In the film “The Shining,” the short, identical, and blue dress-wearing Grady Twins tell young Danny Torrance to “Come play with [them] forever, and ever, and ever.” Well, Danny ignored their haunting request, but Stephen King wasn’t done playing with his “Shining” characters.
King published a sequel to his original “Shining” novel in 2013 and forced the grown Danny “Dan” Torrance to face his fears and return to where the Overlook Hotel once stood.
The book was relatively well-received by fans and critics alike, so it makes sense that a studio would be eager to produce a sequel. However, Warner Bros., the studio that purchased the rights, had a problem. “The Shining” book and movie end differently. In King’s novel, the hotel is destroyed, but in the Stanley Kubrick movie, it’s still standing.
Therefore, Mike Flanagan, the screenwriter and director adapting the book, had to get creative. Flanagan, famous for the Netflix series “The Haunting of Hill House,” could have ignored King’s novel or boldly dismissed Kubrick’s film, but that would have alienated fans of either version. He then decided to create a hybrid of both versions of “The Shining,” and it’s the aspect of the “Doctor Sleep” adaptation I like the most.
I loved how, as an audience member, I had the opportunity to return to the Overlook Hotel. Still, I also got a chance to acknowledge story threads in King’s novel on the big screen. Unfortunately, the nostalgic nature of the film isn’t enough to make “Doctor Sleep” a great movie.
The main reason that I wasn’t captivated by this film is that the story and tone of “Doctor Sleep” are quite different from the original novel and movie. “The Shining” was a dramatic yet horrifying psychological journey for one man tortured by alcoholism and writer’s block. “Doctor Sleep,” however, is structured like a superhero movie, but the supers in this movie can’t wield Mjolnir or shoot lasers from their eyes.
Instead, they do a variety of tele-communicative tricks. And if the villains of the film find one of these people who can “shine,” they can suck their power and live forever or something like that. The screenplay could have been a bit clearer on how the absorption of “shine” works.
Unfortunately, the shining suckers meet a young girl with an overwhelming amount of “shine” named Abra, which is the most on-the-nose character name since Hiro from the show “Heroes.” Sensing danger, Abra seeks the guidance of Dan Torrance. Unfortunately, Dan is not initially the ideal mentor when we first see him in the film. He drinks to keep his Overlook Hotel demons away, and ghosts of the recently deceased haunt him. Eventually, Dan learns to control his fears without alcohol and uses his “shine” to help Abra, who is desperate for his help.
I like the concept of Dan taking the role once occupied by his mentor, Dick Halloran. However, Dick was more a spiritual mentor for Dan, and Dan is like a warrior mentor for Abra, so “Doctor Sleep” and Dan’s development don’t feel naturally connected to “The Shining.”
I also was bothered by the movie because it is too long, yet it also isn’t long enough. I know I contradicted myself there, but let me explain. I wanted more time with Dan and his psychological struggle with alcoholism because that ties well with his father’s journey. Dan also can help people peacefully pass over, but this talent feels like an afterthought in the movie.
That said, I thought the movie was well shot, and the direction was good. It won’t leave a mark in the cultural zeitgeist like “The Shining” did in 1980, but it doesn’t tarnish “The Shining” legacy either. That legacy will continue to live “forever, and ever, and ever.”