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  Doctor Sleep Overlook The Point
Year: 2019
Director: Mike Flanagan
Stars: Ewan McGregor, Rebecca Ferguson, Kyliegh Curran, Cliff Curtis, Zahn McClarnon, Emily Alyn Lind, Selena Anduze, Robert Longstreet, Carel Struycken, Catherine Parker, Bruce Greenwood, Jocelin Donahue, Carl Lumbly, Henry Thomas, Jacob Tremblay, Alex Essoe
Genre: HorrorBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: Back in 1980, Dan Torrance (Ewan McGregor) suffered a life-changing scare when trapped in the snowbound Overlook Hotel with his parents, as his father went insane and tried to murder him and his mother (Alex Essoe) with an axe. Even at that tender age, Dan suspected there was more to his father's rampage than his alcoholism, as he appeared to be under possession by a force in the hotel itself which coveted the power Dan had, something termed the shining, a psychic ability that made him both special and extremely vulnerable. But there are those around who can detect the shining away from the Overlook, and feed on it as a vampire would on blood. Can adult Dan defeat them?

Doctor Sleep was supposed to be the big horror movie of 2019, riding the crest of a wave of Stephen King's revival of interest in his work, but as it was another King adaptation, IT Chapter Two, mopped up at the box office (despite middling reactions), where the sequel to The Shining faltered and only brought in returns comparable to the rash of low-to-medium budget efforts that were more profitable in the long run. Successes that year were things like Midsommar or Ready or Not, and they were not blockbusters, they were made with canny use of their funds to appeal to horror fans, who while numerous did not by any means make up the majority of moviegoers in this century.

Not that Doctor Sleep landed with a thud among those who did see it, it was welcomed in some quarters as a worthy follow-up to an absolute behemoth of a horror from director Stanley Kubrick, a work that while one of the major cult movies of the turn of the seventies into the eighties cinematic chiller boom, was never going to have mass appeal beyond the film buffs who held Kubrick up as a master of his art. And certainly at this stage in his career, which showed competence more often than inspiration, the director here, Mike Flanagan, was not going to be raised to the pantheon of all-time geniuses in the movie format, especially not when he was so slavish in recreating the original.

This was not an original script, as it was drawn from King's novel sequel to his seventies classic, partly instigated by his musing over what would happen to Danny Torrance when he grew up, much as he had with Peter Straub when they penned Black House, the sequel to their unfilmed at this stage The Talisman, which returned to the child protagonist as an adult. What gave that book more resonance was that Dan was not a well-adjusted man after his trauma as a kid, it had seriously messed him up being almost murdered by his father, and that combined with a terror he would turn into his psychotically violent parent had driven him to alcoholism, just as it had to Jack Torrance. This sorrow that events detailed in big, splashy horror novels would have tragic consequences down the line for the characters who survived was one of King's best ideas.

But Doctor Sleep was not going to be an all-time great Stephen King book otherwise, as while it had that premise, the narrative he built around it was not as satisfyingly simple and cold-blooded, despite villains who commit the worst acts imaginable on children to survive. Still, it made for a reliable pageturner as it was, and a bit of a plod as a film, not least because Flanagan, writing his own screenplay, gradually abandoned King's source to pay tribute to Kubrick, which King never liked anyway. Fair enough, the director managed to do so without tying himself in too many knots, but nothing here had the warped tension of Kubrick taking The Shining's story by the scruff of the neck and rendering it with a mystery that gave it an infusion of utter madness even the resolution could not contain, from its weird humour, intense, heightened lack of logic that made a horrible sense while it played out, and a geometry comparable to H.P. Lovecraft's own deranged fictions. Here you simply admired the production design, Rebecca Ferguson's interesting villainess, and McGregor's wounded decency; it was fatally unexciting otherwise. Music by The Newton Brothers.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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