Introducing his The Shining sequel, in London last week, director Mike Flanagan spoke about the need to juggle the twin demands of faithfulness to Stephen King’s book and Stanley Kubrick’s superlative horror classic – a film that was incidentally hated by the author. The end result: Doctor Sleep, may well tick the requisite boxes of faithfulness, but in its eagerness to provide authenticity, it revealed itself to be a freakish and frequently dull chimera.
Years after the events of The Shining, Dan Torrance (Ewan McGregor) is living quietly, but frequently tormented by visions of his traumatic youth. Simultaneously, a shine-sensitive band of criminals lead by the inanely named Rose the Hat (Rebecca Ferguson) – a sobriquet so straightforwardly bland that any other character may henceforth be called Keith the Shoes, or Paul the Pince-nez – are murdering anyone with the gift and consuming a cloudy essence that escapes their corpses. Their cross-country killing spree puts them onto Abra (Kyliegh Curran) a young girl with a gift for shining. Recognising the danger, she contacts Dan forming a union and forcing Rose the Hat and her followers into a psychic showdown at the Overlook Hotel.
You have to feel for Ewan McGregor, a man who seems to latch onto popular movie properties just in time to see all sense of magic escape them. He tries his utmost best to impart a sense of tortured conflict in a role that seems ultimately more preoccupied with the perennial King antagonist: alcohol – shoehorning back in a subtext that was largely diluted in Kubrick’s adaptation – than spirits of any other kind.
For it’s first two-thirds it labours along with an admirable sense of determination, if little in the way of vim or flair. You can’t, however, escape the building sense of redundancy. The movie is on a promise to itself to “reward” its audience with the prerequisite Shining throwbacks and so, as it ticks over to the two-hour mark, tumbles voluntarily down a rabbit hole of kitsch repetition.
Flanagan seems keen to create for himself a finale that exists as a complement and extension of the Kubrick original. In practice, though, he has conjured up a tribute act that merrily retreads the exact steps of its predecessor while pretending to do the opposite. Accuracy trumps invention and you’re left with a disjointed brew of two distinct halves: one that views as original if dull, and another which watches like a smart-arse piece of fan fiction.
Horror | USA, 2019 | 15 | 31st October 2019 (UK) | Warner Bros. | Dir.Mike Flanagan | Ewan McGregor, Rebecca Ferguson, Alex Essoe, Kyleigh Curran, Cliff Curtis, Bruce Greenwood, Jacob Tremblay