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  • Writer's pictureAbigail Gardner

Don't Sleep on Doctor Sleep

It's the Holiday season and we all hate our families- so what should we do about it? Allow me to suggest the following coping mechanism to the group: watching Mike Flanagan’s marvelously chilling adaptation of Stephen King’s Doctor Sleep in a theatre near you ASAP.

Why should you go see this movie right now?


Obvious Reasons

  • Stephen King is a modern day legend in the field of spine tingling tales of horror and the supernatural meaning any adaptation of his written work to screen should automatically be consumed by any human being walking this earth with a dash of common sense.

  • This movie is simultaneously a follow up to Stanley Kubrick’s film version of The Shining, possibly the scariest and most off putting movie of all time, and at the same time tells the story of Dan Torrance as chronicled in Stephen King’s sequel to his bestselling novel The Shining. This makes it a perplexing must-see.

  • The movie has vampire gypsies as well as a cat which is in several scenes, who is also a main character in the book (Azriel).

  • Ewan McGregor plays Dan Torrance (‘nuff said).

  • The movie theatre where you see it will likely be empty (because it’s unfortunately struggling at the box office) which will provide you with some much needed you-time away from your family members this holiday season.

Before I get into my actual opinions on the movie allow me to illuminate a few truths that you should accept before buying a ticket.

Things You Have To Accept:

The book is about steampunk vampires who eat kid’s Shining. At least it’s not a retelling of The Shining about a different haunted hotel or a weak rehash of that sort- give the book props for introducing original fresh characters, action, and scenery.

Nothing will ever equal or surpass Stanley Kubrick’s or Stephen King’s original masterpieces

(although Stephen King disagrees with me on this one). Really let this sink in and try to move forward with an open mind to Mike Flanagan’s flair and finesse.

There is only one Jack Nicholson, but there can be many Jack Torrance's. Does this make sense? Allow me to diverge from my bullet points here to explore this statement.

Jack Nicholson was not brought back to play Jack Torrance in the movie- that role went to Flanagan alumni and everyone’s favorite friend to extraterrestrials, Henry Thomas. Was it weird to see a different actor filling those iconic alcoholic shoes? I mean, yes, I guess, a little. The hair and make up and even the camera angle was all working in the actor’s favor but it’s very, very hard to replace a face like Jack Nicholson’s, especially when audiences have grown accustomed to immaculate CGI (think young Kurt Russel in GotG Vol 2) de-aging. For as important and impactful as that scene and character reveal was, and despite the fact that the movie had brought The Overlook back to life and filled it with all the familiar ghostie people (and my heart with joy)- that scene took me out of the film just enough to irk me a little.

I didn’t want to be taken out of that particular scene either because the relationship between Dan Torrance and his abusive father, Jack, is what I find most captivating about Stephen King’s book. Actually the concept of parents being the real monsters is one of the themes that carries throughout all of my favorite Stephen King stories.

Thankfully, Doctor Sleep delivered on some of the other chunks of the book that I connected with most- specifically Dan Torrance’s relationship with and recovery from alcoholism. If you haven’t read the book or seen the movie let me spoil some shit for you- all the heroes are in AA. Well, except for the gifted little girl (there’s always a gifted little girl), Abra Stone, because she is like 14. Setting a large portion of this book inside the clandestine walls of an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting room in freezing cold Maine was some of the best on screen stuff from this movie as well as my favorite story portion from the novel. I love watching a flawed character recover and progress- fucking redemption arcs; GIVE THEM TO ME.

Doctor Sleep warmed my heart and chilled my spine all at the same time. I’m glad that Mike Flanagan made this movie and I’m glad he’s making Stephen King adaptations. He has a special way of extracting King’s unique perspective- of getting the sodium arc lighting just so to prick a few hairs on the back of your neck. More than that though I think that Flanagan understands how to deliver on the heart and soul stuff that IS Stephen King. May I present to the group, Dick Hallorann. His inclusion and dialogue in this movie was honestly some of my absolutely favorite moments in the entire two and a half hours. Mega shout out to Carl Lumbly for nailing the cadence and bringing the softness and sadness to a character who is very close to my heart.

I feel I should give this movie a rating or 1-10 ranking, because that’s what most reviews do, but I hate following rules and doing what other people do. Instead I’m going to rate it on an Apotheosis Scale (of one to ten). I give this movie 9/10 Apotheosiss'. God, I can’t possibly end my write up about Doctor Sleep like that, instead allow me to leave you with a Dick Hallorann quote from the second to last page of The Shining that has warmed my heart and helped me as many times as I’ve gone back and pulled the book off the shelf to read it-

“Danny? You listen to me. I’m going to talk to you about it this once and never again this same way. There’s some things no six-year-old boy in the world should have to be told, but the way things should be and the way things are hardly ever get together. The world’s a hard place, Danny. It don’t care. It don’t hate you and me, but it don’t love us, either. Terrible things happen in the world, and they’re things no one can explain. Good people die in bad painful and leave the folks that love them all alone. Sometimes it seems like it’s only the bad people who stay healthy and prosper. The world don’t love you, but your momma does and so do I. You’re a good boy. You grieve for your daddy, and when you feel you have to cry over what happened to him, you go into a closet or under your covers and cry until it’s all out of you again. That’s what a good son has to do. But see that you get on. That’s your job in this hard world, to keep your love alive and see that you get on no matter what.”

The holidays are stressful. Family drama can suck and drain you like a traveling gypsy vampire. At least we have people like Stephen King writing relatable inspirational books about the subject and Mike Flanagan to take those stories out of our heads and onto the screen. Do yourself a lil favor- go buy a big popcorn (or stock your purse with candy from the gas station beforehand like I do) and buy yourself one ticket to Doctor Sleep tonight at your local movie theatre.



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