Book adaptations, who knows how they’ll turn out? My two favorite film series, James Bond and Harry Potter, are both based off of film series, but one of the worst movies I’ve ever seen, After, was also based on a book, in the loosest sense of the word. These extend to one of the most prolific authors in recent memory, Stephen King. Currently, he has forty-eight films, twenty five television shows and miniseries, and sixteen others I’ll put under “Miscellaneous”, and they range from amazing (Shawshank Redemption, Misery), to terrible (The Mangler, Cujo) which really made me worried about the latest film to be based off of a Stephen King story, Doctor Sleep.
While it is directed by Mike Flannagan, the director of Gerald’s Game, which is one of the most terrifying Stephen King films in recent memory. The movie had an amazing trailer, was directed by someone with talent, has a pretty good cast featuring Rebecca Ferguson, and is based off of an amazing boo- OH GOD IT’S THE SNOWMAN ALL OVER AGAIN. While I can’t say that Doctor Sleep is a bad movie, I don’t think it’s close to the best Stephen King adaptation. Not to sleep on the matter any further, let’s get into Doctor Sleep.
The best thing in this movie has got to be the performances. Ewan McGregor is the kind of guy who can pretty much sleep walk his way into a decent performance, which he does here. The two standouts are Rebecca Ferguson as Rose the Hat and Kyleigh Curran as Abra. Looking back on Ferguson’s previous work, she has always given good performances in movies like Mission: Impossible – Fallout and The Greatest Showman, but never a performance to really boost her over the edge from good to great. I think that with her performance in Doctor Sleep, she has finally climbed over the hump to get to that next tier of acting. Ferguson is amazing in this movie, which in large part can be attributed to her playing a really fun character with Rose the Hat.
On the other end, with Abra, the young girl that Danny somewhat mentors, is played by a relatively new actor to the scene, this being only her second performance. Curran is really good in the film as well, as you can see the fear and distress in her eyes about facing a literal swarm of soul sucking monsters. The other performers, such as Cliff Curtis, Zahn McClarnon, and Emily Alyn Lind are all really good in this film.
Another great thing in the film is the production design. From the elaborate mind set pieces to Danny’s somewhat unnerving room, the movie looks incredible. They all have somewhat of a haunted feel to them, it’s as if something is lurking behind each and every corner, ready to jump out and murder you at any point. The best looking scenes from the movie are without a doubt the mind libraries.
While Abra may not have breathtaking scenery in her mind, Rose and Danny have some beautifully designed things to keep their secrets locked up. These towering cathedrals and [Really Disappointing Spoiler] are overwhelmingly beautiful. The cinematography is almost on par with that of films like The Lighthouse, as the way the editing and character blocking were used succeed in making the main villains exceedingly creepy. It’s a lot better looking than some King films which came out in the last few months (In the Tall Grass).
Those are really all the positives I have to talk about. Yes, the character of Snakebite Andi is awesome, and yes, I do love the fact that the film also ended with the song “The Moon, The Stars, and You” like the original did. However, I probably should get to what I didn’t like about Doctor Sleep, and I really only have one major problem that shouldn’t be a spoiler if you’ve seen any of the trailers.
So, as shown in the trailer, Danny and Abra return to the Overlook hotel, which is actually not the disappointing spoiler mentioned earlier, but they do wait until about the two hour mark to get into the famous hotel. The rest of the film is really good, especially the opening forest murder scene, so I was often thinking “Man, I can’t wait to get to the Overlook to see what Mike Flannagan does with one of the greatest horror locations of all time.” and then we finally arrived at the Overlook hotel and my mind went “Uh, Mr. Flannagan?
Can we go back to all the cool murder stuff in the woods. That was a lot creepier than Obi-Wan just walking around an old hotel and looking at the stuff that scared him as a kid.” I mean, it looks nice, but it’s just that video game The Inpatient, and I enjoyed basically watching that because at least I was scared that something scary might happen. Here, I know that nothing is really going to pop out and spook me, so it’s all just watching a guy look at his old bathroom. Then, and here’s my attempt to not give away the ending of the film, they really won me back, even after doing what I’m sure most will call an homage but I call a pretty clear copy of a scene from the original film, they actually gave a pretty cool ending.
The problem with this is, that isn’t the end of the film. The film goes on for about ten more minutes, and it’s just doing the exact same thing Rob Zombie’s Halloween did, as it just decides to take the ending of the original and run around with it. Both The Shining and the original Halloween have great, gripping climaxes, but it’s when their subsequent reboot/sequel try to take the original climax of the film without the same weight. I can’t say what happens without spoiling it, but in true Stephen King fashion, it is an infuriatingly disappointing finale.
That wraps up my thoughts on Doctor Sleep, and it’s really good. It’s definitely the best Stephen King adaptation of the year and you can take that for the massively qualified statement that it is, but I enjoyed myself during it. It has a lot of tension and a ton of good qualities that gives me no qualms with recommending it for fans of both King and horror films in general. However, there is no way I can say it’s the best King film since Shawshank. I would say that It, Gerald’s Game, and The Night Flier are all better than Doctor Sleep. Definitely watch it if you have any sort of interest in the film, watch it, but you should maybe lower the expectations a bit. All in all, it looks like Stephen King still has a few cards up his sleeve.