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Doctor Sleep: Here’s Danny!

31 October, 2019 — By Dan Carrier

Ewan McGregor in Doctor Sleep

DOCTOR SLEEP
Directed by Mike Flanagan
Certificate 15
☆☆☆

STEPHEN King followed up The Shining many years later with his novel Doctor Sleep: it tells the story of what happened to Danny, the child, who in Kubrick’s super-scary 1977 film had visions – and whose father, played by Jack Nicholson, goes on a murderous bender.

This adaptation draws on some of the greatest screen images of the original, to remind the viewer of its impeccable roots, but comprehensively does not, as so many follow-ups do, basically give us the same story twice.

We meet Danny and his mother a few months after they have escaped from the Overlook Hotel: Danny is haunted by his gift, but also finds ways to cope.

The film then dashes forward to Danny as an adult (played by Ewan McGregor). He is a drifter, a drinker, always on the move, trying to escape from both his past and the present.

He has his shining under control and finally settles in a small New Hampshire town, where good Samaritan Billy (Cliff Curtis) takes him under his wing, helps him get a job and somewhere to stay, and hopefully put his past behind him. He ends up working in a hospice, using his special gifts to help those about to die to find comfort as they breathe their last.

Except, of course, Danny’s shining is powerful and there are people out there who, because of it, wish him harm.

Meanwhile, youngster Abra (Kyleigh Curran) telepathically gets in touch with him – and the two discover they are facing grave dangers because of their mind-bending quirk.

The shining is a special gift a few have (like being X Men). There is a group of Shiners, led by chief witch Rose The Hat (Rebecca Ferguson) who are addicted to feeding on the “souls” of Shiners – and so they kidnap them and slowly kill their prey, as the shining is released as a form of vapour when the person who has it is in pain or scared . . .

This is two films spliced together. We have one section that is essentially a modern vampire movie – the type of thing Robert Pattinson used to gambol about in – and then a homage to Kubrick’s hit.

It is in no way scary – not in the same league as The Shining – though it has the odd jump and some rather unpleasant moments. But the psychological element – was the whole thing cooked up in Jack Torrance’s alcohol-soaked mind? Did Danny really have a special gift, or was it a coping mechanism? – is booted out of the theatre to create something more akin to a modern teenage action horror.

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