By Ed Sum
(The Vintage Tempest)
* Spoiler Alert
Could Dan Torrance (Ewan McGregor) be the Obi-Wan in Doctor Sleep to mentor Abra Stone (Kyliegh Curran)? She’s a gifted psychic who can sense when trouble is afoot! Casting choices and Star Wars references notwithstanding, the sequel looks at what has become of the Torrance family surviving the events of Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining. After a very lengthy introduction, I was caught up since it’s been years when I last saw the film.
Danny also has this gift and it’s simply called The Shining. It can be used for good or evil and the movie’s title is explained in what the boy, now a man, has become. He helps the elderly to comfortably pass on with his soothing voice and message of hope.
Rose the Hat (Rebecca Ferguson) is the opposite, and just like the Emperor Palpatine; she wants her victims to suffer. She leads a gypsy group of immortals known as True Knot. This actress is perfect in the role, exuding a presence that’s not only outworldly but also Lilith-like. That is, sensual and conniving. She may well be related to Elizabeth Bathory–the younger they are the better their ‘shining’ tastes. The psychic residue the humans exude is like dope to them and their screams help keep them young. I suspect the group knows the entity from IT or are its offsprings. Both need ‘fear’ to maintain their existence.
Despite the cumbersome start and the hints where some demons come from (the bottle), this film is better when it’s simply a cat-and-mouse game. Danny briefly turned into everything he feared from his father; it took years of wandering and Alcoholics Anonymous to help him overcome those vices. The real heroine is Abby. She’s innocent enough to hide a powerful psyche, and Curran is fantastic in the role. She needs to become a dream warrior to deal with the nightmares still to come. Freddie Krugar has everything to fear, but it’s actually Rose who will have to face the young girl.
As for connecting this story to the first, director Mike Flanagan certainly had a huge challenge–to please fans of not only King’s original book but also Kubrick’s film. He honours everything missing with the former and reflects upon what Danny tried to hide. The final act has the tone of The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson, to which everything I enjoyed from the Netflix adaptation is enhanced for the cinema screen. The IMAX presentation offered nothing new, and I wondered why no one thought of offering The Shining and Doctor Sleep back to back. Had the studio and Flanagan thought of the idea, the two-and-a-half hour film would have been made shorter.
The suspense did not start building until Abby saw one of True Knot’s victims die in her dreams. When she takes action, that’s when the film finally injected the adrenaline to keep me awake and glued to the narrative. The epilogue gave some closure to Danny’s story arc, but it also opened the doors up to more–unlike the book. She will no doubt face more terrors.
To read about them or see it is ultimately up to King than Flanagan and the Studio system. CBR.com reported a side-story with Dick Hallorann is in the works. He helped Danny develop his powers and when this tale will take place in the timeline is uncertain. Should this work get the green light, it will be the story that I hope will start connecting the points of reference to the beginnings of that shared cinematic universe.
Like Doctor Sleep, it will have to go through an approval process with the author. Only King knows how his world interconnects. It’s not just about how a dark cosmic force is out to destroy humanity from within. This theme has been consistent in IT and Pet Semetary. Instead of one entity, it’s many and originality doesn’t have to be important in the classic confrontation between good (led by Abbey) and evil. Perhaps a revisit (reboot actually) to the Dark Tower is in order.
4 Stars out of 5
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