Way, waaaaaaaaay back 1980, my father took thirteen or fourteen year old me to the just released horror film The Shining.
Yeah, I know. Excellent parenting, no?
Back then, I had little awareness of director Stanley Kubrick and his films. For that matter, I knew very little about author Stephen King, though I likely knew by that point the film was based on one of his novels.
We sat through the film and I was really embarrassed to be sitting next to my father when the completely nude woman in the bathtub appeared and what famously followed.
But other than that, I found the film a chore.
I really didn’t like it much at all and, when we left the theater, I suspect my father didn’t either (Now that I think about it, I should ask him…!).
Then, something really curious happened. The Shining showed up on TV here and there and I’d catch some minutes of it, then a few more, then still more.
And I’ll be damn if that film didn’t grow on me. I’m dense, I guess, but after a while I got it. I became a big fan of the movie and, in time, of director Stanley Kubrick, and today consider the movie one of my all time favorite horror features.
Those who know even a little about the movie and Stephen King likely know that Mr. King was not too fond of the film. In fact, he famously stated he was unhappy with the changes made to his novel. Some have speculated it was because Mr. King viewed the novel more personally than any other (the main character is a writer struggling with alcoholism while Mr. King famously also struggled with alcoholism and drug addiction).
Fans of Mr. King’s novels have been vocal in defending the novel and many consider it a far better work than the movie. I haven’t read the novel and can’t comment on that.
Mr. King was clearly bothered enough about the movie version that years later and in 1997 he personally produced a TV mini-series which was more faithful to the novel.
The mini-series, IMHO, sucked. I thought it was dull and in the end was completely lost in the shadow of its more famous movie version.
A few years later and in 2013, Mr. King would release a sequel to The Shining, Doctor Sleep. As with most King novels, it did well and, given the success of recent Stephen King movie adaptations (in particular It), it isn’t terribly surprising a film version was made. It was released last Friday and I got to see it a few hours ago…
…and I must say, I’m befuddled.
The film, directed by Mike Flanagan (The House on Haunted Hill) is well made. The acting is generally quite good.
But the film… it feels bloated and unfocused. Even worse, there are almost no big scares. In fact, I would describe the film as not all that frightening at all. Finally, when all is said and done, the movie’s main villains are… well… without getting too SPOILERY… they wind up being not all that hard to take down in the end.
But I’m getting ahead of myself.
Doctor Sleep concerns Danny (now Dan) Torrance (Ewan McGregor), first immediately after the events of The Shining (both book and movie. Reportedly Mr. Flanagan tried to bridge the gap between the novel and Kubrick film). After he’s grown, we find that, like his father before him, Dan has become an alcoholic. During these opening scenes we also meet up with a group of oddball cultists known as The True Knot. They are led by Rose The Hat (Rebecca Ferguson, quite good) and roam the highways in their vans and motor homes hunting people who have “The Shining”, ie psychic abilities. Their victims are small children, and the group kills these children and feed off their souls.
I couldn’t help but think this group had more than a little similarity to the vampires presented in the 1987 cult classic vampire film Near Dark…
The True Knot are in trouble: They are having a harder and harder time finding new victims, that is, until Abra Stone (Kyliegh Curran) has visions of their latest victim which in turn alerts The True Knot of her existence.
They hunger for her. Meanwhile Abra has psychically contacted Dan Torrance and, when it appears she is in danger, the two eventually team up to deal with The True Knot.
I won’t get into too many more spoilers about the film. I will say this: The movie takes a while to get going, presenting perhaps more information than was needed in the first act (Did we need to waste so much time with the backstory of Snakebit Andi?). Eventually, when things are sorted out and the players are revealed, the movie moves a little better but, again IMHO, things never really clicked as well for me and while I wouldn’t say I was hating what I saw, neither did I feel it was as interesting as I hoped it would be and the characters in The True Knot felt like -with the exception of Rose the Hat- they belonged in a cheap comic book. And, lest you think otherwise, I love comic books!
Worse, things became rather predictable and it was pretty obvious where the movie was going and where specifically the climax would occur.
In the end, I can’t recommend Doctor Sleep, despite the fact that the film was professionally done, both behind and in front of the camera. The story itself simply wasn’t that interesting and there were few -almost no!- scares, a very surprising fact given the film is supposed to be a horror movie.
Yet I wonder… given how I originally didn’t like The Shining when I originally saw it, is it possible that in time I may wind up liking Doctor Sleep?
Sadly, I don’t think so. Too bad.