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Non-Review Review: Doctor Sleep

Doctor Sleep finds itself caught between a rock and a hard place, between Stephen King and The Shining.

Of course, Stephen King wrote The Shining. The book belongs to King. It is a profoundly personal work, dealing with his own feelings of inadequacy as a young writer and father, and documenting his own struggles with addiction. Indeed, a large part of the tension between Stephen King and Stanley Kubrick over the cinematic adaptation of The Shining was the way in which it largely eschewed any interiority in its handling of Jack Torrance. In some ways, King has been awkwardly trying to reassert his authorship of The Shining for decades, through works like the television miniseries and the sequel Doctor Sleep.

It’s a hungry world…

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of Doctor Sleep is that it has found a director half way between the sensibilities of King and Kubrick. Flanagan is a very precise visual director, with an eye for compositions and an understanding of slow methodical build which makes him a good choice as a director to follow Kubrick’s work on The Shining. However, Flanagan is also a writer who is much more interested in the literary themes of King’s novel than Kubrick was, with Flanagan’s filmography dedicated to exploring the themes of trauma and addiction that wed King’s work on The Shining and Doctor Sleep.

The resulting film still occasionally feels caught between two masters, struggling to satisfy both King and Kubrick’s version of The Shining. It’s to Flanagan’s credit that the film strikes as effective a balance as it does, resulting in a film that manages to work both as a reasonably satisfying sequel to one of the best horror films ever made and as an engaging movie it its own right. Doctor Sleep has some minor problems, but succeeds make an impossible mandate look like child’s play.

Corridors of power…

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