Doctor Sleep

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Rose the Hat is 100% MY JAM

Was I slightly worried about the big screen adaptation of Stephen King’s Doctor Sleep? Look, I’m always gonna worry about any King adaptation, because his work is so heavily weighted in character development that it’s almost never done right due to time constraints — BUT! I whole-heartedly love every single thing Director Mike Flanagan has ever done, so I had more faith in this one than most. 

And I’m pleased to say that faith was not misplaced: this movie was fucking phenomenal, and I LOVED IT. 

Though Flanagan does make some departures from the source material by shrinking the members of The True Knot and going in a slightly different direction in the third act, it’s still a wicked thriller of a story. 

Thirty-six years after the events in The Shining, grownup Danny Torrance (Ewan McGregor) is struggling with the same alcoholism that plagued his father, hits bottom, and ends up finding salvation in a small town working as an orderly in a retirement home where he’s earned the nickname “Doctor Sleep” because of his ability to guide the patients there to their final destination. 

Danny’s newfound peace is interrupted by another person who shines; a little girl named Abra Stone (Kyliegh Curran), who contacts him using telepathy, quickly becoming close to him. One night, Abra has a nightmare vision of “The True Knot” — a traveling band of near immortals who live off the life force of people with abilities like Dan and Abra’s. 

And to get that life force (known here as “steam”) they actually have to murder them, brutally, to get it. Something-something fear making it stronger; something-something SO MUCH SCREAMING. Oh hey, did I mention the people they hunt are CHILDREN?

The True Knot is led by Rose the Hat (Rebecca Ferguson), a ruthless leader who will stop at nothing to feed her “family.” Once she gets a whiff of Abra’s power, she’s determined to hunt her down and kidnap her so the Knot can keep her around to feed off of for a long, long time. 

In talking with Abra and his spirit guide, Dick Hallorann (Carl Lumbly), Dan realizes the horror Rose and the Knot have been causing, and teams up with Abra to help get rid of them once and for all — even though he has to return to The Overlook and face his childhood trauma to do it. 

Even though I read the book, this film was pure joy to watch and kept me guessing a few times. The True Knot is 100% as terrifying as it is in the book, particularly Rose, thanks to a masterful performance by Ferguson. Rose is fucking ferocious and I love her so goddamn much! She’s my new horror icon and I’m already making seriously cosplay plans. 

In King’s novel, Snakebite Andi was my second fave Knot character; though she’s altered here (much younger, and is shown joining the Knot in the film; with no clear statement about her queerness), I still thoroughly enjoyed her and can’t help but wish there could be a prequel/spinoff starring her and Rose, traveling around and being evil together. Emily Alyn Lind does an amazing job with Andi; matching Ferguson’s relentlessness with her own wounded and angry determination. 

Really, the entire cast is completely on point, and I was happy to see Jocelin Donahue from The House of the Devil as Abra’s mom, Lucy, and Alex Essoe from Starry Eyes as Wendy Torrance. And sure, no one will ever BE as great as Jack Nicolson is as Jack, but (a mostly unrecognizable) Henry Thomas (!!!) does a great job. 

THOSE OVERLOOK SCENES THOUGH. 

I know recreations make people incredibly nervous, especially with a movie as beloved as Kubrick’s version of The Shining. BUT OH. MY. GOD. The scenes that Flannagan recreated from Danny’s memories were nothing short of miraculous. You can see the art that went into every frame, and I am in complete awe that he was able to pull it off as perfectly as he does. Just outstanding. 

And what about that splatter, Amie? While this film leans more on the psychological terror and woo-woo stuff like Astral Projection and mind-traps, its not without some gore. In fact, there’s one very detailed and gruesome murder that is translated to the screen so exactly that I remembered all over again how sick it made me feel the first time, and there’s some terrifically gruesome showdown moments that I *think* were all practical F/X, which y’all know I’m appreciative of!

Like all of Flanagan’s work, I keep thinking about this one and can’t wait to own a copy so I can take a deeper dive into it. I absolutely, whole-heartedly recommend you see it! 

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