Reed Alexander's Horror Review of 'Dr. Sleep' (2019)
The Sad Ballad of Danny Boy...
"I say my name is Danny Boy and I like to drink at night.
I go down to the pub, wherein I buy myself a pint or three.
I like to go out drinking, 'cause beer it is my life,
until I come home and lay eyes upon my darling wife!"
For those that aren't familiar with the band Floater, that's The Sad Ballad of Danny Boy, just something about this movie reminded me of it. Perhaps it's because Danny from The Shining became an alcoholic like his father Jack. Perhaps just because, including the alcoholism, the story of Danny is actually rather sad and deserves a ballad. Or perhaps I'm just a silly git, making a conception simply because both stories have a character named Danny and involve drinking. Either way, I feel the song helps me understand Danny the character, and the internal rage he must surely suffer from his father Jack.
Before I go further, let me explain that this movie is fantastic. I still haven't seen Hereditary of the remake of Suspiria, but so far Dr. Sleep is my favorite of this decade, and certainly an all time top 5. Where on my top 5? Will it dethrone The Autopsy of Jane Doe (TAOJD)? Dare I say, it may dethrone The Thing (2011). I'm currently unsure as this means Dawn of the Dead (2004) will be bumped off the list and it has had such a marvelous run, I almost don't want to replace it. But it is inevitable. So check out my Letterbox account and see where Dr. Sleep finds its final resting place.
Let me say, I could spend years reviewing just the subtleties of this movie. There are so many things to dive deeply into that make this movie so stunning. I could devote an entire review to just the Setting, or the Mythos, or the Characters and how thickly they're layered. This one is going to be general but I won't even scratch the surface. It wasn't perfect, only Alien (1979) was perfect, but neither was TAOJD. And like TAOJD, Dr. Sleep was damn close.
I don't need to tell you that the acting, the setting, the mythos, and the story, were amazing! That's a fucking given! Jesus, even the child actors were amazing. In fact, I cannot clearly explain why this movie is so amazing without diving into the meat and tatoes.
So, importantly, this is a must watch, and yes, I think my new #4, likely, on my 'All Time Top 5 Horror' list. This movie is a must watch and great for all adult audiences.
The mythos here is what's really important. I always felt like The Shining takes place in the same universe as Stir of Echoes. Both of those movies left so much left over, so many questions. As a mater of fact, I believe the reason The Shining isn't higher on my list, is because so much about it left me wanting. Really, that's Kubrick's fault. King was always very critical of Kubrick's interpretation of The Shining and I think I know why. He missed something. Something deep and all consuming about the story. It was really about a man succumbing to his inner demons, his sense of self worth and suffering, his alcoholism, his impenitent rage. There was something very specific about all of this that was The Overlook Hotel. Kubrick abandoned a lot of the important nuances of Jack, for a simple possession story with hidden symbolism.
The Overlook isn't just some hotel which possessed Jack. It's a living being that consumed Jack through what Jack was. The Overlook embodied Jack's sense of entitlement, rage, and addiction. This story of The Overlook was about it reflecting these awful parts of Jack. This movie reconciled Kubrick's mistakes. It went back into the The Shining and brought out what was missing. This really gives life to the mythos of this universe. That is, there are things out there like The Overlook that feed on energy. Danny and his family were food and tormenting their dad into murder is how it ate. The spirits trapped in hotel were likely victims at one point, by now essentially they were psychic vampires.
Psychic vampires are not a new concept, but King's depiction of them is everything I expect them to be. In a universe where individuals can be born with special gifts like the Shining, it's inevitable that there will be things that feed on it. In this case, the vampires were once just normal people with the Shining, but learned how to eat others with the gift in order to extend their life and even their power. Importantly, and one of the reasons this movie is so good, is that these vampires are forced to feed on children with the Shining. There are three reason. First, adults with the Shining tend to be broken, which makes them somewhat unfulfilling. Second, children have the Shining at its purest form. Finally, and the biggest reason, children are the easiest to scare, as pain and fear make them the most filling. Kinda for the same reason Pennywise the clown had to make children afraid before he ate them.
This movie didn't just have the balls to kill children, but like The Blob (1988), and Halloween III: Season of the Witch, it did so in a visceral and graphic manner. The didn't pull any punches, one kid is slowly tortured to death while they kill him. It's fucking brutal!
There's one more thing I want to touch on before I am done here. The realness of the alcoholism. Dr. Sleep is very much a movie about Danny confronting his father Jack for the gift of his alcoholism and anger. He first confronts it by challenging his own addiction in AA. Making no small point of explaining that his father once stood at one of those meetings, hoping to one day get the five month token he was receiving. The second, is when Danny confronts the ghost of Jack at The Overlook. It was deep. Damn deep. A moment that shook me to my core.
The only thing wrong with this movie was some bad CGI, and how perfectly Danny and the lead Abra handled everything. Yeah there were always consequences, but it always seemed too easy. Effectively, their final plan goes off without a hitch, and pretty much the losses they were expecting.
Don't let that deter you, DO watch this. Everyone should watch this!