Director(s): Mike Flanagan
Writer(s): Mike Flanagan, Stephen King (based on the novel by)
Starring: Ewan McGregor, Rebecca Ferguson, Kyliegh Curan
The idea of an underrated film has become somewhat of a cliché since I think most folks would consider something underrated based on a personal level rather than an objective viewpoint on what the film actually accomplished. I mean, I have PLENTY of films that I personally love but I also know that in the grand scheme of horror cinema, it’s more of a nostalgic love rather than an injustice to the film’s legacy.
Having said all that, I am quite genuine when I say that Doctor Sleep was the most underrated movie of 2019. Not underrated horror movie but underrated MOVIE. What this flick was able to accomplish based on the history and legacy of the source material had me thinking for days on how other flicks need to put that much care and effort into their work. This flick had the insurmountable task of being a sequel to both the legendary movie and novel, The Shining since both creators and fans of both were at odds for decades! In summary, you had a visionary director in Stanley Kubrick and the legendary author that is Stephen King having creative differences on how The Shining was presented to the audience. The interesting snag to this situation however is that film ended up being a cinematic classic that’s just as renowned as the source material which puts the audience in a peculiar position.
On one hand, the film was as visually haunting as it was unnerving in the best kinds of ways with scenes of suspense and terror that had an effect on an entire generation. On the other hand, the novel is considered to be one of King’s best since it was a magnificent course in the darkness in humanity and how the light in us are in a constant battle whilst surrounded in darkness. Me? I’m a fan of both for different reasons which is where I assume most horror freaks stand when it comes to The Shining so I was absolutely and pleasantly floored by the first ten minutes of Doctor Sleep.
The foundation of my love for this film is how it bridged two iconic viewpoints of the same material. Being a fan of both the book and the movie, I was ready to roll my eyes at this flick since I was so certain it wouldn’t do justice to either but from the opening minutes of the movie, it was very apparent that Director/Writer Mike Flanagan treated this as a passion project and you felt that passion on the screen as he meticulously stitched the iconic feel of the movie but captured the haunting empathy of Dan Torrance played brilliantly by Ewan McGregor. The flick had the right beats that tipped that hat to the original flick but you can tell that this was a much deeper dive to the character development of Dan Torrance and the ramifications of The Shining are in full view through flashbacks and the eventual flaws of our main character. The tones of King’s writing was almost therapeutic in the way it healed original characters from Kubrick’s film to give them the depth that King thought was lacking while still keeping the iconic visual tone of the horror flick.
As much as this flick was filled with artistic nuance, what I also loved about this flick was it felt like a straight-forward superhero flick at times and I mean that in the BEST kind of way where the main character has to protect someone that was in their same position from oncoming evil. I mean, let’s be realistic here; Dan Torrance has super powers, straight and simple. Although The Shining is pure horror, the idea that someone can have telepathic abilities and can see/attract evil is good enough for me to get giddy when I know an eventual battle is going to ensue which is the feeling everyone gets when watching any good superhero flick and BOY, does this flick deliver on the battles!
The climax of the story does a beautiful job in converging all the movie, novel and even superhero aspects of the movie in a way that’s both logical and ridiculously exciting. By the time you get to the point of the movie where they’re paying homage to the original Kubrick film while inching towards the source material of both novels, you realize that this movie accomplished something special. By the time the movie ended, I remember going through a checkbox list in my head on why I enjoyed the movie so much and it lasted for days. I appreciated the nods to the original Kubrick film. I appreciated the effort in getting the tone of King’s character work and ideology into the more relevant scenes of the film. I geeked out on the scares which followed the tones of the original Kubrick film but also found a way to conjure up original scares. I was absolutely giddy by the climax of the film where it felt like the director decided to give every kind of fan everything they wanted. All these thoughts were prevalent in my kooky brain as I told all who would listen how incredible this movie was…despite the Luke-warm reception in the box office and above average reviews.
When the dust settled, Doctor Sleep was a moderate hit with some good reviews and the world moved on. Only the initiated would gush about this flick and I stand my ground in saying this was one the most underrated movies in recent years. It deserves the accolades and love from fans of Kubrick, King and horror itself since it successfully bridged the gap that lingered so long between movie and novel.
Underrated? Absolutely. But at the very least, it’ll be immortalized in the FearTASTIC Vault with all the love it deserves.
Life is FAR more interesting when we take interest in things that scare us.