“It must be time,” says an elderly man. “Am I going to die?” “Yes,” says Dan Torrance (Ewan McGregor), known to hospice patients as “Doctor Sleep.” “I’m not scared of Hell, Doc,” the dying man says. “I guess I’m just scared there’s nothing.” “It’s like going to sleep,” says Dan. “Nothing to be scared of.” Dan’s psychic power — his “shining” — helps provide final comfort to the dying, even as Dan seeks to overcome his own alcoholism and violent childhood memories. That’s the setup for “Doctor Sleep,” as it picks up Dan’s story from the end of “The Shining,” decades after Stanley Kubrick’s 1980 film and Stephen King’s 1977 novel.
When Kubrick adapted King’s novel, he made significant plot changes. Question: Does “Doctor Sleep” continue King’s original narrative or Kubrick’s film? Both. King’s 2013 follow-up novel, “Doctor Sleep,” ignores Kubrick’s changes, but Mike Flanagan — film writer and director — cannot pretend Kubrick’s classic film doesn’t exist.
Ewan McGregor is grizzled, grown-up Dan Torrance, addicted — like his father — to alcohol. In small town Frazier, New Hampshire, he tells new friend, Billy Freeman (Cliff Curtis), “I’m running away from myself.” He joins AA and works at hospice. Meanwhile, Rose the Hat, played by Rebecca Ferguson, leads “True Knot,” a nasty group who don’t die, but live by ingesting “shine” from psychic children whom they abduct and kill. Zahn McClarnon and Emily Alyn Lind are members of True Knot — Crow Daddy and Snakebite Andi. Kyliegh Curran is Abra Stone, psychic 13-year-old with enough “shine” that she attracts True Knot and finds her way into Dan’s head. Together, Dan and Abra work to destroy True Knot.
Others in the large cast include Zackary Momoh and Jocelin Donahue as David and Lucy Stone, Abra’s parents. Dakota Hickman is young Abra.
“Doctor Sleep,” written and directed by Mike Flanagan from King’s novel, is a disappointment. I wanted to like it as much as Kubrick’s great “Shining,” but “Sleep” is a new and different story and, often, hard to follow. It has six different locations, takes place at various times between 1980 and the present and, while Dan Torrance is its central character and Act 3 is in the Overlook Hotel, there’s not much else to connect “Doctor Sleep” with King or Kubrick’s “Shining.”
Rated R for disturbing, violent content, bloody images, language, nudity and drugs, “Doctor Sleep” runs a long 151 minutes. I looked at my watch six times. Not a good sign.
Seeking to merge Kubrick and King,
“Doctor Sleep” is not my thing;
Nothing in it seriously wrong,
But hard to follow, way too long.