Doctor Sleep

 

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In the year’s second outing from Stephen King, more young children are slaughtered for our delectation.

 

Doctor Sleep

Upon her soul: Rebecca Ferguson and Emily Alyn Lind

    

The Shining is one of the most referenced and parodied horror films of all time. It’s odd, then, to come across a movie that takes it all so seriously. Based on Stephen King’s follow-up novel of 2013, Doctor Sleep feels less like a sequel than a distant relative, a mad great-uncle, perhaps. Most people remember The Shining for Jack Nicholson’s manic performances as the mentally unravelling writer Jack Torrance. Here, it’s his son Danny who takes centre stage, now all grown-up and dealing with more down-to-earth demons such as alcoholism, loose women and an uncontrollable temper. As played by Ewan McGregor, he’s not an entirely unsympathetic character, even when he’s nicking a wad of cash from a one-night stand.

 

But Danny is only half the story – well, a third, to be exact. Doctor Sleep being almost as long as Stephen King’s It Chapter Two, there’s a lot of narrative in-filling to be done, and so we skip between the stories of 'Rose the Hat' (Rebecca Ferguson) and Abra Stone (Kyliegh Curran), too. The former is a good-looking ancient who preys on the souls of young children, sucking up their life force as she guts them. And Abra Stone is a 13-year-old girl with special gifts, who puts the party magician hired by her parents to shame. Eventually, the paths of Danny, Rose and Abra are bound to cross, but it’s a horrendously long wait.

 

When Stanley Kubrick directed The Shining in 1980, he had previously brought us Dr. Strangelove, 2001: A Space Odyssey and A Clockwork Orange. The director of Doctor Sleep, Mike Flanagan, has Oculus, Before I Wake and Ouija: Origin of Evil under his belt. It may be an unkind comparison, but no less cruel than the 152 minutes viewers will be forced to undergo during this long-winded, laboured and mainly rather dull endurance test. Rather than employ CGI to conjure up characters from the first film, Flanagan has opted for lookalikes, which, instead of inducing blind panic, prompts unintentional giggles. And for a film chock-full of potential horror, it’s not a good sign that the most disturbing moment arrives when a now teetotal Danny is tempted by a glass of Scotch. Thus, the best line is when Danny says, “the mind is like a blackboard – and booze is the eraser.”

 

JAMES CAMERON-WILSON

 

Cast: Ewan McGregor, Rebecca Ferguson, Kyliegh Curran, Carl Lumbly, Zahn McClarnon, Emily Alyn Lind, Bruce Greenwood, Jocelin Donahue, Cliff Curtis, Robert Longstreet, Carel Struycken, Jacob Tremblay, Violet McGraw, Alex Essoe, Nicholas Pryor, Henry Thomas, Danny Lloyd.

 

Dir Mike Flanagan, Pro Trevor Macy and Jon Berg, Screenplay Mike Flanagan, Ph Michael Fimognari, Pro Des Maher Ahmad, Ed Mike Flanagan, Music The Newton Brothers, Costumes Terry Anderson.

 

Intrepid Pictures/Vertigo Entertainment-Warner Bros.

152 mins. USA. 2019. Rel: 31 October 2019. Cert. 15.