I’m quite the Stephen King nerd. We’ve established this. I’m currently halfway thru Blaze, which is likely the last of the Richard Bachman books I’m gonna tackle at the moment (I think I’ve only got The Regulators left). The number of King books I’ve read is at least in the teens and counting. But it also means I’m very critical of his adaptations. You’ve heard my rant on The Shining recently enough that I’m not even gonna link it (short version is it’s a phenomenal horror film but a crappy adaptation). I’ve railed against prioritizing horror over characters, bland interpertations, and either sticking too close or veering too far from the source. I’m protective of these stories that I love, and I want to see them done right. Doctor Sleep is Stephen King done right.
Doctor Sleep is a sequel to The Shining. That’s a lot to unpack right there. How does that even work? Danny Torrance and his mom escaped from The Overlook and have gone on with their lives. Now Danny is all growed up, battling the same demons of addiction and alcoholism that plagued his father. He physically meets a young girl named Abra, whose Shine is even more powerful than his own, and he’s not the only one that’s noticed. A traveling band of nomads (I guess that’s just a synonym for traveling group) that feed off of “steam” (a person’s soul or essence at their death) of those that shine have sensed Abra and set their sights on her. In order to help her, Danny has to confront his own fears that he’s been running from for years.
And now I pause my writing because an interview with Stephen King came up on my YouTube watch list
My first concern, the clown makeup covered elephant in the room, how the hell do you adapt this book in a way that honors Stephen King’s source material without shunning Kubrick’s changes? Kubrick left out a whole lot of important things that are likely factors in this story, but his imagery is iconic. If you leave it out, you’ll have riots in the street. Enter writer director Mike Flanagan. He came on to the project with the same concern, and the interviews I read with him alleviated my concerns. The article I read where King said that he was happy about how the film turned out went even further. Flanagan’s approach was to think of Doctor Sleep as a child with two parents: King and Kubrick. He threaded the needle incredibly well, using much of Kubrick’s visuals and weaving in King’s themes. The result was epic!
Anytime I talk about Stephen King, I always say that the key to his stories are the characters. The books are so rich because you sympathize with the characters, and then weird stuff starts happening. If the films can get that character connection, everything else falls into place. Doctor Sleep had incredibly solid characters (just like It Chapter 1, or The Green Mile, or Shawshank, or Stand By Me). They are three dimensional with interesting back stories and strong actor portrayals. Give me anything with leading man Ewan McGregor, goddess Rebecca Ferguson, and promising newbie Kyliegh Curran. The film clocks in at two and a half hours, but I was ready to stay in my seat for another two hours if necessary.
I haven’t read Doctor Sleep yet, but I’m very keen to. I was super invested in this story. Normally when you think of a horror movie sequel, it’s basically a rehash of the original. The killer comes back. Someone else visits the haunted house. A new item is possessed by the same demon. This really is a logical next step in the story. What did happen to Danny? Surely his life couldn’t have been entirely normal. And as far as the setting for the ending, that was a Mike Flanagan creation again attempting to marry the two conflicting sources. But if we learned anything from It Chapter 2, endings aren’t King’s strength. So The Mist taught us that a new ending can make all the difference in the world in knocking the film out of the park.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a Kindle-full of more Stephen King to go read.
Doctor Sleep – \m/ \m/ \m/ \m/