Mixed Doctor Sleep reviews praise The Shining sequel's creepy atmosphere
Little Danny Torrance is all grown up in the upcoming The Shining sequel Doctor Sleep, and, judging by initial critic reactions, he’s not exactly a dull boy.
Stanley Kubrick’s classic horror saga (released in 1980 as a big-screen adaptation of Stephen King‘s 1977 novel of the same name) continues with director Mike Flanagan’s new film, starring Ewan McGregor in the lead role and based on the author’s 2013 follow-up to the classic horror tale. Divided reviews for the project (mostly) suggest the film is a generally pleasing return to King’s twisted world.
“Doctor Sleep is a prosaic movie, but one that earns its shock waves of emotion,” writes Variety‘s Owen Gleiberman. “It isn’t until the final third that the story settles back into the Overlook Hotel (though there’s a quickie sort of prologue set there), and by the time we get to the fabled lodge, perched in the snowy Colorado Rockies, it’s more than a stunt; we feel as if the story has earned the right to go back.”
Still, while writers like USA Today‘s Brian Truitt praise the film’s “sublimely sinister” atmosphere, some feel Torrance’s big-screen exploits should’ve frozen to death in that hedge maze from the first film, too.
“Doctor Sleep is a mess. It’s way too long, clashing somber sobriety with loony cheap thrills,” observes EW’s Darren Franich, who slaps the film — which follows Torrance as he attempts to protect a young girl with supernatural powers from a cult called The True Knot — with a C+ grade. “The Shining homages turn shameless and cheap. The jumpscares are more funny than scary. Dan is a problem. McGregor used to be such a livewire performer, but he’s frozen stolid here.”
IndieWire‘s Eric Kohn agrees, noting the film “collapses into cliché” toward the back half, while The Guardian‘s Peter Bradshaw drives a critical stake into the film’s heart, calling it “laborious, directionless and densely populated with boring new characters among whom the narrative focus is muddled and split.”
Doctor Sleep creeps into theaters on Nov. 8. Read on for more movie reviews.
Darren Franich (EW)
“Doctor Sleep is a mess. It’s way too long, clashing somber sobriety with loony cheap thrills. The Shining homages turn shameless and cheap. The jumpscares are more funny than scary. Dan is a problem. McGregor used to be such a livewire performer, but he’s frozen stolid here.”
Owen Gleiberman (Variety)
“That the movie works at all says something about how irresistible it is to go back there. That it works as well as it does is a testament to the ominous pull of Stephen King’s imagination. I still don’t know if The Shining needed a second act, but Doctor Sleep presents one that’s fresh and unsettling enough to justify its existence. The film runs on for an unnecessarily extended 151 minutes, and that’s undoubtedly a by-product of the success of It, the lengthy 2017 adaptation of the first half of King’s killer-clown novel. But in this case the contrast only serves to heighten how Doctor Sleep, unlike the whack-a-demon It films, at least uses its length to sink into a mood of genuine contemplative dread.”
Chris Hewitt (Empire)
“There are moments where he recreates direct shots and revisits locations from the original movie (you’ll know them when you see them), but this is not The Shining Part II. Where that film was a claustrophobic study in madness, paranoia and corruption, Doctor Sleep is an expansive, sombre, multi-location, multi-character drama, a world away from its progenitor. Interestingly, despite more redrum than you could shake a kcits at, it isn’t particularly scary or unsettling. Perhaps Flanagan knew that trying to match The Shining in the terror stakes was a fool’s errand. Perhaps the flaws in King’s story, which keeps its trio of central characters apart for a length of time that could either be called character-building, flabby or plain boring (depending on your point of view), make jolts harder to come by.”
Brian Truitt (USA Today)
“Flanagan’s shown a knack for creating a sublimely sinister atmosphere in Oculus, Hush and especially his Netflix show The Haunting of Hill House. And he does so here with the child-hunting shenanigans of the True Knot that lean emotionally brutal, and his recreation of Kubrick’s “Shining” landscape, with the overhead spots and camera, pans over water set to the chilling ‘Dies Irae’ melody.”
Eric Kohn (IndieWire)
“Unlike Steven Spielberg’s wry Overlook recreation in Ready Player One, the spooky hotel has been relegated into an empty backdrop for an aimless application of the cliché Roger Ebert termed ‘The Fallacy of the Talking Killer,’ and the callbacks to Kubrick ring false throughout. While his version of The Shining was a tapestry of visual sophistication, King’s novel had more of an internal quality, and Flanagan turns both sides of these equation into a superficial salute.”
Peter Bradshaw (The Guardian)
“Did The Shining need a sequel? Well it’s got one now, adapted by director Mike Flanagan from Stephen King’s 2013 followup novel. It is more than half an hour longer than the Stanley Kubrick film, although it seems more than that – laborious, directionless and densely populated with boring new characters among whom the narrative focus is muddled and split. Your attention is distracted from the central figure, who might otherwise have been an actual object of fascination.”
Justin Chang (The Los Angeles Times)
“In a way that poignantly echoes the plight of young Danny himself, the new movie sometimes brings to mind a child caught between two quarreling parents, and attempting to stage a reconciliation.”