Doctor Sleep

As a young man I read a bunch of Stephen King. He was my favorite until I decided Clive Barker was more interesting – I don’t know if I was right. The point is I’m just another movie-watching asshole and can’t pretend to be a King scholar. I haven’t read The Shining (1977) or its 2013 sequel Doctor Sleep. I have, of course, seen Stanley Kubrick’s THE SHINING, and like everyone except King and the Razzies voters I think it’s a masterpiece. (I also just realized it’s the first horror movie I remember seeing.)

It almost seemed like a suicide mission for writer/director/editor Mike Flanagan (OCULUS, HUSH, GERALD’S GAME) to make a movie out of Doctor Sleep. How do you even make a sequel to one of the most unfuckwithable horror movies ever made – a fucking Stanley Kubrick movie – let alone try to please the author who famously hated the movie’s take on his very personal story about alcoholism? He tried to bridge the movie with the books, and I think he pulled it off!

It begins in Kubrickland. Re-creations of the guttural Wendy Carlos synths of doom, the iconic carpet design and bowl-cut Danny riding his Big Wheel down the halls of the Overlook tap into our residual feelings for Kubrick’s creation – to me it comes off more ballsy than cheap. Alex Essoe (PASSION PLAY, STARRY EYES) uncannily channels Shelley Duvall’s Wendy Torrance, who escaped her deranged husband and the haunted hotel with her psychic son Danny (Roger Dale Floyd). Carl Lumbly (M.A.N.T.I.S.) is inspired casting for Scatman Crothers’ Dick Hallorann, who continues to teach Danny about his abilities.

But quickly it shifts to the story of adult Danny (Ewan McGregor, HAYWIRE), who has inherited his father’s alcoholism and seems to use it to mute the visions of horrifying ghosts that have followed him since the Overlook. Rather than put him in THE SHINING 2 – making him lose his shit like his dad, or even putting him in a haunted building, or isolated location of any kind – it’s a totally different story that takes place largely on the road. And there are villains this time, a little tribe of slow-aging people apparently called The True Knot. They’re basically psychic vampires – rather than blood, they feed on the “steam” that emits from people with “the shining” if they die in fear and/or pain. They travel around in RVs tracking psychic kids to either murder for “food” or, if they seem useful enough, turn.

So they’re kinda like the outlaw vampire gang in NEAR DARK, but with less punk and more of a Romani vibe, especially in the case of Rose The Hat (Rebecca Ferguson, a.k.a. Ilsa Faust in MISSION: IMPOSSIBLEs ROGUE NATION and FALLOUT). Her man and co-leader Crow Daddy is played by Zahn McClarnon, who I‘ve loved since his rogue enforcer character Hanzee completely stole Fargo season 2. In things like BONE TOMAHAWK and BRAVEN I wished he could have a bigger character. Here he’s playing one of the main villains and he makes him seem like a good guy. His people are murdering children but he seems to be a really supportive partner and voice of calm and reason as Rose increasingly flips the fuck out.

She’s more outwardly evil – she opens the movie trapping one little girl, and later goes to war with another one, screaming at her, calling her a bitch. But she also has enough humanity that you can’t help but identify with her at times. In some of the movie’s big scare moments it’s Rose who’s being terrorized. And she does some mourning and some panicking as she realizes the world is getting rougher, her leadership is failing, and death has caught up with the creepy but sorta cuddly old giant Grampa Flick (Carel Struycken, TARZANA, THE PREY, EWOKS: BATTLE FOR ENDOR, THE WITCHES OF EASTWICK). All she can do is comfort him and make a speech about his great centuries of living.

Luckily in all their travels this crew never caught a whiff of Danny Lloyd. I guess the drinking was good for something. He only gets drawn into this whole mess after moving to a small town and meeting a good friend, Billy Freeman (Cliff Curtis, SIX DAYS SEVEN NIGHTS), who gets him into A.A. Clearing his head seems to open him up to communications from a pre-teen Shining pen pal, Abra (Kyliegh Curran). He sorta becomes her Dick Hallorann, except she’s way more active and adventurous with her powers than he was as a kid. One day she shows up at his work to tell him what she’s figured out about a missing kid (Jacob Tremblay, THE PREDATOR) and how they can catch the people responsible.

On the topic of true knots, I got a little little one in my stomach worrying about all the things that, when this is all over with, Danny might have to explain to somebody. “No officer, this is not my daughter who I traveled across multiple state lines with. Yes, she was the one who told me the location of the murdered child we dug up.”

I was pretty on board from the beginning, but it was as the psychic back and forth between Abra and Rose heated up that I realized I was loving it. And by that point I wasn’t thinking about Kubrick at all. The most noticeable part of the score by The Newton Brothers (SEE NO EVIL 2, ESCAPE PLAN 2 and all of Flanagan’s movies) is a frequent heartbeat thump, a little like Ennio Morricone’s theme to THE THING. And there are definitely some visual nods to THE SHINING – lots of slow dissolves, helicopter shots of cars driving down long winding roads, re-creations of specific sets – but mostly it looks like a Mike Flanagan film. I love the rotating rooms and floating bodies he uses to represent telepathic communications and astral projections. So much of this story is about people watching or speaking to each other mentally from across the country, and he finds perfect ways to visualize it.

By the time it returns to some SHINING stuff it feels like it’s earned it. And you’re kind of waiting for it to happen. It’s time for Danny to face this stuff like Laurie Strode in H20 when she locks the gate, gets the ax and yells for Michael.

I’ve been watching Flanagan’s The Haunting of Hill House series recently and god damn is that good. One of the best things I’ve seen in a long time. I like that this has a bunch of parallels, even if they all come from the source material: psychic kids, addiction related to ghost trauma, confronting/getting closure from a father (played by the same actor, although I didn’t realize it), being followed by the ghosts of a haunted place, and of course returning to confront the haunted place – which we see in both pristine and dilapidated form – as an adult.

By the way, I like when Rose blames a drought of strong psychic kids on distraction from phones and Netflix. The latter part is kind of an in-joke because Hill House and several of Flanagan’s movies are Netflix productions or exclusives, but I like the concept. Imagine, these people make it work for hundreds of years and then all the sudden they starve because of how addictive it is to get likes on Twitter and Instagram!

One part I remember laughing at in the 1997 SHINING mini-series scripted by King to be closer to his book was that at the end the ghost of Jack Torrance watches Danny graduate from high school like the ghost of Obi Wan Kenobi. Here that kind of stuff works, and it’s funny that it’s the actual Obi Wan Kenobi (prequel edition) playing Danny. His voice can appear in his young student’s mind like she’s Luke Skywalker trying to blow up the Death Star. Maybe that’s how he got the job.

(THEMATIC END SPOILERS) The title DOCTOR SLEEP comes from the nickname given to Danny when he’s working at a hospice, comforting a man about his impending death. This part seemed like a cool little tangent in the story to me, and afterwards I wondered why it’s significant enough to be the title. And I quickly made the connection that the movie ends with more Doctor Sleep – he’s taught Abra to teach her mom about life after death. We saw Danny’s childhood horribly scarred by violence – he lost his dad and his friend, he saw his dad turn on him and his mom, and he saw horrible visions of the dead that followed him home. After they managed to make it through all that he must’ve lost his mom young to some less visible violence like cancer. And still, after many years of self destruction, he’s able to dedicate his life to making people feel more positive about death.

We saw Rose take on the role too, but mostly the True Knot are the opposite of Doctor Sleep. They’re terrified by death. They spend their whole life on the road trying to stop it from ever coming. And that would be fine except they’re so addicted to living forever they’re willing to do it by snuffing out extraordinary promise-filled children who haven’t had a chance to live much yet. Not fair.

I think I kinda loved DOCTOR SLEEP. I will be making a follow-up appointment.


This entry was posted on Monday, November 11th, 2019 at 12:06 pm and is filed under Horror, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

75 Responses to “Doctor Sleep”

  1. So you’re saying this is the 2010 to the original 2001?

    I’m mixed on Flanagan, don’t dislike him but do not care for all of his output*. It being more like OCCULUS and HILL HOUSE makes me think I should hold off since I’m in the minority of not carring for those two but I gotta admit the more I hear about this movie, the more I am intrigued (before I didn’t care).

    Your love for this one makes me think I should try to make some time and go out and see it though.

    *I’m bad, I like his more mainstream stuff like his OUJIA movie and HUSH.

  2. It’s so different in every imaginable way –story construction, tone, visuals, pacing, focus– that connecting it to THE SHINING, or even referencing it, seems insane, but I have to admit I did enjoy it. I don’t know that it “works,” exactly, but the movie’s a lot of fun.

    One thing that struck me is that Kubrick mercilessly streamlined the original novel The Shining (which I read for the first time this October in preparation for the sequel), excising many of its endless subplots and perspective changes and essentially turning a meandering mini-series in the making into a sleek film plot. Flanagan, on the other hand, leans into King’s tendency towards sprawling, chatty, meandering plotting, and the result is a movie which has more narratively in common with carefully pruned mini-series. It makes it feel warmer, more affectionate; more about enjoying the characters than telling a specific story. In one sense, it’s much plottier, or anyway has a much busier narrative, but at the same time it seems less about that, mostly allowing the plot to wander wherever it wants as an excuse to giving the characters little moments.

    Which makes it almost the polar opposite of Kubrick’s THE SHINING, but perhaps more in line with the increasingly serialized storytelling of modern TV and film. It makes me wonder if film more film is going to move in that direction.

  3. Naturally, I look around after I post my comment and learn Matt Lynch already made the 2010 comment on LB…

    Anyways, the director of MAXIMUM OVERDRIVE says this movie is so good it makes the Kubrick movie good in retrospective. After that and Vern’s (and Mr. S’s), I guess I shouldn’t need anything else to push me to go see this.

  4. There will be SPOILERS!

    I’m glad you liked it Vern, and most of the parts you liked I also liked. I think I’m too close to it right now.

    I like the stand-alone Doctor Sleep story enough, though it feels like a somewhat better executed Mick Garris c. 1990s joint. The non-Overlook cast is solid, and the Rebecca Ferguson-led True Knot are a creepy and original clan of evil Vampire carnies whose nomadic child-murdering exploits offer us some truly harrowing scenes. Still, the film is too jumbled and plot-heavy, constantly flitting from one locale and cast cluster to another, meandering about but never leaving any character or dyadic conflict alone for a long enough stretch to steep and earn its emotional resonance. Abra, Dan, and Rose are all hubs with their own supporting cast spokes — it’s like three mostly different casts and film worlds for the first 2 hrs.

    Atmosphere is sorely lacking, and there is no overarching visual or production design aesthetic. Abra’s homeworld and her parents look like they walked out of a Wal-Mart commercial. The Bruce Greenwood-led AA meeting is shot like the opening of a Hallmark Christmas film (Perhaps Bruce has a daughter that would be just right for Ewan!). The Overlook is the spooky old gothic Scooby Doo version of the Overlook.

    I’ve read good things about director Mike Flanagan (trying HILL HOUSE now), but it was the chance to revisit Kubrick’s Overlook Hotel rather than any particular affinity for Flanagan or the source novel that was the main attraction for me. And it’s the Overlook stuff that sinks it for me.

    Man, I was so disappointed with the Overlook revisit, you guys. The inside of the hotel felt smaller — downright cramped — and much more like a constructed set. Smaller, thinner, chintzier, faux-weathered and “lived in,” too warmly lit and richly colored. This is not the vast, cold, cavernous, imposingly substantial Overlook. What’s worse, all your favorite Overlook ghouls are present and accounted for, but this amounts to a risible game of Overlook bingo. Without fail, every Kubrick-Overlook character is a hammy, superficial simulacrum of the original, all overdone as one-note self-parodies. Lovely party guy shows up to raise his glass again and say as much. Grady twins tag in long enough to say “come play with us for ever and ever and ever.” Room 237 woman gets to shamble out of the tub about four different times, each one more perfunctory and un-scary than the last. It’s as though, all along, these horrifying Overlook ghosts were merely animatronic haunted house dummies running on a pre-programmed loop. You’ve taken the most terrifying monster of my childhood and turned her into a stupid dog whose only tricks are pull back shower curtain, get out of shower, and lumber pseudo-menacingly. Rinse. Repeat.

    All of these iconic creepers are emptied of their primal dread and reduced to parodies, doing spooky parlor tricks, as if they were Alec Baldwin and Geena Davis from Beetlejuice hoping to scare the interlopers out of the hotel. The only exception is one quasi-affecting scene between Dan and Jack/Lloyd-the-bartender that shows a few sparks, but, like everything else about the Overlook, can’t overcome prosaic, hamfisted dialogue and direction.

    Right now, I’m dumping out my grievances, but I actually grade this a B-. And, believe it or not, I’m interested to see it again! It’s got a beating heart, a good message, a solid cast, and some nice non-Overlook performances. It’s just too bloated and choppy plotwise, and it lacks a consistent aesthetic or sense of geography. It’s a bunch of interesting ideas and characters from three or more different good films and one bad Overlook sequel film shaken up in a blender.

  5. Skani- maybe this is reading too much into it, but I think there’s something thematically kind of interesting about Danny returning to the Overlook and it being less scary than it was when he was a child. It’s like going back to your old high school after you grow up- was the cafeteria really this small back then? Do all the old teachers still wear the same sweaters? It’s not like the ghosts are gonna learn any new tricks in the last 30 years of being dead, and Danny saw ’em all already just like we did.


    I definitely agree with Skani about the Overlook part, but it’s such a small part of the movie it barely matters. Which is definitely a weird thing for one of the most iconic movies of all time, but there you have it. THE SHINING feels like an impossible burden on DOCTOR SLEEP, and I can’t help but think it would be better as a completely separate and unconnected story, but since there’s no avoiding it maybe it was better to just rush through the inevitable beats and get back to the actual story of this movie as quickly as possible.

    PS: Good lord, I just read the synopsis of the book and it seems pretty different and much, much worse.


  7. SPOILERS, beware. Kurgan, I would love to get there, if I could, but I think that might be too generous of a reading and this cigar may just be a cigar. For me, the mistake is trying to ape Kubrick or mesh the Kubrick SHINING with the Mick Garris SHINING***. The Overlook does not figure into the book, the bulk of the film takes place 2000 miles from Colorado, and the entire plot of this film could have taken place without revisiting the Overlook. It’s pure fan service and/or Kubrick’s SHINING geekery that compels Flanagan to revisit the Kubrick Overlook, and Kubrick’s Overlook is creepy as hell for an adult — I just watched it last week in anticipation of this. For me, the Overlook and its ghouls are pretty much perpetual cringe-level embarrassing bad. Not just a little off. Not just different. Cheesy and derivative.

    That may be the inherent trade-off in setting the conclusion to the rest of this film at the Overlook — it would have been a real tone change if the first 2 hours of this movie abruptly left-turned into a full Kubrick-aesthetic Overlook. Kubrick’s washed-out color palette, his mastery of and preference for visual storytelling, and his nihilistic streak couldn’t be in starker contrast to King’s unremittingly folksy talkiness, optimism, and penchant for Americana nostalgia. Kubrick is the consummate high-art modernist, King the Normal Rockwell, Reader’s Digest everyman of horror. As a result, we have radically different philosophical and aesthetic sensibilities about the basic cinematic grammar of tone, pacing, humanism, and the preferred ratio of silence and slow-burn to chatter and narrative convolution.

    ***You can see Flanagan trying to mesh Ewan McGregor’s Dan Torrance with Steven Weber’s Jack Torrance, down to the ghoulish gray-green complexion and milky eyes and his fate.

  8. Subtlety, yes, I came in most excited for the Overlook and was, perhaps unsurprisingly in hindsight, most disappointing. That said, I don’t think the climax of the film can be dismissed as such a small part, especially when it’s going to some pains to recreate the basic architecture and design of Kubrick’s Overlook and populating it with all the same minor characters. Sure, it’s only 25-30 minutes of a bloated film, but it’s not just a random saggy piece in the middle — it’s the finale!

  9. I’m sure I’ve already tried to get you to watch the amazing Longmire, Vern and co., probably through Lou Diamond Phillips; but here I’ll add that Zahn McClarnon played a great supporting character on that show who became more and more important as it developed. Well worth checking out!



    Skani – “the entire plot of this film could have taken place without revisiting the Overlook. It’s pure fan service and/or Kubrick’s SHINING geekery that compels Flanagan to revisit the Kubrick Overlook…”

    I disagree. At first it seems like just a cool plot device (the only way he can think of to beat Rose is to bring her to the place that fucked him up) but the first thing he does when he gets there is revisit the room where it went down, then go find his dad, look him in the eye, and show that he’s different (not taking the whisky). THEN he unlocks all of the ghosts of the past he’s had locked up in little boxes in his mind since he was a little kid. To me that whole section is way more about character than about fighting, so it’s easy to forgive the two or three minutes of obvious nostalgia with the twins and stuff. (Plus it was super fuckin cool when they all stuck their hands in Rose’s face).

  11. SPOILERS, DEFINITELY, TONS OF THEM………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

    Vern, I can appreciate that viewpoint. It’s not the nostalgia that bothers me, per se. I was as swept up in the nostalgia as anyone else — too much so, it seems. I found the handling of the Overlook to be clunky, rote, and generally off-brand in its look, feel, and characterization. And Flanagan’s version of Kubrick’s Overlook didn’t mesh well with Flanagan’s c. 2019 Dan/Abra/Rose world. Also, why would Dan have Grady and ‘Great Party’ Guy locked in in his boxes? (And why does Bruce Greenwood’s office look like Stuart Ullman’s? I guess just a fun Easter egg, but took me out of the film a bit).

    I’m not sure a more effective realization of an Overlook with a true Kubrick look and feel would have worked either, as it certainly wouldn’t have meshed with the tone, color palette, pacing, and talky plot-heaviness of the rest of the film. Truly, though, I’m glad it worked for you, because there was nothing I wanted more than to have a really satisfying Overlook experience. Not that I’ve been waiting all these years to get it, but once I thought maybe I would get it, my fate was sealed.

    On the positive side, here are some things I liked:
    1. The whole True Knot cast, especially Rebecca, Zahn McLarnon, and Big Carl. Particularly enjoyed Big Carl’s weird death moment. That said, I’m on the fence about the special effects surrounding the True Knot members’ deaths die.
    2. Jacob Tremblay and his big scene. Man, that was rough stuff. And powerful.
    3. The True Knot’s first encounter with that little girl in the 1980s. That was utterly chilling and really effective. Man, the scenes with the kids were hard.
    4. Cliff Curtis. Really dig him in general and dug him in this, even if his character here was a fairly underdeveloped cliche.
    5. I liked the notion of Dan shine-possessing Abra, and I loved Zahn McLarnon’s whole speech to Abra. He delivers a really nice performance.
    6. Ewan McGregor was good here.
    7. The setup with the woman and baby that Dan left behind and then their ghosts — both very well done.
    8. I also liked the astral projection scenes.
    8. I thought Kyleigh Curran was great, and I loved her dynamic with Rose.

  12. This was too long, but I liked it. I liked how different it was from Kubrick’s The Shining. This one was surprisingly hopeful, heroic tale and I was fine with that.

    The decision to have kid Danny lock away his demons and then cut directly to adult Danny boozing, fighting and fucking around was kind of odd. I’m assuming there was a scene in between where Danny relapses, but I guess the people in charge figured “this movie is already too long”? Still, I liked Danny’s little AA journey and how he finds a way to use his powers to comfort people. I also liked the relationship between Danny and Abra. I enjoyed their pleasant pen pal relationship and the ‘Uncle’ stuff. Making Abra so confident and unafraid of Rose and her gang was an interesting choice and probably my favorite thing about the movie. I like the idea of powerful little girl taking the fight to a gang of bad guys after witnessing a horrific murder. Her post and pre fight sassy one liners were much appreciated (“I hope that hurts. A lot.”, “We’ll see who’s screaming.”)

    The Overlook finale felt unnecessary, but I did like how Danny got some closure at the bar.

  13. Oh and I also appreciated how they recast some of the actors from The Shining instead of recreating them with creepy, distracting cg. Bathtub lady is basically a joke at this point, though. She’s the annoying houseguest that no one can get rid of!

  14. I do think this movie is stuck between a rock and a hard place regarding the Overlook. SPOILERS FOR BOTH BOOKS FOLLOW-




    Since the Overlook blows up at the end of the first book, it’s not really there in the end of the second book (it’s like a campground I think, though I haven’t read the book since it first came out). I don’t know if it would really be satisfying for a film audience to come back to the place where we *don’t* see the Overlook, but at the same time as Skani points out, we’re never gonna really get the *impact* of the Overlook again.

    I guess for a film adaptation, I think you have to go back to the actual Overlook in the end. The original movie is too embedded in pop culture to not do go back in a sequel. Whether it ends up really working for the audience, I guess your mileage may vary on that.

    One thing I did think was interesting is I think the movie adaptation ending is a lot sadder than the novel, just as the original Kubrick adaptation’s ending was sadder than the original novel. That’s kind of an interesting choice and I wonder if it was intentional in that way.

  15. SPOILERS, DEFINITELY, TONS OF THEM……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

    Kurgan, yeah, I can appreciate the challenges. Honestly, it’s not so obvious to me that they had to go back to the Overlook, for a few reasons. First, the book manages to get by without revisiting the hotel. Second, the movie is set almost entirely 2000 miles away, so, plotwise, the little road trip to Colorado is a bit of a strain and feels tacked on. Third, and related the others, the entire premise is that the shine is not location-bound, so, there is nothing sacred about that location from the standpoint of shining mythology. Indeed, the point of the first 2 hours of this film is in showing us that that shining is an expansive and variegated phenomenon, which is in keeping with Dick Halloran’s speech in part 1. The inner-plot rationale for going back to the Overlook in this film is a bit thin, too. It feels like a fairly last-minute and minimally satisfactory excuse for holding the climax there, not a slow-building inevitability.

    In my view, pretty much everything about the Overlook scenes in this film serve primarily to pay-off certain bits of Kubrick or King fan service rather than truly belonging in or advancing the main Doctor Sleep story. Flanagan provides some minimal breadcrumbs to set up and justify returning to the Overlook (e.g., the ghost boxes, the reference to Jack when Dan gets his 8-year chip), but they seem like just that — sparsely distributed contrivances to provide a minimal pretext for returning to the Overlook. There is nothing about THE SHINING (the Kubrick or the King version) that feels truly integral or organic to Doctor Sleep in a visual or narrative sense. Unlike Vern and others, I think the return to the Overlook ends up hurting more than helping the film.

    I can think of at least a few alternative ways to deal with Kubrick SHINING fans besides the obvious one of not touching the Kubrick stuff at all. They could have limited all the Kubrick SHINING stuff to the beginning prologue and been very clear about that in the promotional tour (in the same way the actual promotional tour seemed to milk the “love letter to Kubrick and King that somehow reconciles them” angle). They could have had a running motify throughout the film of Dan visiting or being visited by the Overlook in dreams or visions as he battles his demons of temptation and reluctance to mentor Abra. This would have more effectively integrated the Kubrick-verse throughout the film vs. tacking it on as narratively and tonally discordant bookends; it would allowed for the Overlook to feel strange, foreign, and otherwoldly — that is Kubrickian — by virtue of the fact that it’s an alternate plane dream world; for the same reason it would have readily supported a natural pivoting back and forth between King’s world and Kubrick’s as a running motif vs. an awkward stitch-job; and it would have allowed for Dan’s working out of his personal demons to be a key sub-plot that supports his character development and propels him into a final act that takes place in his and Abra’s own present day world. Instead, the final act feels tacked on from another movie, doesn’t get the vibe of that other movie right, and it is required to achieve a lot of different things all at once, some of which seem foreign to either of the books or Kubrick’s movie. Here, I’m thinking of Dan’s sudden transformation into Jack and his death, neither of which really make any sense on their own terms in this film. Jack literally just got done decisively overcoming the temptations to which Jack succumbed — with Jack now in the role of tempter, no less! — only to abruptly become possessed by the hotel anyway and then decide that he has to die with the hotel for reasons that are even more thinly “explained” as the reason he and Abra needed to trek 2000 miles to the Overlook in the first place.

  16. Sorry, I meant, “Dan literally just got done decisively…”

  17. Casting spoiler….

    So that was Henry Thomas as Jack! Blew my mind when I read that afterwards.

    He was great in Haunting of Hill House. My first thought when Jack shows up was “wow what actor had the balls to do that?”

  18. I have been a King reader since the beginning (I’m that old). The Shining is easily in my top 5 King books. I did not like Doctor Sleep at all (the book).

    It’s crazy to say, because King puts out so much goddamn material, but I feel like Doctor Sleep is a lot like King’s more “recent” work. And by recent I mean the last two decades. An interesting hook, a first half that gets you all in, and a big messy final act that just isn’t satisfying. Doctor Sleep is a very different story than the Shining and really is a monster story, not a haunted house story like The Shining. I liked the build up in the book, and I loved the True Knot. But the whole ending is just a disaster. You could change Danny’s name in the book and you would probably not even know the book was a Shining sequel.


    I love Flanagan, wont go through his IMDB here. I give a nod to his enormous balls in taking on The Shining like he does here. It made me think of Rian Johnson and The Last Jedi. Like or dislike that movie, he sure didn’t play it safe. Flanagan knows he is treading on hallowed ground and seems to embrace it. Even the scene where Rose is stalking Danny up the steps is such an obvious wink to the original. I was stunned that he recast both Wendy and Jack and had them actually doing full blown scenes of dialogue. That had to be scary. In his interviews you can sense his reverence for Kubrick’s film. He really goes for it in the final half hour at the hotel.

    I was having so much fun with this part, that I almost forgot I was watching a horror movie. The two children murders are really tough to watch. But I walked out of the theater more focused on the recreation of the Overlook in the Final Act. When all the old ghosts are released from their boxes, I really couldn’t keep my eyes glued into my skull. I don’t know if it was CGI or just spot on casting, but a lot of those ghosts looked 100% identical to their 1980 counterparts. I really want to see this again just to watch the whole sequence slowly. I was making note of tiny details all around the hotel and I went back and watched the original film the following day. Lamps, pictures, everything is recreated 100% accurately. I’m sure someone at some point will put together shot by shot comparisons. I found myself more wrapped up in the technical prowess of the film as it ended than its content. And I am sure there are many folks who saw this that were completely ignorant of the tremendous amount of work that went into recreating all those sets. And I also bet I didn’t catch a fraction of what they recreated.

    Overall, I thought the movie was a bit of a mess, but not as big a mess as the book. All of the performances are great, it looks great, and it is never dull. Were it not for wanting to see all the Overlook sequences again, I cant imagine ever revisiting it.

    I would say this is better than a “B”, but not quite a “B+” either.

    Im really surprised this movie bombed as hard as it did. Maybe The Shining isn’t that big a deal to the younger folks out there. It is amazing to me that a piece of crap like Annabelle 5 can make 20 times its budget, but a film like this cant even top the box office on its opening weekend.

  19. I’m sure this is a decent movie. I liked the book (no masterpiece but it’s compulsively readable like everything King writes) and I like the cast and I like Flanagan (except OCULUS and the literal last minute of HILL HOUSE, which kind of spoils the vibe with some wishy washy Del Toro shit in my opinion). But for the life of me I can’t bring myself to care about this. I think I’m just done with reboots. Revivals, reimaginings, whatever you want to call them. Done. Everything you ever loved, back from the dead, one after another, again and again, the same shit resurrected for one more round and one more round and one more round. Nobody even likes any of this shit anymore but they keep coming anyway because it’s easier than taking a risk on a new dream. And I don’t think a culture can last long without new dreams.

    This one isn’t even near as bad as most because it’s just the one sequel and it came from the original author, who made sure it was its own beast and not coasting on nostalgia at all. (So of course that’s what they change for the movie. And didn’t we JUST go back to the Overlook in READY PLAYER ONE? Place gets more foot traffic than Grand Central.) But despite my not being philosophically opposed to this specific revival, all this revisiting of old stories has done its damage: I now have a kneejerk reaction of despair whenever yet another classic film gets turned into yet another “property” for the perpetual regurgitation machine.

    I think within the past year, I’ve reached a threshold. There’s no joy to be had in this for me anymore. It barely even matters if any of the specific movies are good. It’s not even close to DOCTOR SLEEP’s fault that I fell this way but it is still a symptom of the disease that has robbed American cinemas of its imagination. I’m past sick of it. I was sick of it ten years ago. Now I’m just done.

    I’m not judging any of you for supporting any of these reboots, but for me, I feel deadened by this process. It feels like a muse dies every time a franchise revival gets greenlit instead of an original idea. It feels like we’re watching cinema eat itself in real time and paying for the privilege.

    It all just makes me sad.

    This has almost nothing to do with DOCTOR SLEEP and I apologize.

  20. But at the same time, how many versions of THE ISLAND OF DOCTOR MOREAU have there been? How many PRIDE AND PREJUDICEes? INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS? How many new takes on MACBETH, or versions of SEVEN SAMURAI or YOJIMBO or fuckin’ BREWSTER’S MILLIONS? I don’t think remixing, re-adapting, or rebooting is anything new in the world of movie making, though I’ll definitely grant you that it feels like a big trend at the moment, but we’re also still getting new shit like LADY BIRD or THE LIGHTHOUSE or THE FLORIDA PROJECT. As much as it can seem like it, I don’t think it’s time for culture to be declared dead just yet.

  21. I could probably dictate every rebuttal to my post word for word (I’ve made them myself at different points in my journey) so I’ll just say that this is my personal feeling about where we’re at as a culture and I’m not trying to argue it as objective truth. That said, you only need to look at the Fandango listings on any given week to see evidence of what I’m talking about, even if it doesn’t affect you the same way.

    That said, I don’t think different adaptations of DR. MOREAU three decades apart in completely different contexts is in any way the same thing that we’re experiencing now, and I do not want my only choices to be “new trilogy starter based on movie played 47 million times on TBS since 1990 with one original cast member in cameo role” or “microbudget art film about depression and stuff.” So your rays of hope are, to me, just the exceptions that prove how shitty the rule is. Again, that is personal. If these options are enough to sustain you, I’m happy for you. To me it feels like very thin gruel.

  22. Eh I don’t know what to tell you then, man. I just don’t think we’re in some kind of special wasteland of creativity right now. For every GODFATHER PART II, there’s always been an OLIVER’S STORY. For every STAR WARS, a LASERBLAST.

  23. I’m with Mr. M on this one. I cannot muster any excitement for this and I am a King fan. The book was alright nothing I was ever excited to see adapted and I was never the biggest fan of the Kubrick movie though I’ve seen it dozens of times and do recognize it’s iconography.

    I think the biggest reason for my disinterest though was the sour taste IT: PART 2 OF THE 2 CHAPTER THING left in my mouth a couple of months back. It’s gotten back to that late 90s period where I was burned out by people trying to put their own spin on King’s work.

    This review and the positive comments are encouraging but I still can’t see myself not just waiting for it to premiere on cable or something. Nothing really gives me a vibe that it’s something that will be worth watching on the big screen.

  24. I hadn’t factored IT 2: CLOWNS OF GLORY into it, but you’re probably right. It likely took a lot of the thrill about seeing another Stephen King sequel on the big screen. That movie was so terrible it was like its own bad SNL parody.

  25. Kurgan — I mean, every generation thinks they’ve invented laziness and greed, but I think it’s worth noting that although people still *produce* original work, and sequels and rip-offs have always been *made*, you can’t ignore that the most popular and lucrative movies for the last decade or so are almost *exclusively* remakes, reboots, or otherwise “properties.” It really does seem like the public’s appetite for original material is at a notable historic low.


    The more I think about it, the more I realize this movie was a hopeless task from the get-go, simply because the hook of DOCTOR SLEEP is about Danny’s later life. But Danny is barely a character in Kubrick’s THE SHINING. The book has a bunch of Danny point-of-view chapters, but the movie is almost entirely focused on Jack. All we learn about Danny is that A) he has the Shining and B) he doesn’t like ghosts or being chopped up with an axe. So revisiting this character later in life is kinda a blank for us, he might as well just be a new character who happens to have the common movie ability of telepathy. No wonder Flanagan felt like they had to go back to the Overlook and rope in a few familiar faces (which, to be fair, it sounds like the book kind of does too). Otherwise, you could hardly justify calling it a sequel. But since the new story isn’t really about that –not even thematically, really!– the recycled material feels kinda superficial and needless, and a bit defanged.

    I still enjoyed the movie but man, what a crazy thing to exist.


  26. I mean, I think there’s a lot to unpack here and I’m not trying to argue that remakes/reboots/whatever aren’t *a thing* right now in movies, but I don’t think that signals anything especially culture-negative. TV and comics and even video games are all going through creative renaissances right now, with lots of weird new shit getting produced and becoming popular. Big studio moviemaking is an inherently conservative business, so I guess maybe it’s not surprising that they’re turning to known quantities to try and get people out of the house away from the more and more easily-accessible and high quality entertainment available on right your laptop.

    I dunno, I’m just shooting the shit I guess. Besides, this is just a distraction from the REAL debate presented in the review- Clive Barker VS Stephen King!

  27. …and it’s a brilliant debate idea. The more sensitive part of me that dealt with feeling ostracized and misunderstood by even my most closest friends growing up gravitated towards Barker. However to me The Hellbound Heart is the only true masterpiece in his body of work.

    The part of me that grew up a cynical asshole not at all surprised by how ugly and misguided the world could truly be was more into King. Also he does have at least 4 novels I’d consider absolute must own for anybody who keeps a book collection. So by virtue of volume King edges Barker out.

    However when you look at the uniqueness and originality of their sense of prose, the authentic expression of truly imaginative ideas and the ability to make some of the most repulsive characters ever worth reading due to very astute character development. They’re probably closer than most would like admit. Barker has a stronger sense of pace though despite his work taking sloppier turns than King’s. I’ll give him that.

  28. I feel as though a lot of the angst about properties and industry consolidation, while legitimate, can serve as a proxy and general punching bag for whatever has got a person feeling down. I know that when I’m feeling gloomy about my own aging and mortality or existential threats to humanity, I start to feel gloomy and curmudgeonly about anything that feels contemporary. I can’t ignore the Disney consolidation of everything as a real hegemonic force, but I do feel like there is good horror and other film-making that is original, good streaming and serialized options, etc. It also seems to me that a lot of stuff can get blurry and sleight-of-handy. Many of our favorite films of the 80s and 90s were franchises. Many of today’s franchises (e.g., JOHN WICK) are <10 years old as film franchises. Some of these franchise attempts fail. Films like HAUNT and HELL-FEST still get made, and some latter-day franchise entries (e.g., UNISOL 3 AND 4, HALLOWEEN 2018) are among the best in the series that started in the 70s, 80s, and 90s. Films like JOKER or DOCTOR SLEEP take weird left turns with their mythologies. Some of the franchise things that people hate I find enjoyable. I liked SOLO, sorry, gang.

    I am rarely lacking in something good or interesting to watch. I do think Disney and Amazon, etc. are ripe for some trust-busting, but I also think that there is a lot of tilting at windmills and searching for convenient targets of angst.

  29. That said, I’m not backing down on my B/B- rating for this film or my position that the Overlook stuff is a bungle. I suspect with time, I’ll reevaluate this film as a beautiful mess, but for now, I’m still smarting that I got suckered in on the Overlook stuff.

  30. Broddie- For me, I think the biggest difference between the two is that Barker is concerned a lot more with the sort of weird roiling psycho-sexual gruel bubbling away in the human subconcious. In the parlance of the time, this guy likes to *fuck*. King is, in a lot of ways, more palatable. I think Barker has a better hit-to-miss ratio for his film adaptations, (as long as we’re not counting the HELLRAISER sequels, I guess) though the sheer number of King adaptations makes that kind of meaningless. I definitely agree that King has at least three books that are out-and-out all time classics of American literature and Barker hasn’t quite gotten there. But at the same time, shit like “In The Hills, The Cities” is like the craziest fucking thing I’ve ever read and that’s not nothin’.

    Skani- I also liked SOLO! It’s my favorite of the new Star Warses in fact, as measured by the extremely objective “would I be in the mood to watch this movie at any given moment” metric.

  31. Barker is a great idea man but his prose is annoying. It was cute when he was a precocious tot showing off all the big words he knew with every sentence, which is why the Books of Blood still work, but now I find his style infuriating. King’s prose is more workmanlike and his ideas less transgressive but he tells his stories so well that you rarely notice what’s not working about them until they’re over. While you’re in his grip, your focus never wavers. He’s a natural storyteller. The last two times I tried reading Barker, however, I started yelling “Get on with it!” a hundred pages in. I find his wordy descriptions of every little detail tedious beyond belief. It works in a story (“The Hills etc.” is great) but wearying over the long haul.

  32. I’ve only read a few Barker short stories, one of which I loved (“In the Hills, the Cities”), but I’ve otherwise encountered similar issues with his prose style. He seems to relish describing rib cages and things with very ornate nearly-religious verbiage that just feels like he’s showing off how hardcore he is. And I’m kinda over that part of my adolescence. But yeah, his concepts are really good.

  33. Anyone read Barker’s The Scarlet Gospels?

  34. That was one of the two Barker novels I read recently. It started out cool but quickly became a chore. It’s like 300 straight pages of baroque hellscapes. I wanted to throw it in a river. I only finished it through pure stubbornness. I hadn’t read a new Barker novel in at least 15 years at that point, so it made me wonder if he had lost it, so then I reread what used to be my favorite of his as a teenager, IMAJICA, and despised that too. So I think I’m the one that’s changed, not him. Years of training in the hardboiled arts means I just can’t handle his style anymore.

    I want to say WEAVEWORLD and CABAL still hold up but don’t quote me on that.

  35. Agreed that The Scarlet Gospels was a chore. I’d always stuck with the idea that Barker wrote well, even when the stories weren’t great, but Scarlet reads like it never saw an editor … and that maybe Barker was on heavy drugs when he wrote it. Other “recent” failures include Coldheart Canyon and Mister B Gone.

    And yet on the other hand I enjoyed his Abarat books, all of which came out in maybe the last 10-15 years, although it sucks that he’s only released three parts of that so-called quintet.

    He’s never recaptured the magic of The Books of Blood, that’s for damn sure, and virtually no one has ever matched the magic of “In the Hills, The Cities.” Jesus Christ, amazing.

    Having said all of that, Barker isn’t even a patch on King, whose recent output still includes at least one stone cold classic in “11-22-63,” and whose 50- year output includes several other all-time classics as well.

  36. I loved Revival.

  37. Says a lot that 11-22-63 was one of my favorite King books I’ve read recently (well, semi-recently) and it didn’t even enter my head as one of his greats. I also enjoyed The Outsider a lot. Not a groundbreaker, maybe, but a spooky idea executed well, and some twists I didn’t see coming.

    Shoot- I also liked Revival! It winds up being an awful lot more bleak than almost all his other stuff.

    Thinking about that story actually reminds me of an incident I remember King wrote about during the making of Kubrick’s SHINING (I think it was described in On Writing, but maybe it was Danse Macabre)- apparently late one night, King was up writing and he got a phone call. He picked it up and Stanley Kubrick was on the other end, and the first thing out of his mouth was “do you believe in God?”. King kind of thought about it and responded with something like “yeah, you know, ultimately I think I do believe there’s something out there,” to which Kubrick was silent for a minute, then replied “I disagree.” and hung up.

  38. It’s not from DANSE MACABRE, which was written while THE SHINING was in production. I remember chuckling at a line in it where King talks about the film adaptations of his work to that point. He said he’d been well-served thus far and expected that to continue with THE SHINING. Whoops.

  39. You guys know they’re adapting Books of Blood as a Hulu series right now? It’s filming several blocks away from me.

  40. Of the recent wave of new King, I liked the Outsider I think the best. The Mr. Mercedes series was mostly forgettable (the first one was the best I thought), the new one, The Institute was kind of fun. Revival I didn’t like too much. It is amazing to me that they made a mini series out of all three of the Mercedes books and are making one out of the Outsider. None of that material really warranted 8 plus hours. Thank god they are finally trying to do a minseries of the Stand.

    All that being said, it got me thinking about this age old feud between King and Kubrick. Two serious questions:

    1) Does anyone other than King really dislike Kubrick’s movie? I mean, I don’t know that I have ever read or heard a serious criticism of it. There were some lukewarm reviews of it when it was first released, but any film critic that lists his top 10 horror movies of all time is pretty much guaranteed to have The Shining in it.
    2) I get why King was mad about it. The movie definitely tells a very different story than his book. I assume every one posting here has read the book and liked it. I never once got mad at the movie because it was different than the book. I loved reading Jaws, and I wasn’t mad that they took out the mafia and the Hooper/Mrs. Brody affair either. Is there anyone out there that is a huge fan of the book that hates the movie like King does? One single person?

  41. Yeah actually my dad does not like the original (he normally has good taste, I promise!).

    As far as I recall, his primary complaints were 1. Nicholson seems like a psycho right off the bat (a complaint I believe King shares); 2. Shelley Duvall is “annoying”; 3. He doesn’t find it scary, just tedious.

    I think it’s also a reaction against Kubrick more generally in his case, though. He really hates 2001 as well.

  42. I’ve read a fair number of King books but more so when I was in junior high than since. I also saw a couple of the ABC mini-series. I’m not sure I have a solid context for his beef, since my memory is generally more gisty than photo-realistic, and since I’ve ever actually read a first-hand King criticism of Kubrick’s film, instead it’s always been someone quoting him. It seems to me that most of his criticisms of Kubrick’s SHINING are criticism of Kubrick’s general auteurial vision, so, there’s always an element of “What the hell did you expect?” that arises when I hear that King felt SHINING was too cold and didn’t empathize with its characters. Kubrick has that reputation in general, so what do you expect? And besides, I think there is all kind of emotion and pathos in the SHINING, and I have sympathy and empathy for all the characters, it’s just that there not as maudlin and talky as King would like them to be. Also, fuck you, Stephen King, you sold your book rights, Kubrick is a visionary, it’s not your movie. Also, your judgment about good and bad adaptations of your own work is demonstrably mixed to poor.

  43. Kurgan,

    Its funny you mentioned that about Nicholson seeming like a psycho off the bat. I watched this again on Friday and was definitely thinking that. It is funny, that performance is so iconic, and Nicholson is just so….. Nicholson, that every time he smiles in the first half hour you think “oh this asshole is crazy”. I wonder what someone coming straight from a desert island would think. There is a scene in the beginning where the family is driving to the hotel after he just got the job. Danny says he is hungry and Jack looks like he wants to tear his throat out.

    Also, Wendy is VERY different in the book. She is pretty tough and certainly not a shrinking violet like Shelly Duvall plays her. I don’t think the movie is scary if you have a tough, fearless Wendy.

  44. I’m glad someone mentioned how annoying many people find Wendy in Kubrick’s SHINING, because it gives me reason to bring up a long piece I wrote about this puzzling fact a few years back. King was awful sore about Kubrick treating Jack like the abusive monster he is, but I notice he never complained much about how much the movie beats up on poor Wendy. I think Kubrick wanted to toy with the audiences’ sympathy (contrasting mousy Duvall with charismatic Nicholson) before pulling the rug out from under them about what a fucking monster Jack is, but it’s a rare case where he may actually have been insufficiently cynical, never guessing the audience would actually stay on the abusive husband’s side even while he’s trying to chop his family up with an ax. It’s genuinely startling how many people leave the movie with a visceral hate for Wendy when she is nothing but effective and supportive for the entire runtime. We should talk about this more as a society. There was a vulture piece recently which also addresses this, but I’ll link to mine instead for reasons of vanity.

    The Shining

    The Shining (1980) Dir. Stanley Kubrick Written by Stanley Kubrick, Diane Johnson Starring Jack Nicholson, Shelley Duvall, Danny ...

  45. I liked what I read of The Outsider but it was so long I think I wasn’t even more than a quarter of the way through it. I should probably buy it. I just kept borrowing it from the library but somebody always put it on hold so I couldn’t just continuously renew it.

  46. Skani it’s an extremely personal story for King. He dealt with alcoholism while stuck in a deserted wintery hotel with his wife and son (Joe Hill). Jack Torrance’s descent into madness in the novel is representative of his own psychosis being attacked by his inner demons. So yeah as I writer myself I could see how something so personal and cathartic for you being grossly misrepresented on a mass level could grind your gears.

    Stephen King watched a movie where his avatar was pretty much painted as unhinged from jump. Basically telling him whatever episodic monster phases he went through during that period where always there and not a byproduct of his substance abuse. How people can’t see why he would never live that down os beyond me. It’s more than just superficialities. With that said his hands on ABC mini series version sucked in it’s own right. This is still the director of MAXIMUM OVERDRIVE (which don’t get me wrong I do love) I don’t think the filmatic language on any level (tv or cinema) is exactly a strong point.

  47. I also always believed that King was too close to Jack to see him for what he really was: a bitter, unpleasant, entitled narcissist on a collision course with domestic violence that the Overlook merely exploited, not created. As the stepson of just such a bitter, unpleasant, entitled narcissist, I recognized Jack for what he was instantly.

    But I also have this theory that Kubrick saw in Jack a kindred spirit: a creative type who is constantly dragged down by the petty obligations of life. Wouldn’t it be more fun to just murder the fuck out of everything that distracts you from your calling so you can focus on what’s really important? Hence the decision to make the wife annoying as balls so you’re never for one second tempted to sympathize with her. Of course, Kubrick would never do a straightforward wish-fulfillment story like that, so he showed some self-awareness in making Jack’s life’s work just page after page of gibberish. The implication being that, no matter how timeless or important you think your art is, it’s still just, you know, words. It’s not worth throwing your life or anyone else’s away over.

    Strangely, this is not a theory I heard in that documentary about the film, in which people obsessed with the moon landing or Native American genocide were shocked—SHOCKED I tell you—to discover that the film was clearly REALLY all about their own personal interests. As a creative type who nine times out of ten would rather be alone with my work than out there dealing with other humans, it is not surprising that my interpretation is what I took from the film. And I think that’s exactly Kubrick’s intention. The Overlook only shows you what you bring to it (Note that Wendy, “confirmed ghost story and horror film addict,” is the only one who sees any traditional Gothic haunted house imagery) and so does THE SHINING. King brought great guilt about his alcoholism to the film and so naturally it feels to him like the film is shaming him. I brought fear of abusive patriarchs so that was my initial focus, but as I grew older and poured that fear into my craft, I started to relate to Jack more.

    This is all as it should be. This is why the film is a classic.

  48. Thanks, Broddie. I’m broadly familiar with the backstory and Torrance being perhaps King’s most semi-autobiographical character. So, I agree that this explains (makes sense of) his outspoken criticism, but I don’t think it justifies the criticism. It wasn’t so personal a story that King wasn’t comfortable selling it to readers and to a movie studio. When you do those things, unless you specifically negotiate otherwise, you have to let go of your ownership over it. To repeatedly badmouth this film and director for these reasons just comes off salty. And then when you see his taste in adaptations and his more personally inolved Mick Garris adaptation… insert eyebrows-raised GIF here.

    Also, I’ve read quotes where King has called Duvall’s Wendy the most misogynistic female character/performance in the history of film or something approaching that. So, he did not limit his wrath to Nicholson’s Jack.

  49. I love that interpretation, Majestyk. My thing with King is the micro-management of it all. I read some of the coverage around DOCTOR SLEEP where Flanagan talks about needing King’s blessing to do the film, and then needing his micro-blessing to include the Overlook and to do various other things, and I’m like, did King negotiate that level of creative control? Is that actually good for the film? Think of what would have happened if Kubrick had worked that way? There’s no obligation for King to like it, and I guess he is a chatty bastard (me, too, I guess!), I just think it makes him come off as a goof. Is what it is.

    I could say more about the decision to have Jack be off at the start of the film and about Duvall’s Wendy. Wendy is gratingly, masochistically co-dependent, and I think there is a lot to mine from the film in terms of how Jack and Wendy are both trapped in a set of late-modern FATHER KNOWS BEST / LEAVE IT TO BEAVER patriarchal expectations that clearly are not serving either of them well. They’re both trapped trying to act out rigid gender role stereotypes and both failing. And yet it is Wendy who is competent, conscientious, caring and ultimately tough, resourceful, and morally compassed enough to save them all and best Jack, who has the entire haunted hotel on his side!

  50. King’s objection to the interpretation is also philosophical. He believes that if you set out to make a movie of a book, you make the book. Change all the details you want to make the adaptation work, but don’t fundamentally change the central story so it says something completely different. It’s an attitude more aligned with theater than film, but it’s what he believes. King’s book is about a tortured man fighting his demons to protect his family. Kubrick’s movie is about a selfish man gleefully giving in to his worst instincts. That’s a fundamental difference in the story at a molecular level. To King, that means it’s a failure of adaptation.

    In recent years, though, I think his thoughts on the film have become a bit more measured. He can judge it a little more objectively on its own merits, which he still finds wanting. He thinks the film is artfully made but dramatically inert because there’s no emotional core to it. Even if it wasn’t his story being butchered, he’d consider it beautiful but dead. That’s a matter of taste but also a perfectly reasonable response if you’re of the belief, as King is, that good horror only comes through the audience’s emotional connection to the characters.

  51. Damn fine write-up, Mr.S! I enjoyed that immensely. Thanks for helping me kill some time on slow work day.

  52. Lots to chew on in here.

    I’m not sure I’m prepared to ascribe any normative or conceptual force — or any other type of legitimacy — to the notion of “‘failed or successful’ adaptation.” It sounds like something made up to exert control and stifle autonomous creativity.

    I am willing to entertain the possibility that, even if it weren’t his story, King still wouldn’t care for Kubrick’s SHINING, because it lacks the warmth and humanity King values in a story.

    I think the narrative that Kubrick’s film is cold or doesn’t care about the characters or their emotional life is completely wrong. The fact that the portrayal is other-worldly may be a misdirect in that regard. All three characters and Halloran are brimming with emotion and baroque emotion at that. Rage, clinical depression, stark terror, subtler forms of anxiety ad unease, social awkwardness, near-catatonia, dissociation, autisic-ish mannerisms, and even warmth from the likes of Wendy and Halloran in particular. Yes, the weather is cold, Grady is cold, Lloyd is cold, but little else is cold.

  53. Also, I just read Mr. Subtlety’s essay, linked above, and it is fantastic. In my most recent viewing of SHINING last week, I really connected to Wendy for the first time, and Subtlety’s extremely thoughtful, incisive, and well-written analysis nails it for me. The only area where I would differ is that I think the film really invites us at different points to identify with all three of the Torrances and to have compassion for them, as they are all to varying degrees trapped in a set of socially constructed but very real power dynamics and expectations foisted upon them by others that they are wrestling with.

    I relate to Jack because he truly feels put upon, trapped, failed, hopeless. All his lashing out masks a deep and abiding but only thinly masked insecurity and self-loathing, but he has no tools, self-awareness, etc. to actually work through it. So, he does the typical man thing (great role models Lloyd and Grady turn out to be) and bypasses the real emotions straight to the false and destructive pseudo-empowerment of angrily displacing everything onto others. Yes, objectively speaking, he does have all those white male economic and social privileges, but that also creates incredible emotional and identity stakes, as he is constantly reminded of how much he has failed to achieve any kind of masculine ideal, be it the noble civilize provider or the devil-may-care rebel and creative genius. Yes, he is the primary villain alongside the Overlook itself, and, yes, fuck him for what he’s done to Wendy and Danny (and Halloran!), but he is also a victim on some levels, himself, I think.

  54. In the book there’s a character called Barry the Chink. Smart decision not to include that bit in the adaptation (although they do have Barry the Chunk which is what Abra called him so he’s not omitted.)

  55. I would like to stress that I think King is insane. There is emotion in THE SHINING, it’s just not the same emotions that are in the book (which is also great in a very different way). And even if it is a bit of a cold fish, keeping its characters at a distance (literally and figuratively) it’s still a fantastically entertaining movie, both stately and playful, realistic and campy, terrifying and hilarious. It’s the shortest two and a half hour horror movie ever.

  56. Agreed, Majestyk! I did read THE SHINING back in the day and enjoyed it! I also enjoyed the TV movie back in the day, but I was much younger and do not expect that it would hold up. I definitely recall the TV movie being much more faithful to the book, and so much the worse for it — not because it’s a bad book, but because there are elements that don’t translate well to the screen. Moreover, as I think you’re saying, translating something to the screen involves more craft and care than simply knowing which things to cut. It really does involve making a compelling film unto itself, which involves working with entirely different tools — visual and sonic, including the use of silence and nonverbal human expressions to convey things. So, I guess I do see some conceptual and maybe even normative value in the notion of an effective or ineffective adaptation, which is really just a way of saying “good movie based to some extent on some prior source material.” Where I would demur is that failure of adaptation is somehow related to faithfulness to the source material. A failure of adaptation is for me just a way of saying “shitty movie that is an adaptation.” The element of faithfulness to the source is irrelevant, what really matters is, is the film any good on its own terms. I’m not sure King would agree. And sounds like he judges Kubrick’s film a failure on either definition. Fair enough.

    Also, I will offer some apologies to King. The media industrial complex is such that you keep get asked what you think, and then out of social convention you offer a forthright answer, and then it echoes down through the ages, gets re-asked periodically based on the firs time you answered, and then it all takes on a life of its own. The net result over many years is it looks like you’ve been proactively crusading against the film vs. just giving a straight answer to a question as asked. Unclear to me which is more true in this case. Not sure it matters to much. I’m done on this particular angle. :)

  57. Having just read the novel for the first time (after having seen the movie often) my red-hot take is that Kubrick did not change as much as people usually allege. In fact, I’d say all he does to it is what a good editor would have done in the first place: cut out all the deadwood. Gone are the endless flashback scenes to Jack’s drinking years, gone is the useless antagonism with Ullman, gone are the chapters and chapters about Halloran’s journey to the hotel, gone is the head-scratching “mafia angle” that the book can’t seem to let go of, gone is King’s overwhelming obsession with his dumb wasp metaphor. Gone, mostly, are the perspectives of Wendy and Danny, who collectively take up a huge portion of the book without ever amounting to anything interesting or useful (and in Danny’s case makes for some pretty out-and-out embarrassing reading, given King’s questionable grasp on the mental world of a five-year old.)

    Instead, Kubrick zeroes in on the actual conflict: Jack’s rising resentment of his family. Now, Kubrick is far less sympathetic to Jack than King is, but the interesting thing is that Kubrick doesn’t really change what Jack does. Their actions are virtually identical, and in fact almost all of Jack’s dialogue comes straight from the book (including the whole “white man’s burden” speech, the whole “I could really write my own ticket back in Denver” tirade, and everything with Grady). Obviously many of the superficial details are different –the unfilmable and frankly idiotic topiary animals become a hedge maze, the roque mallet and its accompanying 60,000 words of explanation become an axe, the elevator filled with confetti becomes an elevator filled with blood, Halloran dies– but the basic facts of the story are almost identical. I thought Halloran’s survival must mean the novel had a very different ending, but nope; his role is exactly the same, he just gets knocked out instead of killed. Jack dies like a chump out of his own idiocy in both versions, even if the details are a little different. He maybe has a single moment of self-reflection in the book that the movie doesn’t afford him, but it’s a tiny detail. Other than that, Kubrick’s THE SHINING differs only in tone.

    Basically, the problem is this: Jack Torrence is a resentful, abusive asshole. The booze makes him worse, but it doesn’t add things that weren’t already there (in fact, he gets fired for beating up a student while stone sober). King gets this, but likes him anyway. Kubrick sees the same character and doesn’t feel any sympathy for him, sees him as a weak bully that blames his own failings on everything but himself — his family, the booze, the hotel, whatever.

    Funny enough, there’s a part of the book where King actually wrestles with how authors perceive their characters, through the medium of Jack discussing his play. We learn that Jack, like King, has a tendency to fall in love with his characters, even the villains. He likes all his characters, even if they’re flawed. But as he writes, Jack start to pick sides, and see his main character as a duplicitous monster hiding behind false sympathy. Of course, King sees this as a sign of his looming downfall, but to Kubrick it would almost certainly seem incisive. It’s such a perfect metaphor for the difference between Kubrick and King that it almost seems like a direct address of their differences in print, but it was written before the movie!

  58. Shelly Duvall’s work in The Shining deserves as much praise as Nicholson. I understand why Jack sucks all the attention out of the room; it’s a staggering piece of mega-acting, but what Duvall does is the single greatest portrayal of abject terror in film history. It is an exhausting, trembling, flush-in-the-face shriek of a performance. Someone please correct me if you can think of a better one.

  59. True story, many years ago I was at a strip club in Atlanta with a few friends (don’t judge). I don’t know how in the world The Shining came up, but the girl dancing at our table started doing quite possibly the greatest imitation of Shelly Duvall’s Wendy you could possibly imagine. It pops into my head every time I see this movie now. This is both a positive and a negative.

  60. After watching THE SHINING and Flanagan’s GERALD’S GAME within 24 hours of each other, I figured I’d never be more open to what this movie was selling so I said fuck it and caught a matinee. And I liked it. It’s the rare horror movie with active, well drawn heroes AND villains, and that went a long way toward maintaining my goodwill for the WARNER BROS. PRESENTS THE SHINING: A HAUNTED HOUSE SPOOKABLAST EXPERIENCE: LIVE! I do agree with the post above that many of the callbacks sort of cheapen the original imagery, especially the repetition of Bathtub Lady and the shots of the whole menagerie of once inexplicable entities now clustered together like a cozy little family of beloved intellectual properties on a piece of fan art. I also do not approve of the ghosts taking direct physical action against Rose, as that has not been established to be in their skill-set and is far too pat a resolution to the conflict. And while I appreciate the nuts it took to attempt this shit, every time Flanagan recreates a shot from THE SHINING, it is inferior. You hear how Kubrick did 40, 50, 100 takes of every shot and you wonder how that could possibly be justified, but then you see these recreations and you realize it was worth it. The new tracking shots don’t cut the corners just right. The frames don’t hold perfectly still. The focus is just off-center. There’s nothing wrong with the new shots in any normal context but when compared to the preternaturally pristine originals, you see the difference and it is distracting.

    Speaking of distracting, that random duplicate of Ullman’s office was a step too far. There’s no story reason for that office to look like that. It’s just fan service of the type I’d hoped Flanagan was above. This scene doesn’t utilize or subvert the original’s iconography for new narrative purpose; it merely fetishizes the surface trappings of a superior film in the manner of a hollow, soulless franchise remix like TERMINATOR: GENESYS.

    But mostly it worked. The new story stands on its own two feet and has its own vibe. I like Flanagan’s approach to visualization. He tends to find a very bold but simple conceit and run with it. It feels confident and a little theatrical but never arch. We’re always focused on the human heart of the scene, not the visual presentation.

    I apologize for my upthread rant. I need to find a way to hold onto my belief in the importance of original content without succumbing to despair or tarring all reboots and reimaginings with the same brush. For better or worse, they’re not going anywhere anytime soon and I have to learn to take the good with the bad. Ka is a wheel, after all, and even when it repeats itself, there are new twists to every rotation. This particular turn of the SHINING wheel is much more good than bad.

  61. Majestyk, I’m glad you mentioned the office thing. That was so odd and out of place when it came on I almost thought I was just mistaken that it was Ullman’s office recreated (or close to it). It seemed really out of place and pointless.

  62. Not that it’s a huge deal one way or the other, but I thought the ghosts being able to physically affect Rose made sense, because the bathroom ghost is able to physically attack and bruise Danny in the original. I dunno if it’s something where they can only do that sort of thing to folks with some kind of psychic ability or what but I thought there was some precedent at least.

  63. I was able to justify it somewhat, but it still seemed sketchy to me. You’d think if they could have just devoured Danny wholesale, they would have just done that long ago in Room 237 and not bothered with all the rigamarole of trying to drive Jack insane so he’d murder him. Their M.O. was always more about seduction and suggestion, getting hapless mortals to sell their soul and do their dirty work for them. (I have similar reservations about the EVIL DEAD remake for taking the original’s manipulative trickster demons who like to possess your friends and make YOU kill them and turning them into mindless stabbing machines.) It feels a little pat to just have the ghosts show up and save the day in like two seconds.

  64. Oh I definitely agree it’s a little easy. Deus ex spiritus.


    I’m OK with the ghosts being able to physically affect Rosie because it seems like the True Knot people aren’t exactly human. They’re solid enough that you can kill em with guns or car accidents, but when they go they just sort of dissolve into steam. I think they probably have more in common with the ghosts than with meaty human bodies.

    It’s definitely is a little diminishing to have the Overlook’s inexplicable, alien weirdness just turned into something that can grab and eat you, but oh well. Considering what madness it was to make a sequel to THE SHINING in the first place, I’ll allow it to fumble that part a little in exchange for a surprisingly entertaining yarn overall. Glad you liked it, Majestyk.


  66. I’m glad you liked it, too, Majeystyk. After a week, I’m mostly over my grumpies with it, and I can appreciate what worked. Like I said, for me this is a solid B/B-.

  67. Majestyk- I think we all were discussing some Shudder movies a bit back, I couldn’t find the talk back. And I doubt you will see this. But did you ever see a movie called Terrified? I have been reading good things about it and it popped up on my Amazon. You can rent it on Amazon, its free on Shudder. Or anyone other than Majestyk for that matter.

  68. I have not seen it but I know the movie you’re talking about. It looked interesting. I have it in my queue.

    I have seen TERRIFIER, though, which I like a lot. Probably my favorite retro slasher, despite killer clowns being pretty played out. Last I checked it was streaming on Netflix.

  69. Knowing what I know about Terrifier it sounds too much like Satan’s Little Helper, if you know what I mean.

  70. Oh, it’s way better than SATAN’S LITTLE HELPER. I wouldn’t even consider them the same kind of movie. And I like SATAN’S LITTLE HELPER. And not just because its makeup effects guy came to one of my parties because he was trying to bang my roommate (he failed).

    It’s weird how many times that oddball little movie gets brought up, though. I only heard of it because aforementioned roommate worked on a TV pilot with John Waters, aforementioned makeup guy, and Jeff Lieberman…director of SATAN’S LITTLE HELPER (though he’ll always be the guy who made SQUIRM to me). It’s a small world, I guess.

  71. The Undefeated Gaul

    December 11th, 2019 at 2:35 pm

    TERRIFIER has the scariest monster/killer in a horror film in a long, long time. His look and movements are insanely effective, a true nightmare.

  72. Speaking of Kubrick, I swear I remember you reviewing Barry Lyndon, but can’t find it. Am I going mad? (I just watched it for the first time, and was curious about your thoughts, vern).

  73. I still haven’t seen BARRY LYNDON! I need to change that.

  74. I gave this one another spin, trying out the Director’s Cut this time. My expectation was that it would grow on me, because films have a way of doing that, and because my expectations were not fully re-calibrated from their pre-first-viewing high.

    Still didn’t really like it. There were things I liked. Well, there was thing, I liked, and that was the performances, which I think are by and large pretty solid or better. What still sort of sinks it for me is the Stephen King TV movie quality / feel of it, that it never shakes off. It just never feels very cinematic, and that’s most painfully on display when it’s trying to homage Kubrick’s Overlook, which is as cinematic as it gets. As a fun little Stephen King miniseries potboiler, I think it works well enough. But it invites the Kubrick comparison — hard — and that works against it. It just underscores what a creepy, otherworldly masterwork Kubrick’s film was and how quotidian and “perfectly fine, I guess” this one is by comparison.

    One thing I did really like was Danny’s encounter with Jack/Lloyd/Grady/Hotel at the bar and in the bathroom. As written, acted, and framed, it’s a genius set of beats and is one moment where Flanagan actually does manage the hat trick of somehow melding Kubrick’s film’s tropes and iconography with the warm (sometimes cloying) beating humanism that is so central to King’s oeuvre. Henry Thomas really nails it, as a presence that seems to be part Jack Torrance, part hotel. It’s a truly haunting set of moments and a satisfying and really poignant moment for Danny that manages to avoid becoming maudlin.

    That said, all the things that bugged me the first time I watched it bugged me at least as much or more this time out, and I found myself tiring of Rose the Hat pretty quickly. She’s such a magnetic badass personality that there definitely was something transgressively fun about her the first time around. A good love-to-hate type character. Second time around though her Catwoman-esque prowling, seething, smirking energy lost a lot of its pop.

    Oh, well, it has some interesting moments, and I’m glad they went for it, but the clashing of sensibilities across the various auteurs ends up making it a bit of a clunky mess that suffers rather than benefits from the self-conscious linkages it makes to Kubrick’s film. Competent fan-fiction but a bit less than the sum of its oddly matched parts.

  75. I still don’t love (or hate) DOCTOR SLEEP, but I am registering my approval for MIDNIGHT MASS (and also, HUSH, which I finally checked out). I really, really liked MIDNIGHT MASS. Way to go, Mike Flanagan.

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