'Shining' sequel 'Doctor Sleep' can't live up to Kubrick's original
"Doctor Sleep" -- ★ ★ ½
The first half of Mike Flanagan's sluggish, 152-minute follow-up to Stanley Kubrick's polarizing 1980 horror tale "The Shining" can best be described as an intriguing snore with gore.
Flanagan's shaky sequel "Doctor Sleep" finally gains dramatic momentum once the adult Danny Torrance (a curiously sleepy Ewan McGregor) returns to the supernaturally infested Overlook Hotel to deal with his nonfigurative personal demons.
Kubrick's provocative, fastidiously constructed "Shining" confounded and confused many critics. It rejected the dopey trappings and cheap jump-scares of the popular mad-slasher genre to concentrate on slowly building a subtle, exquisite sense of ominous dread.
"Doctor Sleep" cannot equal that.
Flanagan perhaps took on too many jobs in adapting Stephen King's 530-page 2013 best-seller.
He directed, produced and wrote this film, thereby thwarting the checks and balances that would have prevailed had he concentrated on a single job, or at least hired a more ruthless editor. (Wait. He did that, too.)
Like his father Jack (originally played by Jack Nicholson, now by "E.T." star Henry Thomas), Dan Torrance has become an alcoholic, plus a drug-abusing drifter trudging through life while dealing with his clairvoyant abilities, referred to as "the shining."
He winds up working at a small-town New Hampshire hospice where he finds his niche -- he comforts the dying, assuring them that death "is not the end."
Meanwhile, a nomadic band of eternal psychic predators has been abducting and dissecting screaming children to inhale their life essences.
A woman named Rose the Cat (a charismatic, erotically charged Rebecca Ferguson) leads this vampiric ragtag group by locating fresh victims with psychic abilities. (They generate the highest-grade life essences.)
The pain of dying children gets picked up by a tweener named Abra Stone (Kyliegh Curran, delivering the film's most impressive performance arc), who vows to use her shining abilities to stop Rose.
Abra senses Dan's shining vibes and seeks his help in the supernatural confrontation she knows will come.
Dan refuses. But then he realizes if he can lure Rose to the old abandoned Overlook Hotel (now with its Native American artwork and references removed), the forces there might prove beneficial.
Dick Hallorann, the chef who saved Danny in King's book (but succumbs to an axe-swinging Jack Torrance in Kubrick's film), has been reduced to Pinocchio's Jiminy Cricket, periodically popping in to lay sage advice on Dan.
Carl Lumbly cannily suggests original Hallorann star Scatman Crothers. Alex Essoe and Thomas likewise have impressionistic fun channeling Shelley Duvall's and Nicholson's Wendy and Jack.
Flanagan moves King's story along in fits and starts, padding the narrative with inconsequential scenes while covering a smorgasbord of demonic possessions, astral projections and witty references to memorable moments from Kubrick's masterpiece.
But do we really need to see that iconic cascading wall of blood again? Now, it's just a throwaway cliché, dismissed by an unimpressed Rose.
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Starring: Ewan McGregor, Rebecca Ferguson, Kyliegh Curran, Cliff Curtis, Bruce Greenwood
Directed by: Mike Flanagan
Other: A Warner Bros. release. Rated R for drug use, language, nudity, violence. 152 minutes