Coming to theatres this week from director Mike Flanagan and Warner Bros. Pictures based on the novel by Stephen King is DOCTOR SLEEP.
Danny Torrance and mother Wendy escaped the nightmare in 1980 to living in Florida. He has managed to learn from Dick Hallorann (Carl Lumbly) how to lock up the horror of the Overlook Hotel. Now in 2011, Dan (Ewan McGregor) deals with past trauma by bathing in any bottle of alcohol he can get his hands on. After an incident with a one night stand, Dan hops a bus landing in a small town greeted by Billy Freeman (Cliff Curtis).
Not only does Billy help get Dan settled but helps find him a job at a hospice. Not expecting to stay long he finds that after sobriety and a feeling of peace, he can stay a while. He also earns the name Doctor Sleep for the ability to comfort patients into their time to pass. In his room on the wall he starts receiving friendly message of greetings from young Abra (Kyliegh Curran)who also has The Shining.
A group called True Knot is led by Rosie the Hat (Rebecca Ferguson) but they are not friendly. What they are is a group of feeders who take those who shine and steal the steam they produce in their dying moments of fear. Finding it harder and harder to get kids that produce the steam they need to stay ageless, their supply grows slim. When the group led by lover Crow Daddy (Zahn McClarnon) kidnaps a young boy, Abra connects to him and sees everything as it happens.
Reaching out to Dan, he tells her to stay away from the group and close herself off to them. But Abra isn’t about to let Rosie get away with it. Connecting in a way she never has, Rosie realizes that this young girl produces an unprecedented amount of steam. In a second attempt to connect, Abra gives Rosie something to remember but sets off an anger that will not be tamed.
Now Danny knows he has to help Abra to stay alive at all costs. He knows there is one place that Rosie won’t see coming. He has to take the young Abra as well so that they can work together to stop what Rosie has planned for them both. Of course it also means that Dan must come face to face with the very ghosts who took his father and tried to end his life.
The Overlook isn’t finished quite yet!
McGregor as the older Danny Torrance does an excellent job of showing the trauma caused by what happened at the now defunct and dilapidated hotel. Drinking and engaging in behaviors that could kill him just as easily as the woman in the bathtub, he manages to dry out and find another way to deal with his past. Being a comfort to those in the last stages of life give him a place in the world. Even his chalkboard friendship with Agra gives him a smile or two every day. When everything starts to take an insane turn that he clearly recognizes, he could easily walk away but there is something inside him that now refuses to let any creature win. I appreciated his performance.
Curran as Abra is such an amazing young lady. Her first experience with True Knot is traumatic and beyond belief to see on the screen (yes, that’s my warning), but while trying to track down the group she discovers powers she never knew she had. I love the scenes where she gets in the face of those trying to do her harm and stands up for herself several times. The scenes between Curran and McGregor are also intense and endearing at the same time.
Ferguson as Rosie the Hat is completely and utterly terrifying. It is not just in what she is capable of doing but the sly smile why she says and does things. Personally I was captivated by her performance and can honestly say that how her character ends up is equally as utterly terrifying. It is an ingenious performance and I can honestly say that maybe King should consider writing a story just based on Rosie because she talks about living through the ages (very vampirish) and what has been seen. That could make for another frightful tale!
Lumbly as Hallorann is a face that brings comfort in the mix of all the terror. He knows how to help Danny and you can feel the connection between the characters even in adulthood. Curtis as Billy is a man who sees something in Dan that says ‘help me’ and doesn’t hesitate to do just that. Even when Dan comes to him with a story that most would consider insane, he is by Dan’s side.
McClarnon as Crow Daddy believes in everything Rosie does and usually does not question her. But when the problem of having steam arises, he lets her know that the group is suffering. He will do whatever she asks but best be sure he has just as much of an evil side as Rosie does.
Couple of shout outs – Jacob Tremblay as Bradley Trevor is a young actor who does a scene that will stay in my head for longer than I’d ever like it to. Also Danny Lloyd as a spectator at the ball game, just study that face and see if you recognize who he is.
Other cast include Emily Alyn Lind as Snakebite Andi, Carel Struycken as Grandpa Flick, Robert Longstreet as Barry the Chunk, Catherine Parker as Silent Sarey, Met Clark as Short Eddie, Selena Anduze as Apron Annie, Jocelin Donahue as Lucy Stone, Alex Essoe as Wendy, Zackary Momoh as Dave Stone, Henry Thomas as Lloyd the Bartender, Bruce Greenwood as Dr. John Dalton.
DOCTOR SLEEP is going to be a complicated review because there is so much I liked and a few things that disappointed me and I’ll do my best to make sure I don’t give anything away. I like the storyline about where Dan is now in his life because most of us would have thought that what happened at the Overlook Hotel would screw up anyone’s head. The torture of what he can’t get away from is clear and when he discovers a way to deal with it, it’s like a wave of hope washes over McGregor’s portrayal of him, at least for a while.
There is so much darkness in the film coming from the True Knot but it leads Dan and Abra to working together and that’s something the young Danny didn’t have. Abra is so powerful but she doesn’t hide from it as Danny did by using Tony. The young girl jumps in and makes her presence known and although it puts her life in danger, she walk away.
Once in the Overlook I felt like I was ‘home’ if you know what I mean. The layout is insanely (wow, that’s a word to describe it right?) memorable down to the 60s patterned orange carpet. The bathtub room, the bar, the room where Jack Torrance typed ‘All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy’, the elevators – it’s all there and tattered. That’s when I immersed myself in the story because I wanted one – thing – to – happen. It sort of did. Now, if I may, there is a scene between Ewan McGregor and Bruce Greenwood, look for it and jaw drop!
Now, for a few questions I have, with all of the technology and all of the CGI available, why wasn’t it used? It isn’t as if the director needed to recreate the wheel, just upgrade the wheels that are already there! I know, I know I’m being so vague but trust me when I say you’ll ask yourself the same questions within the first five minutes. I wanted a bit of the original.
All of that vaguely being said I don’t think THE SHINING fans will be hugely disappointed, in fact it don’t think it will take long before Dan and Abra are embraced as much as Danny and Wendy once were. The terror these two characters must endure had to eventually happen because even Dan and Abra know that they can’t live their lives hiding from ever supernatural entity that wants them for their gifts and it’s time to fight back.
In the end – the world will shine again!