I went into this movie totally unbiased, I like the original shining, not a huge fan of Stephen King though, I think his writing is hacky, ok well that’s an understatement I think his face should be next to the definition of a hack writer. I don’t even really like most of the film adaptations of his work, I’m just aware of them but I can’t think of many that are very memorable other than as memes. Like Misery is an ok movie but I wouldn’t watch it more than once, same with Pet cemetery and silver bullet, they’re ok movies but they’re not something you keep coming back to. In a lot of ways once you’ve seen one King movie you’ve sort of seen them. And after some tepid reviews on youtube I thought this was movie was going to pass me by.
But that being said I have watched the shining quite a few times and I could see myself watching this again and again but it was just such a fun, cool movie. I really unironically enjoyed every minute of it. It was fun, interesting, heartfelt, sad at times, shocking at others but it constantly kept me engaged and interested and had some real ‘hell yes’ moments which were surprising. It succeeds not only in being a sequel to a great movie but also in being it’s own movie entirely. This is to the Shining what Aliens is to Alien. It’s not copying the previous movie, it evolved from it into something new and all together interesting in its own right and I really respect that.
So the movie is set after the shining and the main character is a grown up Danny Torrence played by Ewan Mcgregor. Danny is tormented by the spirits of the dead and the death of his own mother and thus driven to alcohol and substance abuse which seems like a logical response. But as fate would have it he gets a second chance and finds meaning and friendship working in hospice care helping the elderly come to terms with death and it’s both really sweet and heart rending. Me and my brother joked that this could also serve as a weird sequel to Sixth sense haha.
But at the same time this is happening you’re also following a gang of literal fucking vampires as they trek across america in camper vans like Near Dark recruiting and turning other people who shine and brutally torture and kill children to suck out their shine which they call ‘steam’. Basically how this idea has evolved in the sequel is that shine is like a literal substance and I know what you’re thinking, star wars and medicloreans and yeah I thought the same (that and it being Ewan Mcgregor again haha) but this goes in a much cooler direction with it. Because it turns out that people like Danny have existed for a long time and you can live a long time if you drain this power from others like you. So this group of basically psychic vampires seek out children to drain of their essence. The reason they target children is because the steam is pure and untainted and the first time they do it they sort of cut away but the next time you see them do it they literally slice this kid to pieces torturing him because pain and fear purifies the steam.
Now the first part of the movie just with Danny putting his life together could be a movie on it’s own, it’s sweet and interesting and sort of horrifying, it could’ve just been a nice supernatural drama oscar bait movie but you add this second layer with the psychic vampires and it almost becomes a bad ass Carpenter movie. It’s such a cool direction to take it in.
I really liked the villains because they seem almost like anime villains like the vampires in Near Dark but also really normal at the same time. They don’t seem or look like monsters, especially the main villain but she’s a fucking psycho who takes pleasure in cutting up kids basically. They’re all sort of believable and understandable, they see themselves almost as forces of nature, not as good or evil or monsters.
You have this great dichotomy between Danny’s story and the villains and you’re just waiting for them to collide. It makes me miss this type of film making, any other film maker would show you the villain once and then you wouldn’t see them again for an hour but in this you follow them almost as much as Danny which I love because you’re really getting to know all the vital characters.
The story is pretty simple in that Danny basically becomes psychic pen pals with this really powerful little girl during the eight years he’s putting his life back together. But during that time the little girl has come onto the radar of the vampires after she psychically witnesses one of their murders so now they want her because she has more steam than they’ve ever seen before. Because there’s a plot line basically where they haven’t been eating very well lately, the steam is drying up, they’ve been living on scraps so they’re sort of desperate for a big score.
The little girl called Abra reaches out to Danny to help her against the vampires so this is where the movie goes from interesting and fun to fucking awesome haha. It essentially becomes a really cool vampire movie with psychic powers and of all the ways this could’ve been done it happens in the best way possible. This could’ve been really silly like a stupid comic book movie, I wont spoil it but the confrontations with the actual vampires are really cool and grounded and awesome and hard hitting and clever. The end fight puts a nice capstone on the first movie without shitty sequel bait.
The movie very tastefully uses things from the original shining, it borrows from it and references in a way that is very respectful of the original. Sure they use new actors to play his mother and father and Dick Halorann but the performances are very subdued and they’ve picked actors that look a lot like them and they’re used sparingly.
Now a lot of people me included would be forgiven for saying “The shining doesn’t need a sequel” and you’d be totally right and there are lots of old movies that get sequels nobody asked for that serve just to squeeze money out of an old franchise manipulating people with nostalgia. This is probably 99% of the time but there is the 1% that is exception to the rule and this and maybe the Blade Runner sequel (which is hotly contested) are sequels that add to the original movie but are entirely their own movies and are good in their own right. Doctor Sleep is that in spades.
Like I could watch Doctor Sleep never having watched the shining and still enjoy it. You could show someone who’s never read King or watched a single one of his movie adaptations and they will enjoy this movie. The acting is great, the story and premise are fun, the action is surprisingly good, the effects are decent. Now I’m not gonna bullshit you and say the camera work and cinematography are on the level of Kubrick but they emulate him slightly and are competent. It’s not trying to copy the original, only call back to it for context.
In summary there’s no reason you shouldn’t see this movie, if you like supernatural thrillers, if you’re a King fan or just like the Shining or even if you like Near Dark or Scanners and weird fun movies like that. Hell if you just like Ewan McGregor go see this movie, I can’t think of a single bad thing to say about, I kinda wish it was a tv show just so we could have more of it, it’s such a cool premise. But as a movie it’s a perfect package, made by people who know how to make movies.
To a lot of people this will feel like an older movie because it follows a proper formula, film makers today try to subvert story telling conventions thinking they’re above them but they can’t see those conventions are there for a reason and without them movies just feel like a sloppy unsatisfying mess. You will come out of this movie satisfied you watched a real movie. This is without a doubt my movie of 2019, go see it.