Article updated: 2021.11.24
The Doctor Sleep (2019) is a supernatural horror / fantasy / thriller film. The movie was reviewed by Kadmon.
Product: Doctor Sleep, movie (2019)
Original title: Doctor Sleep
Series: Dark Tower universe
Setting: contemporary alternate Earth
Previous entries in the series: The Shining (1980)
Product type: Film, Genre: thriller / fantasy / supernatural horror, Style: thriller, ghosts, supernatural, horror, fantasy, super-human abilities
Reviewer: Kadmon, Type: Male, 40s, Preferences: Immersive, logical story, consistent setting, prefers surprises to spoilers, prefers establishing elements before referencing them
Watched: very recent (2021.02), first time
Rating: Good (2+ out of 3 points), Enjoyment: Average (2 out of 3 points)
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This is my review of Doctor Sleep, a supernatural horror / fantasy / thriller movie from 2019. It's about a group of good people with powers fighting against a larger group of bad people with powers. The Doctor Sleep film is watchable, I recommend it to fans of Stephen King.
If you'd like to be surprised by the Doctor Sleep film, I don't recommend you to watch this trailer beyond 0:55, because it gives away too much of the plot.
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At first I didn't run to see this in cinemas, because I was not interested enough in a sequel to The Shining, partly because I was afraid that it will be bad. So I waited for a while to see reviews that will help me decide, but then I was not interested enough that I'd check those reviews. It was the RedLetterMedia review that pushed me to watch the movie so I can watch their review, without spoiling the movie.
The Doctor Sleep movie is about a group of good people with powers fighting against a larger group of bad people with powers.
Beginning is a bit to fast, and there is too much exposition. It's okay to push that much to the viewer of the sequel to The Shining but as a stand-alone movie, you should have more time to get acquainted with the setting and the characters. When the real story starts, the movie becomes more consistent. There are characters arcs for the main characters.
After we get to the recent events, the pacing is okay, it was just the beginning that was rushed.They worked the elements of the previous film nicely into this. The actors were also good at continuing the roles of the previous ones.
The actors who took over the characters from the actors from The Shining are good and convincing. Except probably Jack, who is not easy to identify at first, especially without any introduction.
The cinematography is good, some parts are interesting visually. There is some violence, blood and gore in the movie.
The characters are well developed, but it's probably not a surprise as they were based on the novel. The actors are pretty good, even the child actors. I really liked the casting choices.
The music (by The Newton Brothers) is silent and ambient, but it fits the movie.
Doctor Sleep is an interesting supernatural horror / fantasy / thriller, I think fans of the genre will enjoy it.
I was mostly satisfied with Doctor Sleep (2019), I just felt it's too long for the story.
Rating: Good (2+ out of 3 points). Doctor Sleep is a well-made film, but the story was not very strong.
Enjoyment: Average (2 out of 3 points). Doctor Sleep has some interesting scenes, I found it okay.
Rewatchability: I'm not sure. I think it's mostly the surprise of the story that makes you feel interested.
Chance of watching it again: Not likely. Now that I know the story, there's no need to watch it again, and I didn't like it enough that I would watch it for the themes.
Chance of watching a sequel: High. I'd sure watch it.
Will you enjoy this?
If you are a fan of The Shining (1980), you might be interested in Doctor Sleep. However, I think those who liked The Shining, liked it for the thrilling and chilling atmosphere. There's not much of that in Doctor Sleep.
If you are a fan of Stephen King, I recommend it. Doctor Sleep is a good adaptation, with references to the Dark Tower universe.
If you like mystery or thriller movies (Seven, Silence of the Lambs), you might like Doctor Sleep.
If you like horror or action thriller movies (Alien, Nightmare on Elm Street), you might like the film, although there are not many scary scenes in the Doctor Sleep movie.
If you prefer supernatural horror (Nightmare on Elm Street, Paranormal Activity), you might be disappointed, because this is more of a fantasy / superhero story than horror.
If you like modern fantasy or superhero stories (Avengers, X-Men), you might be interested in Doctor Sleep, but be prepared for the violent and horroristic elements, and the lack of epic scenes.
If you like horror superhero stories (Brightburn, Chronicle, The New Mutants), you might like Doctor Sleep.
If you like vampire stories (Blade, Interview with a Vampire, Van Helsing), you might like Doctor Sleep, there are many similarities.
If you prefer jump scare ghost movies, this movie is not for you, you'll be bored by Doctor Sleep, although there are some jump scares in the movie.
If you dislike violence, you should probably avoid watching Doctor Sleep, as the plot is built around hurting people.
Do you need to see previous films to enjoy this?
I wouldn't say you need to watch The Shining (1980), but it will make understanding Doctor Sleep easier. I'd recommend you to at least read a summary of the The Shining, or watch a plot summary video about it. Otherwise, I think there's enough explanation that you'll understand what's going on without seeing the first film.
If you are really interested, watching Hearts in Atlantis (2001) also helps to explain some points of the story.
Watching for plot points
If you are interested in fantasy stories about people with magical powers, I think it's worth watching the Doctor Sleep movie for the plot points.
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I mostly liked the Doctor Sleep movie.
When they start to get to the Overlook, the nostalgia-factor was probably a bit too much. I get it that they want us to remember how awesome The Shining was, but they don't need to show us the same shots. The bike-riding in the beginning worked well, because they worked it into the story. The car ride was just boring and too long. In the first movie, it was preparing us, the viewers for what is to come. In the middle of the film, like in Doctor Sleep, it doesn't serve any purpose.
Then there were the horror elements that were evoked by the evil hotel, but they were just the same things that happened in the first movie. Rehashing the same visuals doesn't make the story more interesting. Actually it makes the evil hotel somewhat stupid, that it has to repeat the same tricks it tried to use in the first one.
I didn't read the novel, but now that I've read the plot of that, the book managed to avoid this by having the hotel burnt down previously. They also visit the hotel in the novel, but there's not much left of it. That's a great solution - it reminds us that it's a sequel, a continuation of the story of the hotel, but it doesn't hinder the storytelling, like it does in the Doctor Sleep movie.
The creators even spent a lot of effort to copy everything from the first movie, using the same imagery to raise the nostalgia-factor. But I think those minute details are lost on those who are not obsessed by The Shining film, and even those might like to see something new, using the first movie as the basis. There were digitally renewed shots, to make it look exactly like the first one.
I've read that the creator spent a lot of effort to recreate the hotel, to make sure everything is in the same place. This sounds unnecessary, especially in the light of the fact that the hotel in the original movie intentionally made no sense, to confuse the audience. So, if they really wanted to capture the feeling of the original, they could have just make it work however they wanted.
The story was not very thrilling for me. They've spent too much time on Dan that there was not enough time to get involved with Abra's life, especially with her parents. If we got to know them better, there would have been more emotional investment in their well-being. As we knew Abra wouldn't get damaged, the only way to hurt her is through her parents. So they should have spent more effort on that part.
The cover of the movie is okay, it doesn't say much, but it doesn't spoil the movie. Some build on previous knowledge about The Shining. None of them really imply what the story will be about.
The trailer also builds on previous knowledge about The Shining, the first 30 seconds try to remind us that this is a sequel to that. It's not a bad thing, but it shows that they didn't think that the story would sell itself without the reminder. There are many scenes shown that spoil the movie.
If you prefer spoilers, it's a great trailer for the Doctor Sleep film. If you prefer to avoid spoilers, it could ruin the movie for you.
Promise of the first scene
There's a little girl that is taken by a group of people. I assume she'll have some bad things happen to her, and that the people who do that will be the antagonists of the story. The protagonist will have to defeat them, to save other kids from this fate.
Execution: It pretty much delivers what it promised.
Plot summary / Synopsis
The story starts in 1980. A little girl is taken by an evil woman (Rebecca Ferguson as Rose the Hat) and her companions (The True Knot).
We also see a little kid (Roger Dale Floyd as young Danny Torrance) being haunted by an evil ghost. Dick Hallorann returns to teach him how to protect himself from these ghosts by imprisoning them in boxes in his mind.
Then in 2011, we see the boy grown up to be a man (Ewan McGregor as Dan Torrance), as an alcoholic. He moves to a new place, gets a job, and try to stay sober. He is still haunted by ghosts (or hallucinations).
Then we see a blond girl (Emily Alyn Lind as Snakebite Andi) luring a man into a cinema to watch a movie with the promise of having sex, but she uses her power to make the man sleep, and she robs him. They are being watched by the evil woman, who offers her to join her team, and explains that they are able to drain the powers of others to keep them young forever.
Then we see a black girl (Dakota Hickman as young Abra Stone), having a birthday party. She tries to copy the magician by making the kitchen utensils float. Both the man and the evil woman senses this happening. The man is able to contact her telepathically, and they start to share messages.
In 2019, the evil woman's companions capture a kid, and torture him to feed on his magical abilities. Dan senses this, and tries to find the kid with the help of the black girl (Kyliegh Curran as Abra Stone). The evil woman senses the girl, and tries to get into her head, but the girl pushes her out. They decide to hunt her down, so they will be able to feast on her powers.
Dan meets with the girl for the first time in real life. They find the body of the dead kid. They kill the companions of the evil woman. They decide to go to the old hotel (Overlook Hotel) where evil ghosts haunt the place, and lure the evil woman there. They defeat her with the help of the ghosts. Dan sacrifices himself to destroy the hotel, but the girl is able to escape. The ghosts living in the hotel are free now, and it's up to the girl to hunt them down.
Contemporary alternate Earth.
There are people with magical powers. There are also ghosts.
The evil creatures of the story are born as humans with magical powers.These magical powers can be telepathy, telekinesis, the usual stuff.
These people with powers can be recruited by the evil companions, and they are taught how to drain the powers of other people. They call these drained powers "steam". They prefer children, as they taste better. Also, torturing them, causing mental distress and physical pain also makes the victims taste better.
The powers they drain sustain their life, so they can live unnaturally long. When they are killed, they return to the state they would look like if they were not kept young, then turn into dust.
They are constantly trying to find people with powers, to drain them. They are also able to store drained power in containers.
The message of the story
I'm not sure there's one. Probably "don't trust strangers"?
There was a good line "Beliefs don't make us better people. Our actions make us better people." Although I assume he meant "good actions". But this was not elaborated upon further.
The structure of the story
The scenes of the Doctor Sleep film are played in sequence, following the same storyline. It has the usual arc of the dramatic structure - beginning, action, resolution.
The fan-service aspect is visible in the Doctor Sleep movie, especially in the end.
Scenes and elements from The Shining (1980):
- The old lady
- Dick Hallorann
- The job interview
- Room 217: From The Shining novel, in the movie it was 237.
- Driving to the hotel in the snow
- The hotel
- The bar
- Blood flowing from the elevator
- Ghosts don't blink
- The typewriter
- Looking through a smashed door
- Walking upward on the stairs: The Jack Torrence walks like Rose does in Doctor Sleep.
- The twins
- The axe
- Limping by the injured right leg
- The hedge maze
- The actor who played Danny in The Shining is at the baseball game in Doctor Sleep.
- Blowing up the boiler room was the original ending of The Shining novel.
There are also references to the Dark Tower series:
- Magic numbers: 19 appears on the shirt of the kid after the baseball game.
- "Ka is a wheel": As told by the ghost of Halloran. Ka is a phrase from the Dark Tower.
- Tet Transit: The name of a bus company. Tet is a phrase from the Dark Tower.
- LaMerk Industries: The name of an industrial company. A company from the Dark Tower.
- Joe Collins (Dandelo): There are posters announcing his show.
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Things I liked
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How does it compare to the other works of the creators?
From the writer / director (Mike Flanagan), I've seen Oculus, and that was a good film. I've also seen Absentia (2011), that had a good beginning, but a bad ending. Most of Doctor Sleep is also good, but the ending is weaker due to the fan-service elements. The Before I Wake (2016) was directed by him, and I didn't like it that much, but I can't remember what was my problem with it.
How does it compare to the original source?
I didn't read the Doctor Sleep novel, so I don't know.
How does it compare to the other films in the series?
It's been a while since I've watched The Shining, so I can't compare it objectively. From my memory, I'd say The Shining is better overall, but there's probably more action in Doctor Sleep.
The story of Doctor Sleep is more broader than more focused The Shining. As a sequel, this might be useful, as it lets us explore the world better. For those, who'd prefer more of the same, will be disappointed.
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I mostly liked Doctor Sleep, I didn't find problems that would have prevented me from enjoying it, although I don't consider it a great story.
The title: The "Doctor Sleep" of the title is not really elaborated in the movie. As the creators decided to still use the original title, they could have shown us more about Dan's works as a nurse.
The antagonist: I have to admit that I didn't understand the main motive of the antagonist until I've read the plot summary on the internet. I thought that Rose wanted to kill Abra to steal her steam, but she actually wanted to torture her to get a steady flow of steam. In retrospect, this made sense, they've shown she can do this to Dan, and several sentences make more sense with this in mind. I'm not sure whether it's my mistake or the creators didn't emphasise this heavily enough.
The first scene: In the beginning, why does the mother let the little girl go alone? She'll be out of sight in the woods, and there's a lake, that's potentially dangerous. I assume that they don't live there, and just camping near the lake, so the mother has to know that the girl is not even familiar with the area.
The beginning: About the first hour of the movie is a disjointed mess. There are multiple times and multiple characters we have to follow. We get snippets of scenes, and we don't really know how will those relate to the overall story. There are scenes that are basically cut up and inserted after other snippets, instead of showing it uninterrupted. In the plot synopsis above, I collected the storylines into single sentences, to make more sense out of the story. There's a director's cut I haven't seen but from what I've heard, it's just the same, but with additional scenes to pad the story.
The trailer spells out a large part of the story, up to almost the ending scene.
Building on The Shining
Although I have no statistic to back up my theory, I'd be really surprised if The Shining would be still popular among people. The novel and the movie are both very 40 years old. When I grew up, I've seen The Shining only once on television, and I'm pretty sure it was not broadcasted that often. So, in order to watch it now, people would have to intentionally search for a copy, or try to find it on a streaming service. That's why I find it strange that the studio built the whole marketing on the previous movie, instead of trying to make sure it stands on its own.
- Why doesn't the companions of the evil woman use weapons? Or at least protective clothes? They are not invulnerable.
- Why did Dan use only an axe against Rose, instead of his rifles or handguns? He had seen they were effective against the others, and I assume he still has ammo for them.
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Possibilities of improvement
A re-edit of the first hour might be useful.
How it could have been better?
If the creators could have adapted the novel without trying to be completely true to it, it might have been better for the story. Some of my favourite adaptations do not include every detail from the novels, but stay true to the overall plot. The story could have started in 2019, instead of showing us in the beginning, how did the characters got there. If those parts were really necessary, those could have been told, or shown in flashback.
For example, the 2019 timeline starts with showing us that Dan did not drink for many years. That would be enough to show us that he did before, and it's not necessary to show us the protagonist as an alcoholic, because the audience would understand it anyway.
Getting rid of the hotel might be also a good idea. It really ties down the story to repeat beats from the previous movie. Without that, the creators would be a lot more free to adapt the story.
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- There are evil people with powers, who hunt down other people with powers to drain their powers to feed themselves.
- A man has visions of bad things happening.
- The mental battles between the characters with magic abilities are interesting.
- The murder scenes are also fine, they can be used to depict vampires feeding.
Scenarios - Role-playing game
- One of the characters has psychic visions of bad things happening. The team has to find the victims of those bad things, and try to get the evil people, who commit those bad things.
Scenarios - Wargame
- The defenders are more numerous but less powerful, and they want to kill the leader of the attackers. The attacker wants to capture one of the leaders of the defenders. There are dangerous creatures imprisoned in the playing area. The defenders can release them to cause distraction, but if they release them, they also has to destroy an objective to make the place explode, to make sure the creatures don't spread, or kill every creature before the game ends. If more than half of those creatures are killed, they try to flee the playing area. After the objective is destroyed, roll a d6 dice at the end of every turn, on a roll of 1, it explodes, destroying the nearby areas, and the destruction spreads into the next nearby area at the end of the next turn. The defenders win if they defeat the leader of the attackers, and if they've released the creatures, they've killed the creatures or destroyed the objective. The attackers win if their own leader is still alive, and they capture the defender leader and leave the playing area. It's a draw if the defender leader is killed, or if the leader of the attackers escape the playing area without the captured defender leader, or if the attacker leader is killed, but the creatures were released, but not destroyed.
Miniatures - 1/50-1/60 (28-32mm scale)
Characters: Human-sized modern human civilians.
Rose the Hat: Human-sized modern human female civilian, wearing a hat.
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Colin Wilson: The Space Vampires (1976): People investigate murders, then fight evil people with powers (space vampires). There are some horroristic elements.
Stephen King: Doctor Sleep (2013): The novel the movie was based on.
Hellboy: People with powers fight evil people with powers. Has horroristic elements.
X-Men: People with powers recruit other people with powers, to fight evil people with powers. There are some stories with horroristic elements.
Blade (1998, 2002, 2004): A man with powers hunts evil people with powers (vampires). Has horroristic elements.
Hellboy (2004): People with powers fight evil people with powers. Has horroristic elements.
The New Mutants (2020): People with powers fight evil people with powers. Has horroristic elements.
The Shining (1980): The previous movie in the series.
Van Helsing (2004): People with powers hunt evil people with powers (vampires). Has horroristic elements.
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Is Doctor Sleep film based on a book or comics?
Yes, Doctor Sleep is not based on the Doctor Sleep novel by Stephen King.
Is there a post credit scene in Doctor Sleep?
No, there's no post credit scene in Doctor Sleep.
Where can I watch Doctor Sleep online? Is Doctor Sleep available on Netflix? Is Doctor Sleep on Amazon?
As of 2021.06.09, Doctor Sleep is available on Amazon Prime, Apple TV, Google Play, Netflix, Vudu, YouTube.
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Doctor Sleep: Official article.
IMDB: Doctor Sleep 2019: Database article.
WikiPedia: Doctor Sleep (2019 film): Database article.
Letterboxd: Doctor Sleep 2019: Database article.
Rotten Tomatoes: Doctor Sleep: Database article.
Reviews with no spoilers - Doctor Sleep film (2019)
Dylan Russ (for Morbidly Beautiful): Reel Review: Doctor Sleep (2019): Review article about the Doctor Sleep film with minor spoilers.§
Nate Zoebl: Doctor Sleep (2019): Review article about the film with minor spoilers.
Neil Vagg (for Get Your Comic On): [REVIEW] DOCTOR SLEEP (2019): Review article about the Doctor Sleep film with minor spoilers.§
Obsessive Cinema Disorder 電影強迫症: Doctor Sleep Review: Review article about the Doctor Sleep film with no spoilers.
Tony (for Reel Time Flicks): Doctor Sleep (2019): Review article about the film with minor spoilers.
Reviews with no spoilers - Doctor Sleep film (2019) - Hungarian
Balmount (for Movieeees): Doctor Sleep, 2019 (in Hungarian): Review article of the Doctor Sleep movie, with spoilers, in Hungarian.
Reviews with no spoilers - Doctor Sleep film (2019) - Turkish
Müge İbrikçi Baran (for Dark Movies): Doctor Sleep (2019) – Film Review (in Turkish): Review article of the movie, with no spoilers, in Turkish.
Reviews with spoilers - Doctor Sleep film (2019)
greigzilla (for We've Got (Back) Issues): Doctor Sleep: Review article of the movie, with spoilers.
Matt Elliott (for Horrornews.net): Film Review: Doctor Sleep (2019): Review article of the Doctor Sleep movie, with spoilers.§
Mike & Jay (for RedLetterMedia): Half in the Bag: Doctor Sleep and Parasite: Review video of the Doctor Sleep movie, with spoilers.Ł
WardWorks (for Cross the Netflix Stream): Doctor Sleep Movie Review: Review article of the Doctor Sleep movie, with spoilers.
Reviews with spoilers - Doctor Sleep film (2019) - Hungarian
Erunder (for Corn and Soda): A worthy sequel to a brilliant work – Doctor Sleep, 2019 – review (in Hungarian): Review article of the Doctor Sleep movie, with spoilers, in Hungarian.
Petra (for Petra Watches Movies): Doctor Sleep (2019) (in Hungarian): Review article of the Doctor Sleep movie, with spoilers, in Hungarian.
Analysis - Doctor Sleep movie (2019)
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Have you seen the Doctor Sleep film? How do you like the movie? Would you recommend it to others? Do you know reviews or resources you'd like to add? What further thoughts do you have about it? Tell your opinion in the comments!