Doctor Sleep is a great movie. Directed by Haunting of Hill House chief Mike Flanagan, it respects and honours both Stephen King’s original novel, The Shining and the Stanley Kubrick adaptation and also functions as an independent sequel. No easy task. The narrative follows Danny Torrance, years after the events at the Overlook Hotel and explores the more supernatural aspects of the Shining power. Nefarious beings get involved and drag Danny into the plot and ultimately, that leads him on the road to Colorado.
What’s in Colorado? The Overlook of course. Ewan McGregor’s Danny and Kyliegh Curran’s Abra are on the run from Rebecca Ferguson’s Rose The Hat, the leader of a deranged cult that feeds on the Shine for extended life. Abra just so happens to be one of the most powerful psychics in ages and Rose wants her power badly in order to gain a nice boost in life. Danny knows the odds are stacked against them so he rigs the game, as it were, and lures Rose to the Overlook, a place that also feeds on the power of the Shining.
While at the Overlook, Danny is course confronted with the demons of his past. One of those demons is his father, Jack. In the original Shining film, Jack was played by Jack Nicholson but here, he’s portrayed by Henry Thomas (Hill House). Throughout Doctor Sleep, original characters from Kubrick’s movie show up, including Danny’s mother, Wendy (played here by Alex Essoe) and Dick Halloraan (played by Carl Lumbly) to name a few. The film actually recreates some shots from that movie as well, including the infamous axe through the door shot.
But while these characters have all aged or passed, thus encouraging new actors to fill in the void, the same can’t be said about Nicholson’s portrayal of Jack Torrence. He’s an icon of horror and instantly recognizable. Having Henry Thomas-who does a fine job regardless-creates an uncanny valley feeling where the audience is left to wonder, is that supposed to be Jack?
Of course, the movie would be stuck in a rut regardless of what they did. Unless the CGI was flawless, arguably like how it was utilized in Blade Runner 2049, critics and fans would state that a digital Jack would also have the uncanny valley appearance. But I don’t quite understand why de-aging wasn’t used with Jack Nichelson on board to return to the role. Having someone else pretend to be Jack ultimately brought the scene down as this movie acts partly as a sequel to The Shining. Watching them back to back would make sense aesthetically, but there is this jarring inconsistency in the finale at the iconic Overlook. And despite Jack Torrence introducing himself as the bartender Lloyd, this is totally Jack.
That aside, I also saw Doctor Sleep and thought it was a surprisingly well-done movie, ranking very high on the list of all-time best Stephen King adaptations. This nip-pick aside, you should certainly see the movie, I just left the movie a little let down by what could have been one of the best scenes in the entire movie.
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