Friday, November 15, 2019

Doctor Sleep

I kind of expected this to be in the big room at the Somerville Theatre, but instead it was on screen #2 - maybe not quite their smallest there now, but still usually one for niche movies and things that have been around for a little bit. That's not a terribly auspicious start for a new Stephen King movie in New England, enough that I wonder a bit if it got swapped with Parasite after a disappointing opening night. Bummer if it did, because I wanted to see it on the big screen, but, on the other hand, good for Bong Joon-Ho!

It's the sort of film and audience reaction that makes me wonder how popular something actually is. We kind of take it as a given that The Shining is beloved and a masterpiece (the fact that King doesn't like it kind of only gives it more cred as a film), but to what extent is that actually true outside of film buffs? And, of that, how many like it in a way that has them open to a sequel that emphasizes the chilly aesthetic choices as much as the visceral fear? As much as I like Flanagan, he's not Kubrick, and the film shines best when it focuses on his warmth and sympathy as opposed to Kubrick's more harsh attitude.

Also: Those were some weird New England accents. I don't know many people from New Hampshire specifically, but this seemed pretty off.

Doctor Sleep

* * ¾ (out of four)
Seen 10 November 2019 in Somerville Theatre #2 (first-run, DCP)

Coming to Doctor Sleep as more of a fan of screenwriter/director Mike Flanagan than either Stephen King or The Shining makes for an odd experience, as he clearly is a fan making what sometimes feels like the biggest fan film he can. It's a good one, and a fairly decent fantasy in general, but when it's finished, the audience will likely remember its respectful recreation the most out of everything else that's done well here.

It opens with the familiar events with the Torrance family at the Overlook Hotel in 1980, but it turns out that Dan Torrence isn't the only one with what his mentor Dick Hallorann (Carl Lumbly) called a "shine". The ghosts from the Overlook chase him even into adulthood, but they may not be the most dangerous thing out there - a nomad calling herself Rose the Hat (Rebecca Ferguson) and her band have been preying on kids with a shine for a long time, bottling and drinking their essence to extend life and increase powers. She has taken on a new apprentice in Snakebite Andi (Emily Alyn Lloyd), and while Dan (Ewan McGregor) mostly just wants to keep his head down, his new home in New Hampshire puts him near Abra Stone, whose powers may be stronger than Dan's. At 15, Abra (Kyliegh Curran) is not inclined to hide, starting to investigate when she feels the ripples of Rose's group preying on another kid, which naturally puts a target on Abra.

Doctor Sleep is the sort of sequel that looks to expand the universe of its progenitor by introducing new elements, which can be a somewhat dicey proposition in a case like this - speaking as someone who has only seen the films, I don't necessarily think of The Shining as one that necessarily compels because of its unique ideas about how ghosts and psychic powers work as opposed to them being a material reflection of what's going on in his head. This film leans on such things much more, with Rose implying that there are classes of shiners, the lot talking about tricks, implying secret histories, leading to a climax that is built on Dan hatching a plan using these things that were mostly metaphorical as practical tools. It's a sort of mathematical approach to the material that is fun in its own way but doesn't provoke the same sort of emotional reaction.

Full review on EFilmCritic

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