Combustible Celluloid
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With: Ewan McGregor, Rebecca Ferguson, Kyliegh Curran, Cliff Curtis, Carl Lumbly, Zahn McClarnon, Emily Alyn Lind, Bruce Greenwood, Jocelin Donahue, Alex Essoe, Zackary Momoh, Jacob Tremblay, Roger Dale Floyd
Written by: Mike Flanagan, based on a novel by Stephen King
Directed by: Mike Flanagan
MPAA Rating: R for disturbing and violent content, some bloody images, language, nudity and drug use
Running Time: 151
Date: 11/08/2019

Doctor Sleep (2019)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Shine On

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

While it could never compare to Stanley Kubrick's The Shining, this sequel is a leisurely, likable mix of character development and effective scares, though marred by some strong violence toward kids.

In Doctor Sleep, Danny Torrance and his mother escape the Overlook Hotel after the events of The Shining, and attempt to move on with their lives. But Danny is still haunted by the spirits from that place. Dick Hallorann appears and teaches Danny how to lock the spirits way, so that they can never bother him again. Years later, Danny (Ewan McGregor) has become an alcoholic and a drifter.

He arrives in a small town, where Billy Freeman (Cliff Curtis) helps get him a job as an orderly in a hospital and takes him to AA meetings. Now he is contacted by young Abra Stone (Kyliegh Curran), who "shines" in a very strong way. Unfortunately, Abra has also attracted the attention of Rose (Rebecca Ferguson), an evil being who travels with a pack of ageless followers and eats the essence of those who "shine." Can Danny help Abra before it's too late?

Based on Stephen King's novel and written and directed by Mike Flanagan, Doctor Sleep tackles its most difficult obstacle — attaching itself to its predecessor — admirably. Flanagan, whose previous King adaptation Gerald's Game was also very strong, uses a few quick clips from Kubrick's film, but mostly re-films it, using lookalike actors. This points the focus toward the new story, which McGregor carries nicely with a strongly sympathetic performance. Scenes of Danny at work, sitting with patients who are about to die (and earning his nickname "Doctor Sleep") are wonderfully tender.

Additionally, young Curran displays great strength and screen presence, and the two make a fine pair. Ferguson's villainess is a little one-dimensional, but she plays the role with an infectious joy and sensuality. Already a horror expert, Flanagan delivers a few spooky moments, sometimes inspired by the original, but frequently his own. Even the lengthy running time tends to add depth, rather than feeling bloated.

But while Doctor Sleep is mostly worth seeing, it crosses a line when it depicts the villains' ruthless violence toward kids; the screaming of skilled young actor Jacob Tremblay will cause most viewers' blood to run cold.

Warner Bros. Home Video's huge Blu-ray release contains two discs: the 152-minute theatrical cut, and a whopping 180-minute director's cut, which is said to be "more literary," with a spookier, slower pace. (I haven't seen it yet, but I will update this review when I do.) Picture and sound quality is, unsurprisingly, superb. On the theatrical cut disc, bonus features include three featurettes, one about 5 minutes and the others about 15 minutes, featuring interviews with King, Flanagan, and others.

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