Doctor Sleep Movie Review

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The 1980 movie The Shining, starring Jack Nicholson as writer Jack Torrance, is considered a classic. Who can forget the dark events that took place in the isolated Overlook Hotel?  Jack, his wife and young son Danny stayed there alone as caretakers of the property. Only, there weren’t really alone. The strange happenings in the hotel slowly drove Jack to insanity and violence. Danny, gifted with “the shining”, uses his intuitive abilities to reach out for help, beyond the snow bound property.

If you’ve seen The Shining, you know it doesn’t end well for Jack.

Doctor Sleep is the long awaited sequel to the story that began in the Overlook Hotel. Danny…Dan…is grown. However the events from his childhood greatly impacted the adult he grew into.

Check out this Doctor Sleep movie review, for a look at the continuation of The  Shining story. Mild spoilers included. The movie’s ending is not revealed.

Doctor Sleep Title Meme

Doctor Sleep Cast

This horror/thriller stars Ewan McGregor, Rebecca Ferguson, Kyliegh Curran, Zahn McClarnon, Zackary Momoh, Carl Lumbly, Alex Essoe and Jocelin Donahue. Mike Flanagan directed and wrote the screenplay, based on the novel Doctor Sleep, by Stephen King. Doctor Sleep carries a well deserved R rating, for violence, language, nudity and intense scenes, and has a run time of 2 hours and 32 minutes.

Danny Torrance grows up
Danny Torrance grows up.

Overcoming a Difficult Childhood

Doctor Sleep opens with flashbacks to Danny’s traumatic winter at Overlook Hotel. Danny (McGregor) and his mother Wendy (Essoe) attempt to move on with their lives, settling in Florida where it never snows. Danny does not speak for months until he receives a visit, in spirit, from Dick Hallorann (Lumby). Hallorann offers Danny techniques for containing his fear. Dick, who befriended Danny at the Overlook and recognized his shining, tells the troubled boy to mentally build boxes to trap the ghosts who bother him.

Danny grows from troubled boy into troubled man. Alcoholism, and the tendency to drift from town to town in an attempt to shake the past, bring him to New Hampshire. In a small town there he finds people who encourage him, offer him work and help him enroll in Alcoholics Anonymous.

As he heals, Dan works nights in a hospice unit with the cat Azzie, who instinctively goes to the rooms of those about to die. Dan uses his intuitive gift to bring comfort and peace to the the dying in their final moments, earning him the nickname of Doctor Sleep.

Doctor Sleep Movie Review Dan and Dick
Dan as Doctor Sleep and his friend in spirit, Dick Hallorann.

Abra Shines

During his years in New Hampshire, Dan connects with an unseen presence who leaves messages for him on his blackboard wall. Abra (Curran) is a young teen girl with powerful psychic abilities that she hides from her parents (played by Momoh and Donahue) . She reaches out with her mind to find Dan and alert him to group of people who are murdering children gifted with the shining.

Members of The Knot are energy vampires who have lived for centuries by feeding on the “steam” or shine of gifted youth. Led by Rose the Hat (Ferguson) and Crow Daddy (McClarnon) the group comes into Abra’s energetic awareness when they kidnap and kill a boy with the shining. Horrified, Abra locates Dan and meets with him in person. She asks for his help finding the baseball glove of the murdered boy so that she can use it to track The Knot and stop them from harming anyone else.

However, The Knot is aware of Abra too and they are drawn to her incredible gift.

The hunters become the hunted. And Dan finds he must return to where his horrors began as a child, if he is to save Abra and others like her.

Doctor Sleep Movie Review Abra and Rose
Abra and Rose the Hat in Doctor Sleep.

My Thoughts on Doctor Sleep

I recently watched The Shining again, in preparation for this film. Other than seeing a couple of previews, I avoided learning anything about the sequel. From the brief movie trailers that I saw, I knew the story continued with Danny as a grown man.

It’s difficult to write a sequel to a classic. However, I feel that Mike Flanagan, well known for the recent remake of The Haunting of Hill House, created an excellent follow up film.

Rather than focusing on ghosts and jump scares, Flanagan examines the human element. He shows us how Danny is affected by post traumatic stress syndrome and dwells in the shadow of a problematic, albeit deceased, parent. In addition Flanagan reveals the difficulties caused by dulling pain with alcohol  and carrying the burden of living with a unique gift.

Be warned, however. There are extremely intense scenes in this film. One in particular is excruciatingly painful to watch and impacts the viewer with an emotional punch to the gut.

A familiar word from Danny’s past.

The Message for Me

I like the ties to The Shining, which brings continuity to the story. And I appreciate the deeper message in Doctor Sleep, which it this: shine.

As an intuitive who hid my abilities for many years, I identify with Abra. Her gifts are more powerful than mine. However, I understand her desire to hide what she can do. I understand her hope that others think her normal.

It does me good to see Abra accept who she is in the film and embrace her gifts. That’s a journey I’ve taken as well. I accept who I am. And I embrace my gifts. When Dan tells Abra to shine, as herself, I take those words to heart too.

Isn’t that a message for all of us? Shine. Accept who you are. Embrace your gifts, whatever they are. How amazing to receive this encouragement in a Stephen King thriller. Then again, this King of Horror is a master storyteller…and a keen and thoughtful observer of humanity.

He's back...
Ewan McGregor is Doctor Sleep.

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Series Review: Castle Rock Season One

Awareness of the Hulu original series, Castle Rock, came to me as a result of a synchronicity thread I’m experiencing. As this year winds down, I’ve already received the word, Enchanted, and the symbol, the Queen chess piece, for 2019. It’s been an incredible experience, receiving confirmation that these are indeed crucial to my journey next year, even if I don’t yet fully understand why.

Riding in my daughter’s car last month, we listened to beautiful music from Max Richter. She shared how the music sounded familiar, when she played it recently, causing her to track down where she had heard it before. Elissa’s search led her to Episode 7, of the series Castle Rock that she had just watched. Her enthusiasm for the series created a desire to watch it as well. And Episode 7, Elissa told me, was titled The Queen! She felt it was the best episode she had ever seen on television. With that title it seemed important for me to view it.

Over the last 10 days, I watched the entire first season of Castle Rock. I’m so glad I did.

Series Review Castle Rock Season One

Castle Rock Season One

Castle Rock is inspired by the characters and stories of Stephen King. The fantasy/drama stars André Holland, Bill Skarsgård, Melanie Lynskey, Sissy Spacek, Terry O’Quinn, Scott Glenn, Caleel Harris, Adam Rothenberg and Chosen Jacobs. The series carries a MA rating, for language, violence and adult themes, and each episode has a run time of about 45 minutes. Currently the series is only available on Hulu.

Castle Rock is a town in Maine, well known in the Stephen King multiverse. It appears to be a small town where lots of bad things happen. Shawshank Prison looms over the town, literally and energetically. An anonymous call from there brings attorney Henry Deaver (Holland) home to meet with a mysterious client, discovered caged beneath the prison.

Series Review Castle Rock Season One

Series Review Castle Rock Season One

Castle Rock unsettles Henry. The strange man he represents, known only as The Kid (Skarsgård), disturbs him even more. The man was caged by former prison warden Dale Lacy (O’Quinn), who commits suicide, leaving The Kid to be discovered when the new warden arrives.

As Henry attempts to unravel The Kid’s past, he reconnects with his mother, Ruth (Spacek), and her long time companion, former town sheriff Alan Pangborn (Glenn). Henry’s father, the Reverend Matthew Deaver (Rothenberg), died tragically when Henry was a boy. Being home stirs up the past.

Henry has mysterious circumstances in his own life. He was adopted by the Deavers and disappeared for days during a cold Maine winter. Young Henry (Harris) reappeared just as abruptly as he vanished, with no memory of what had happened to him. The father died while his son was gone, and the townspeople believe Henry was responsible for the reverend’s death.

Series Review Castle Rock Season One

Henry’s dark past distracts him as he digs deeper into The Kid’s story. His mother’s fragile memory is cause for concern and Molly (Lynskey), his former childhood friend and neighbor, has grown into a troubled woman with a secret ability. Castle Rock appears to being growing darker and more violent by the day. Time is running out to protect the people he loves and figure out The Kid’s identity.

Series Review Castle Rock Season One

Episode 7 The Queen

Elissa’s praise for this episode was justified. Situated toward the end of the season, this episode is the pinnacle of the story. Ruth is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, and throughout the show she has lucid moments and times of confusion.

Ruth’s neurologist describes her symptoms as “confusion with time and space”. Ruth tells her grandson Wendell (Jacobs) that she has been snatched from the predictable path of time, and misled into other days and other years. She relies on a system she created for herself, to help her get back to Now. Her Lewis chess pieces, a gift from Alan, are the breadcrumbs that lead her back.

Ruth, who buried her husband in 1991, can walk into a room and suddenly find herself talking to him, or reading a story to young Henry. But when she travels to these other times and places, finding one of the chess pieces propels her back into the present.

This hauntingly beautiful episode highlights the confusion and fear that one with memory loss must live with. What was once ordinary and routine becomes a jumble of mixed up memories and times. Sissy Spacek portrays Ruth with incredible depth and poignancy. Seeing life in Castle Rock from her perspective gives me great compassion toward those bravely battling all forms of dementia.

Series Review Castle Rock Season One

Series Review Castle Rock Season One

The Messed Up Town of Castle Rock

I enjoyed this well done series. Although it stands on its own, whether the viewer is familiar with the works of Stephen King or not, the show has delightful and creepy King touches. The residents of Castle Rock continually blame the town itself for the bad things that people do there. I’m still thinking about the implications of this first season. The finale left the end of the story open to interpretation. I have my own ideas and I look forward to discussing Castle Rock with family members who have already watched it.

I am thinking the most about The Queen. The story intrigued me. Was Ruth a time walker or a sad woman lost in muddled up memories? And what deeper message is there for me? My symbol for next year just keeps showing up, and I know these aren’t mere coincidences. The chess pieces throughout the series, that played a key role in this episode, seemed to call to me as well. I’m still sorting it all out.

Series Review Castle Rock Season One