What We Want from Doctor Sleep

Another day, another Stephen King adaptation. Or at least a trailer for one.

This time around, we’re looking at the first trailer for Doctor Sleep, the adaptation of King’s recent sequel to the iconic Simpsons Halloween special, The Shining. And first, I’ve got to say this: Doctor Sleep is a tremendous character study, a vivid and gruelling exploration of addiction, guilt, and trauma via the lens of an adult Danny Torrance. And that’s all it is. When it comes to the actual storyline, – psychics? Vampires? Hats? Some combination of the above? – Doctor Sleep basically falls flat on its ass. And I’m really curious to see how this translates to the big screen – will writer/director Mike Flanagan be able to thresh something more engaging out of the messy plot, and can Ewan McGregor embody Danny’s tortured spirit with any level of conviction? Only one way to find out – to the trailer!

0:17: I think it does need to be said that Ewan McGregor is an excellent choice for Danny in this adaptation – his recent turn in Fargo really reminded me of the breadth and depth of his talent, and he’s already shown with the seminal Trainspotting that he can get inside the head of an addict in a completely convincing way.

0:32: Pretty sure the crack in the bedroom wall is a plot from Doctor Who, but since it was from the Steven Moffat era, we’ll let it slide, because that doesn’t count as actual television.

0:49: Y’know, I’m a sucker for a good inversion, and having the “redrum” show up in the mirror (where in The Shining it’s inverted) is a neat way to get the point of this sequel across. It’s Danny as both an alternative to and embodiment of his father, and that’s a really cool, very on-brand horror concept right now.

0:57: I feel like it’s evidently unfair to mention that this is based on a “best-selling” Stephen King novel, since most of them are and that’s hardly been an indication of their quality, now, has it?

1:16: I will say this: as someone who, for reasons I don’t even truly understand, loathes Kubrick’s Shining adaptation, I’m pleased to see that this trailer doesn’t seem too stylistically indebted to that movie. Mike Flanagan is a tremendous horror maestro, and it only feels right that he should get his teeth into such an iconic horror character.

1:38: Now, if I’d been making this film, I would have had Ewan McGregor look straight down the lens and offer a little wink at the delivery of “The Shining”, but Mike Flanagan, that exceptional example of modern horror TV and cinema, pussied out.

1:56: It’s interesting that, even decades after its release, The Shining movie is a big enough cultural touchstone to be the main selling point for this film. I’m not totally delighted about it, and I’m strenuously hoping that these clips from the original are only here to get the point across for newcomers to the story, but (Rose the) hats off to Kubrick for the enduring cinematic experience he created.

2:26: So, with these final moments (the music, the recreation of the iconic Homer Simpsons-axeing-through-a-door shot), it very much seems like Doctor Sleep is lining itself up to be a direct sequel to The Shining. Which is a great selling point, but I’m really interested in seeing whether it can stand outside the legacy of that horror classic and find its own story to tell here. With Mike Flanagan (have you watched Haunting of Hill House? Watch Haunting of Hill House. Book a therapy appointment in advance) at the helm, I’m pretty confident it can. What did you think of the trailer? Are you sold, or still skeptical? Let us know in the comments below!

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By Louise MacGregor

(header image via SlashFilm.com)

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