy and Danny have made the very conscious decision to get as far away from cold and the horrifying Overlook Hotel as possible, and they seek refuge in the sunny confines of coastal Florida.  Dick, the consummate ghostly teacher, helps Danny to face his fears and properly tuck them away for safe keeping. 

Sadly, the bottle takes hold of Dan’s life in nasty and brutish way where he’s relegated to dilapidated one-night stands, piles of cocaine, and shot after shot after shot. He does eventually hit rock bottom, however, the bottom in the book has a much deeper and terrifying consequence, not to mention the fact that the book’s rock-bottom is repeatedly visited throughout the film.  Danny eventually makes his way to New Hampshire, gets off the hooch, rediscovers his shine, and matures in to a super-palliative caregiver.  Helping those at the end of the life face the reality of death and sherpa them in to the afterlife.  

Fangoria! Woo!
Where have I seen this before?

Dan appears to be at peace with the newfound simplicity of his world when he’s psychically connected by a young girl, Abra (Kyliegh Curran) with a shine so bright there’s no escaping its glorious pull. But Dan’s not the only one who’s linked in to the world wide web of psychic wanderings. A vampiric group of dirtbag clairvoyants also become aware of Abra’s glory.  The group the True Knot are lead by a fierce weirdo, Rose the Hat, and collectively they’re hell-bent on stealing every last bit of shining life-force left on the planet. Rose the Hat and her circus of crackpots dial in to those with the shine and track them down and kill them. Once dead, these freaky vampires vape their pure essence right on out of existence. The ultimate elixir of youth and boundless vampirism.

Over the course of a decade Dan and Abra slowly become friends and develop a lasting and trust-based psychic bond.  Dan becomes “Uncle Dan” and Abra seeks counsel and psychic shelter from Dan. While their bond becomes greater so does Abra’s shine and eventually Rose the Hat’s want and desire to obtain her life-force. The cat and mouse game unfolds much in the same way as Stephen Kings novel — although it only plays out in the course of 50 minutes as opposed to 350 pages — and finally brings Dan, Abra, and Rose the Hat right back to where it all began, the Overlook Hotel. 

In a rather interesting, possibly pandering way, Flanagan takes a rather different approach to the ending of the film and radically departs from the book. While we won’t spoil the ending here, just know that it’s different in a way that can only be described as a “Shining’s Greatest Hits” sort of construct. Both the book and the film do end on a hopeful note and Flanagan ties the entire horror show in to clean and precise bow.  In all, Flanagan is able to take on this massive task by whittling much of the chaff away from an overly long tale and getting down to the pure spooky essence of the story.  Flanagan is also able to call back to the Shining, the Overlook Hotel, Grady, Dick Hallorann, and even Jack Torrance in a way that’s ultimately not a clumsy appropriation. Dr. Sleep will likely satisfy your hardened soul, but it probably won’t scare you.

Dr. Sleep is Rated R and currently streaming everywhere.

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