Sunday, November 10, 2019

Review: "Doctor Sleep" is the best Stephen King adaptation in years

Doctor Sleep Review

Its really been no secret since I started writing this blog how much I love Stephen King. Even though I like him very much as an author, I think any fan of his can at least partially agree that Hollywood never really figured out his adaptations. Great adaptations of his work are few and far between, and most of his best adaptations aren't even for his horror stories. There have been plenty of good ones, but those that really endure? I wouldn't say many.

One of the best adaptations of his work was Stanley Kubrick's "The Shining," and it feels a little ironic to say that, because the way Kubrick made that movie, its really not an adaptation. In the straight structured way we think of. Sometimes, I feel like directors won't adapt a story or make a remake...they make REACTIONS to things. Stanley Kubrick is a reaction to Stephen King's "The Shining." Its got the spine of King's book, but Kubrick grew some nuts and made a movie that said, "you know, here's how I would improve the story." That may make Kubrick sound conceited, but I don't mean it to be. Anytime somebody goes to make a movie, they have a chance to say something. I find it captivating when a director chooses to add criticism in something they are merely adapting.

Stephen King wrote "The Shining" in 1978. Kubrick's movie came out in 1980. If you didn't read the book or see his movie or if you even missed the 1997 mini-series, here's the breakdown. Jack Torrence is a recovering alcoholic that is trying to make ends meet. He takes the job of a winter caretaker for the Overlook Hotel which closes every winter. He takes his wife Wendy with him along with their son Danny, who has a variety of powers; mind reading, seeing events from the past and future, stuff like that, these powers are called "The Shine." Danny soon finds out that the Overlook Hotel is haunted, which amplifies his powers to the point that the hotel is dangerous for both him and his family.

This all leads us to "Doctor Sleep," a book that Stephen King wrote in 2013, which was sequel to his 1978 book "The Shining." Its a story that follows Danny Torrence, who is now an adult and who uses his powers at a hospice home to calm those who are about to die. Eventually a connects with a teenage girl named Abra who has some of the strong "Shine" powers of her own. This catches the attention of a cult called The Tied Knot, they are a group who may or may not have Shine powers, but they feed of people who do, and its giving them quasi-immortality. They intend to go after Danny's new friend Abra, and Danny plans to do whatever he can to make sure they don't.

The 2013 book may be a sequel to King's 1978 book, but "Doctor Sleep" the movie is a direct sequel to Kubrick's "The Shining." Much like Kubrick's original movie, don't plan on this sequel being very faithful to the original book. It is a movie that very much embraces the style of Kubrick's movie, without ripping it off completely. The way The Newton Brothers use pieces of the original score from "The Shining" and blending it into their new cold-blooded score is amazing. The way director Mike Flanagan recreates the 1980 feel of the first film in a couple of flashback scenes is monumental. It looks like you are watching the original movie, just with different actors. But lets talk about those different actors. Alex Essoe only appears as Wendy Torrence in a few scenes, but she does an incredible Shelley DuVall impression. Remember how Shelley's voice went up when she was acting hysteric in "The Shining?" Essoe does that perfectly. There are actually a couple of examples of old characters coming back from the original Shining, played by different actors, that is just jaw-droppingly awesome. But I don't want to give away all of the movie's secrets. Just know its a movie like this that proves all that current James Dean bullshit is just that...bullshit.

Ewan McGregor and Kyleigh Curran have a wonderful rapport as Dan Torrence and Abra. There is an easy chemistry that they develop from the beginning. They are total strangers to each other, but the movie gets us to buy their quick friendship and allows us to care about them. Because when Rebecca Ferguson shows up as Rose and brings the freaky Tied Knot around, things get creepy in a hurry. Ferguson has been building a strong filmography in just a few short years, and this is one of her best performances yet.

The movie builds a genuine unease over the course of its long running time. It never feels boring, it never feels like its stalling. Its scary in moments, its very creepy throughout and its delightfully weird in moments too. It features everything you'd really want from a Stephen King adaptation and it does so with ease. Mike Flanagan really dug deep to make this thing a profound adaptation and he mostly does an incredible job.

FINAL GRADE: A

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