Doctor Sleep Movie Review

Doctor Sleep often shines the most when it isn’t burdened with following up on its classic cinematic source material. Director/writer Mike Flanagan has one tough assignment here. Not only is he adapting Stephen King’s 2013 novel which served as the sequel to his beloved novel, but he must incorporate Stanley Kubrick’s 1980 vision of that original work. That adaptation, in case you didn’t know, did not count King among its ardent admirers due to many deviations from the book. Yet the iconic filmmaker’s take on The Shining is ardently admired by legions. This delicate balancing act isn’t always completely successful, but Flanagan sure makes it work most of the time. And that’s no small feat.

The opening takes place shortly after the events at the Overlook Hotel as Wendy Torrance (Alex Essoe) and young son Danny (Roger Dale Floyd) attempt to move on from their trauma and cold loss of their husband and father. Living in Florida, Danny is still blessed and cursed with the ability to “shine”, which encompasses numerous psychic powers. He’s able to put his visions and bad memories in a box (literally and figuratively) for years. We flash forward over 20 years and Danny now takes the form of Ewan McGregor and he’s not in a good place. He’s a raging alcoholic much like his dad was.

After hitting rock bottom, grown Danny enters a different kind of light in recovery. Through the kindness of his AA sponsor (Cliff Curtis), he’s given a small apartment and gets a job as an orderly in a hospice wing. He soon becomes known as Doctor Sleep with the ability to comfort patients in their last moments. Outside forces soon bring him back to past events. A group of vampires known as the True Knot are led by Rose the Hat (Rebecca Ferguson). In order to survive, they feed on small children with psychic abilities similar to Danny’s. One brutal scene depicts their practices with a famous young actor who cameos. It’s pretty terrifying. The new mission of the True Knot is tracking down teenage Abra (Kyliegh Curran), whose shining game is quite bright. When Danny and Abra team up, their fight eventually takes them to the well-known production design of that Colorado hotel.

Perhaps the most surprising aspect of Doctor Sleep is the introduction of its new characters courtesy of King’s novel. Ferguson’s performance as the cult leader is terrific. She appears like a roadie for an alt rock band, but she excels at making her character a demonic force to be reckoned with. Her supporting band of devotees are also memorable. I suspect a picture focused solely on the True Knot could have been fascinating. Curran gives a winning performance as Danny’s partner in shine.

Flanagan must pay homage to King and Kubrick. There’s a Spielberg connection here too. Henry Thomas (yep, little Elliot from E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial) fills in as Jack Nicholson’s boozy and demented father figure from the 1980 original. That’s in addition to previously mentioned actors playing young Danny and Wendy. Carl Lumbly fills in for Scatman Crothers as the telepathic Dick Halloran. It’s unavoidably jarring to see these roles inhabited by others if, like me, you’ve seen The Shining multiple times. I did admire the way they decided to bring Nicholson’s iconic ax wielder back.

There’s probably no way to avoid the Overlook set third act and it is a pleasure to see those sets recreated. That also constitutes another Spielberg link as that director brought back the haunted hotel for scenes in 2018’s Ready Player One. It is also the weakest segment of the bunch, though not without its nostalgia inducing pleasures. Flanagan is able to engross the audience with the grown Danny and especially the new players around him prior to check in. In that sense, there’s certainly no legacies darkened in Doctor Sleep.

*** (out of four)

The Turning Box Office Prediction

Blogger’s Note (01/22): I’m revising my estimate down from $12.2 million to $9 million

Universal Pictures is hoping horror fans turn out next weekend for The Turning. The supernatural tale is based on the late 19th century Henry James novel The Turn of the Shrew. Floria Sigismondi, best known for her music video and TV work, directs. Mackenzie Davis and Joely Richardson star along with Finn Wolfhard (of Stranger Things and It fame) and Brooklyn Prince (from The Florida Project) as orphans with some dark secrets.

The project was originally set to film back in 2016 before production was halted and its original director and writer were fired. Over one year later, it was back on track with a new team. Will the troubled development mean troubling box office returns? My feeling is yes.

Low double digits to low teens appears most probable. It’s always worth noting that horror can over perform, but I’m not seeing it here.

The Turning opening weekend prediction: $9 million

For my The Gentlemen prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2020/01/16/the-gentlemen-box-office-prediction/

The Grudge Box Office Prediction

Blogger’s Note (01/02): On the eve of its premiere, I’m revising my number down to $10.2 million

2020 begins at multiplexes in the same fashion as other recent years with a horror offering. This time around, it’s a remake of the 2004 supernatural pic The Grudge. And that Sarah Michelle Gellar hit was itself an update of a 2002 Japanese title in which Takashi Shimizu directed both. Nicolas Pesce is behind the camera now with a cast including Andrea Riseborough, Demian Bichir, John Cho, Betty Gilpin, Lin Shaye, Frankie Faison, William Sadler, and Jacki Weaver.

As mentioned, this is the genre that has typically kicked off the cinematic calendar lately. In 2019, Escape Room surprised prognosticators with a debut north of $18 million. Two years ago, Insidious: The Last Key unlocked a gross just under $30 million.

The Grudge is not expected to approach those figures, but horror flicks always have the capacity to surprise. Yet this could also fall victim to the unasked for franchise fatigue that has plagued several titles recently. A decent comp could be 2017’s Rings, which was also a reboot of a Japanese series. It opened to $13 million and that sounds about right here (and perhaps a tad under).

The Grudge opening weekend prediction: $10.2 million

Black Christmas Box Office Prediction

Blumhouse Productions looks to scare up some Yuletide bucks this season with Black Christmas, the second remake of the 1974 slasher cult hit. Shot for a reported miserly $5 million (par for the course for its low cost and high profit studio), Sophia Takal directs with a cast including Imogen Poots, Aleyse Shannon, Lily Donoghue, Brittany O’Grady, and Cary Elwes.

Turning a tidy profit should be no trouble for the horror title. This genre is rather underserved at the moment and one would think this should at least double its budget out of the gate. That said, the 2006 Black Christmas rustled up only $16 million in its whole domestic run.

With the Blumhouse marketing machine behind this one, however, I expect Christmas to get past double digits for a solid start, especially considering the budget.

Black Christmas opening weekend prediction: $12.1 million

For my Jumanji: The Next Level prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2019/12/04/jumanji-the-next-level-box-office-prediction/

For my Richard Jewell prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2019/12/06/richard-jewell-box-office-prediction/

It Chapter Two Movie Review

It bloats. That would be Chapter Two of the saga that was adapted from Stephen King’s novel to monstrous box office results in 2017. A rumination on childhood friendship and fears that happened to feature a demented clown (with a humdinger of a performance by Bill Skarsgard and his creepy eyes as Pennywise), it was easy to see why It cashed in. Set in the 1980s (when the book was released) as opposed to the 1950s, the pic had a retro vibe fitting the Stranger Things and Steven Spielberg mold. Featuring fine performances by its band of teens called The Losers, the scariest parts of It often involved what adults were capable of doing to the group as opposed to Pennywise in clown or other forms.

In Chapter Two, it’s The Losers who are the adults. They come together 27 years after the events of chapter one in the town of Derry, Maine. This was choreographed at the conclusion of It two years back, but the grownup Losers only have scant memories of warding off Pennywise in 1989. We as the audience remember it well, but it takes around an hour of the nearly three hour running time for nearly all of them to recall. And that’s a slog.

On the positive side, the casting here is impressive. James McAvoy is de facto leader Bill, now a successful horror author who can’t ever write a satisfactory ending to his works (something King himself is often accused of). In my It review, I speculated that Amy Adams could inhabit the part of Beverly, the lone female of the club who continues to suffer from physical abuse started by her demented father. Jessica Chastain got the role and she’s another obvious choice. The most memorable performances here, however, come from Bill Hader as Richie, now a standup comic and James Ransone as hypochondriac Eddie. They’re responsible for some much needed comic relief and occasional moments that are genuinely funny. And while Jay Ryan might not exactly physically resemble the younger overweight New Kids on the Block loving Ben (who still has a crush on Beverly), the casting club found a performer whose eyes match his youthful counterpart Jeremy Ray Taylor.

Of course, there’s also Skarsgard having a ball as Pennywise. It comes in many forms and in many situations. It comes at night. It comes during daytime. It comes as a creepy old lady who lives in Beverly’s old apartment. It comes as a giant spider. It comes as famous lumberjacks. It comes in ways that display decent CG and dodgy CG. It’s a mixed bag of appearances.

Chapter Two is overstuffed and overlong. It’s as if director Andy Muschietti and screenwriter Gary Dauberman (the team behind the first chapter) wanted to be as faithful as possible to King’s book and leave as little out as possible. A tightening of the screws might have been a wiser course of action. King himself (who cleverly cameos) has stated in interviews that the why of why monsters do what they do is fairly incidental. The time spent linking Pennywise to Native American rituals and the creature’s background feels just that. That Stephen King might be onto something.

The long continuation of this story does certainly feature a couple of spine tingling sequences, fine acting, and amusing bits. Unfortunately it does not represent a hefty portion of its 169 minutes and that’s why this chapter just can’t match the more tightly contained first one.

**1/2 (out of four)

Doctor Sleep Box Office Prediction

Doctor Sleep hopes to shine at the box office next weekend. The horror pic is not just an adaptation of Stephen King’s 2013 novel, which is the legendary author’s sequel to his 1977 work The Shining. It also serves as a follow-up to Stanley Kubrick’s 1980 classic. Mike Flanagan, who’s adapted King before with Netflix’s Gerald’s Game, is behind the camera. Ewan McGregor stars as Dan Torrance, the adult version of the child that Jack Nicholson tormented almost 40 years ago. Costars include Rebecca Ferguson, Kyliegh Curran, Carl Lumbly, Bruce Greenwood, and Cliff Curtis.

There’s no doubt that the cinematic version of The Shining has cemented its status as a genre landmark (even though King himself is famously not a big fan). The author has praised this and early word of mouth based off screenings is positive.

That said, 39 years is a long time ago. Interestingly, there’s a comp to be considered with 2017’s Blade Runner 2049. That sequel was also following an early 80s picture with a sterling reputation. Yet it came in well below expectations with a $31.5 million domestic premiere. Horror viewers tend to skew young, so it’s a legitimate question as to their affinity for the 1980 predecessor.

With all that considered, I’ll predict the Doctor is good for a mid 20s showing. This might be appointment viewing for some, but I’m skeptical it reaches over $30 million.

Doctor Sleep opening weekend prediction: $24.8 million

For my Last Christmas prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2019/10/30/last-christmas-box-office-prediction/

For my Midway prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2019/10/31/midway-box-office-prediction/

For my Playing with Fire prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2019/10/31/playing-with-fire-box-office-prediction/

Countdown Box Office Prediction

STX Entertainment is hoping that horror fans will spend some time in this Halloween season watching Countdown next weekend. The film (from director Justin Dec) centers on an app that predicts the timeline of people’s demises. The cast includes actors mostly known for TV work – Elizabeth Lail, Jordan Calloway, Talitha Bateman, Tichina Arnold, P.J. Byrne, Peter Facinelli, and Anne Winters.

The techno scare fest could manage to lure in some younger viewers, but many of them could be attending their own costume parties. The final frame of October is traditionally a sluggish one at the box office when newcomers don’t post large debuts. A studio like Blumhouse might be able to market this effectively, but this seems to be generating little heat.

I believe the numbers clock here will stop at just over double digits.

Countdown opening weekend prediction: $10.3 million

For my Black and Blue prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2019/10/17/black-and-blue-box-office-prediction/

For my The Current War prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2019/10/20/the-current-war-box-office-prediction/