When I first heard they were making a film of Doctor Sleep, I wasn’t exactly excited. Scheduled to be released, as it was, the same year as ‘It chapter 2’, which is the film that I’d been anticipating for years.
I didn’t feel there was enough of an audience for another Stephen King adaption (after the terrible Pet Semetery remake and the upcoming It 2) and I wasn’t entirely sure that I wanted it to come out in the same year as something I knew was going to be amazing.
The trailer itself also struck me is rather lacklustre, I was excited by the fact that Ewan McGregor was in it but nothing in the trailer led me to believe that he was going to be used to his best advantage. He’s a magnificent actor, very undervalued, and I wanted to see him stretch. I was also unsure of Rebecca Ferguson as Rose the Hat as she was such an iconic figure in the book and so menacing; I haven’t seen Rebecca Ferguson play this type of character before and wasn’t sure she could pull it off.
What was exciting was the director- Mike Flanagan, the person responsible for Hush and Ouija: Origin of Evil, two films that are greatly under-rated; extremely tense, extremely well made, and very creepy.
When it came out I was definitely planning to see it but I didn’t rush to the theatre the minute it opened; and that was my mistake, because this film is great.
A sequel to The Shining (Kubrick’s film version, not the novel version) we catch up with Danny Torrance just after the events of The Overlook Hotel. His mother has moved them to a sleepy seaside town, far from the snowy horror they have escaped but it seems the ghoulish inhabitants of that doomed hotel have come along for the ride. He needs to learn new ways to combat them and a timely visit from the dearly departed Dick Halloran gives him the tools to do so.
Years later and Danny is now a troubled McGregor, using alcohol and hard-heartedness to get by, his newly acquired job and a chance at sobriety point him onto a healthier way of living and way to use his ‘powers’ – easing the dying to their final destination in a hospice.
He is contacted by young Abra Stone, a young girl who also knows how to ‘shine’ and needs his help in stopping the ‘True Knot’ led by the terrifying ‘Rose the Hat’. True Knot are a travelling group of almost-vampires who feed on the steam released by people who shine when they are dying, and tortured to death releases the best and most powerful steam.
Now they must team up to try and keep Abra safe and stop the truly Machiavellian plans of True Knot.
Ewan McGregor is perfectly cast in role that allows him to be almost mild-mannered and yet that vulnerability hides a strength of character forged by hardships, he is never not believable and brings with him a nice sense of groundedness that was important in such a central character around which so many supernatural occurrences gravitate.
Rebecca Ferguson blew me away with how absolutely terrifying she was; nasty, unpredictable and seductive in a way I had not expected her to be. Rose The Hat is a powerful entry into the villain hall-of-fame and Ferguson nails the part. I am honestly shocked at how totally she embodied and made this part her own. If film awards and those who bestow them weren’t such snobs when it comes to horror, I’m sure there would be accolades coming her way.
Kyliegh Curran playing Abra Is convincing as the conduit of such unwieldy and frightening power that it attracts the True Knot like bugs to a lamp. She is endearing without being cloying.
There is also solid support from Cliff Curtis, Zahn McClarnon and Emily Alyn Lind just to name a few. There are no bad performances here.
The screenplay felt measured and the pacing perfect, this film takes its time to tell a story that is happy to have down beats spread throughout, it wants the push/pull of tension and calm.
The recreations of scenes and characters from The Shining by Stanley Kubrick are so well done you would think they had been filmed at the time, and they add a lovely nostalgia to the whole proceedings.
The violence is visceral and nasty, I liked that no one felt safe; this was a film that didn’t care if it hurt you. There is one scene where a child is tortured (the always good Jacob Tremblay in a small but impactful part) that was difficult to watch, it felt so very real and cruel. No wonder Ferguson said she cried for some time after shooting it. There are losses on both sides that hurt, victories that cost almost too much.
This is a good horror, and more to the point, a good film; and its a shame more people didn’t see it – they would have been rewarded with a richly characterised, beautifully filmed story about connections, finding your tribe, embracing your ‘flaws’ and moving on.
Go see it.