Doctor Sleep (2019)

by Film Notions

There’s only one way you should go into Doctor Sleep. As a sequel, I’m not too sure it works, but as a spin-off, Mike Flanagan nails it!

I was not hyped about this film. The trailer gave the feeling of an ultra-glossy, new age horror, trying to get a leg up off the back of ‘The Greatest Horror of All Time’. Much to my surprise, Doctor Sleep is a clever spin-off tale, that gives enough homage to Kubrick’s masterpiece but also steps out in its own new threads. This gives the film a fresh feel steeped in nostalgia.

I love The Shining, but I’m no mega-fan, so I can only comment from that stance. I’m not sure whether diehards of the 1980’s classic will be pleased, I’m really not. But as a cinephile who loves the original, I did love this take. I also think to anyone new, or even those who haven’t seen The Shining, there’s a lot to love about this style of film. Doctor Sleep is not scary, but neither was The Shining. Instead of cheap jump scares, Flanagan builds a lot of the tension through the score, the cinematography and character development.

There’s a far bigger, in your face, supernatural element at play here, and that’s why I think it works better as a spin-off. Rebecca Ferguson does an extraordinary job with her character, and it is a make or break character to the film. I’m not sure how, but she has made a crazy, top hat-wearing carny exude sexual appeal. I thought Ewan McGregor does a great job with some lovely little nuances that really make you believe he was once that messed up little kid.

Firstly the cinematography. Normally a film with this subject material would be stark, grey and dark. I love the way colour has been added, with the use of greens and reds as conflicting colours. It almost has a similar look to Amelie and Delicatessen. The hum of a golden, blurred hue and 2 distinctive colours are used to tell a different side to each of the main characters. The director has described the colour palette as ‘rusty, the rust of life’.

Don’t worry about the 2hr31 runtime. It flies by. It’s the first movie this year to really hold my attention for that period of time. While the 3rd act is the weakest of the film, due to it quite heavily leaning on its predecessor’s material, the film as a whole is a big win, and at the moment it would likely sit in my top 10 list of 2019.