DOCTOR SLEEP (2019) Review

Horror connoisseurs mostly love Kubrick’s version of The Shining (1980), although some vehement King devotees side with the pulp godfather that the film is a travesty, bemoaning bitterly that the hedge animals should have been running about and tormenting the Torrances. But the the majority of horror film enthusiasts who count Kubrick’s cold, obsessive, and chilling vision among their very favorite films must have shuddered in joy when the booming, brooding, ominous Berlioz theme comes rushing high above the thickly forested vistas in a welcome return to the unhappy and lonely world which Kubrick unleashed to theaters once upon a time like a contagious nightmare. 

The opening scene is a surprisingly brutal one, harking back to the golden period of King, to when he was endowed with the gift of being one of the best pulp writers of all time, to when he wrote about characters you cared about, class struggles the 99% could relate to, briskly moving plots you couldn’t turn away from, moments of true terror that made one question the sanity of the author and one’s own, risks into dark realms one contemplated turning away from but could not. There are other Redrum scenes (the unflinching and terrifying murder of The Baseball Kid and the casual offscreen murder of Abra’s father, for instance) which are again (like the opening scene) devoid of histrionic heroics one comes to expect from big Hollywood films.

In another atypically gritty scene, adult Danny Torrance (played by Ewen Mcgregor) steals money from a poor bar hag while her sad toddler wanders about their hovel with an overflowing diaper. Later, Danny will meet a young girl in a movie theater who warns him, “the next time you go look for little girls online, remember that you got bit by a snake,” which could be something else to lock up in a box, alongside the decaying naked elderly woman from room 237, as the ghost of Dick Hallorann suggests to Danny. 

But Pandora’s box (or, in this case, Danny’s boxes) is (are) too tempting not to open and, in the film’s final scenes, we return to The Overlook Hotel for a pastiche which is somehow devoid of the sinister grime coating the hollow-eyed windowpanes of Kubrick’s original, uncompromising vision. 

Today is May 1st, 2020, and Doctor Sleep is currently streaming on various VOD streaming services.      

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