Doctor Sleep: An Insubstantial Follow-Up to a Horror Classic (Blu-ray)


Note: This review is for the Director's Cut of the film.

The Film:

Without a doubt, Stanley Kubrick's cinematic adaptation of Stephen King's "The Shining" is considered one of the very greatest horror films ever made. The claustrophobic tension in the halls of the Overlook Hotel and the psychological terror of the film have hardly been equaled. That said, the movie and book both never seemed like works that ever needed a sequel, but that didn't stop King from churning out "Doctor Sleep" in 2013 in an effort to tell us what happened to little Danny Torrence after the events of the original story. Unsurprisingly, it was almost immediately put on the fast-track to be turned into a movie, and six years later, we have the finished product from writer/director Mike Flanagan ("The Haunting of Hill House"). Can an arguably unnecessary sequel possibly begin to measure up to the works that inspired it?

The film begins back in 1980, showing us Danny and Wendy trying to get on after the horrific events at the hotel. Danny is still haunted by the ghosts, but thanks to his friend Dick, he manages to trap them for good. Meanwhile, we meet a group of immortal creatures called the "True Knot," led by Rose the Hat (Rebecca Ferguson), who prolong their lives by preying on people with the ability to "shine." We then jump forward to 2011, where we find that older Danny (Ewan McGregor) has hit rock bottom. He has become an alcoholic to suppress his ability, but after a certain incident, he realizes that he has to change. After moving to a different town and getting help from his new friend Billy (Cliff Curtis), he takes a job as an orderly, which brings us to the present day. However, he soon finds himself entangled with a special young girl, Abra (Kyliegh Curran), who has discovered the True Knot's plot, making her a prime target. Together, these two shiners must do everything in their power to stop these creatures from continuing their wicked deeds.

A sequel to "The Shining" was not necessarily a bad idea. No doubt there were several interesting things that could have happened to Danny Torrence after leaving The Overlook Hotel, but unfortunately when it comes to "Doctor Sleep," that potential is not really taken advantage of. As noted at the start, this review is for the Director's Cut of the film, which runs about three hours. However, the narrative contained within isn't quite substantial enough to sustain such a runtime, and even with 30 minutes removed for the theatrical cut, it's hard to imagine it being enough then either.

The film is certainly well-made, with Flanagan adding some great horror flair here and there, paying tribute to the original film in certain artistic ways. The team even goes above and beyond for the last 30 minutes or so, recreating multiple locations from Kubrick's film right down to specific details (The Colorado Lounge, The Red Bathroom, The Gold Room, etc.). They even managed to find actors that very closely resembled Shelley Duvall, Danny Lloyd, Scatman Crothers, and Jack Nicholson. It's clear a lot of hard work went into making it, at least so far as to try and make you think of Kubrick's classic, but sadly it just doesn't do much to help the unengaging nature of the lax story.

It really just needed a little more to it, because looking at it from a narrative standpoint, the story is, in a sense, too simple for the extended runtime. Flanagan has basically taken a basic idea and stretched it into a great-looking three-hour horror epic. It ends up being another one of those films that's not bad, but not particularly good either. The visuals will dazzle for a little while as you watch, but the film itself will fade from your memory pretty quickly. It was certainly an interesting idea to try something like this (i.e. trying to follow-up one of the greatest and most famous horror films of all time), you'll just wish that they had thought a little harder about what that would entail.

Video/Audio:

"Doctor Sleep" comes to Blu-ray in a 1.85:1, 1080p High Definition transfer of excellent quality. Every frame of Flanagan's horror epic is beautifully sharp and clear, even in the darkest and gloomiest of scenes. The Dolby Atmos-TrueHD audio is likewise exceptional, giving you all of the dialogue, sound effects, and score in outstanding quality. Overall, Warner Bros. has given the film great treatment, resulting in a great experience in both areas.

Special Features:

From Shining to Sleep (5 Minutes): A brief featurette that has author Stephen King and writer/director Mike Flanagan discussing the film.

The Making of Doctor Sleep: A New Vision (14 Minutes): An intriguing featurette that takes you behind the scenes of the film, featuring interviews with the cast and crew.

Return to the Overlook (15 Minutes): A fascinating featurette that has the cast and crew discussing recreating the various sets and characters from the original film.

Conclusion:

Mike Flanagan's cinematic adaptation of Stephen King's "Doctor Sleep" is visually-striking and beautifully made, but an insubstantial narrative stretched out to three hours sadly make it a film that fades from memory pretty quickly. Continuing the story of Danny Torrence wasn't necessarily a bad idea, it ultimately just needed a little more thought put into it to make it actually worth returning to.

Score: 3/5

Available on Blu-ray and DVD starting tomorrow.

Follow me on Twitter @BeckFilmCritic.