Doctor Sleep

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“Doctor Sleep” is a supernatural horror film written and directed by Mike Flanagan and was released in 2019. The film is based on the 2013 Stephen King novel of the same name and is a sequel to his earlier 1977 novel “The Shining.”

Brief overview and recap.

What became of Danny Torrance (Ewan McGregor) after the traumatic events that befell him and his mother, Wendy, at the Overlook hotel? The story picks up when Danny is an adult and we find that he has become an aimless alcoholic who is still traumatised and haunted by events from his past. There are flashbacks to when he was a child before his mother’s death. These flashbacks help to bring us up to date and reveal that after the Overlook, Danny and his mother moved away from their old home to start afresh in another town with a desire to never have to see snow again. We also learn that Danny is visited upon now and again by the ghost of fellow ‘shiner’ Dick Hallorann – the previous head chef at the Overlook. Danny had reached out to Hallorann in an emergency at the Overlook but, after his arrival he was subsequently axed to death by Jack Torrance (Danny’s father) before he could offer any assistance. Dick Hallorann teaches Danny how to lock away all the tormenting spectres from the Overlook that are still drawn to his power by creating, then using, a special box he must imagine in his mind. This cunning trick worked and allowed Danny a modicum of peace as he grew into an adult, but after the death of Wendy he felt alone then descended into alcoholism in an attempt to suppress his shine and, lowered himself even further when he began engaging local prostitutes.

A new beginning:

Danny decides to up and move to another town hoping this decision would help to get him straightened out. He takes a bus to a New Hampshire town then befriends Billy Freeman; a local man who sees right through Danny and can recognise that he needs help just as he once did during his bout with alcoholism. Billy persuades his landlady to let Danny rent a spare room then introduces Danny to the local AA group (Alcoholics Anonymous) and with their help he recovers from his addiction. The AA group is led by Dr. John Dalton, and after impressing the doctor with a shine trick in finding his missing watch, he gives Danny a job as an orderly at a hospice which he runs. The hospice has a resident cat who has an uncanny ability to sense when someone is about to die; the cat will then go to their room and sit on the bed until they pass. Danny discovers this after he followed the cat into a patients a room with the intent of removing it in case it caused a disturbance. But to Danny’s surprise the bed-ridden patient tells him that the cat is well known within the hospice and that he knew his time had come. Danny helps the dying man to come to terms with his fear by using his shine and thus providing some comfort. From that point onward Danny became known in the hospice as “Doctor Sleep,” and once his reputation was established he was called upon time and again to help many a patient pass peacefully.

Main plot – minimal spoilers:

As in every Stephen King horror story there has to be an evil antagonist, and In this story there is a group of people calling themselves the “True Knot” who are just that – evil! The group, led by a woman called “Rose the Hat,” travel around the States in a caravan of motorhomes preying on children who have the ‘shine.’ The children are slowly murdered to facilitate the slow release of the psychically powered “steam” which they emit when dying. The group will collectively feed off this steam which in turn is keeping them alive for hundreds of years. But recently pickings have been lean and the group are basically starving and looking for a candidate who can give them the ultimate steam buzz.

Enter Abra Stone. Abra, a young school girl, has shine power beyond anyone before her and after Rose the Hat murders her latest victim, Abra senses it with her shine and reaches out to Danny – who she also senses – and manages to write a message on a blackboard in Danny’s room informing him of the murder. Unfortunately, when Abra shined the murder scene, Rose the Hat sensed her and felt the delicious power that she so hungers for. Rose the Hat then decides she would like to meet her. Abra ventures out one day and skips school to take a bus ride to Danny’s town. They meet and Abra shows Danny what she has thus far discovered about the murder, but Danny tells her to go home and forget about it and get on with her life. On his final visit to Danny, Dick Hallorann tells him that he needs to help Abra and keep her safe from Rose the Hat; Danny decides that helping Abra is the right thing to do and makes arrangements for a plan of action. Can Danny keep Abra safe?

Overlook hotel – past and present:

In this film we get to revisit the Overlook hotel, in the past, and in the present. I was very impressed by the new flashback scenes involving Danny when he rode around the Overlook on his little bike. Obviously a different boy had to be used to film these new scenes, but to watch them retrospectively I was hard put to differentiate between the original scenes in the Shining and those recreated for this film. There are also acting doubles – or as close as can be -for Jack Torrance, Wendy Torrance, and Dick Hallorann. The new scenes inside the Overlook – both past and present, look exactly as I remember from the 1980 film and I still marvel over how they manage to achieve these cinematic feats. It is a well known fact the Overlook hotel in the Shining is an actual building in real life, but the attention to detail in how it once looked inside impressed me the most.

“Doctor Sleep” is now available to stream.

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