The early returns for “Doctor Sleep,” the upcoming psychological thriller flick from writer-director Mike Flanagan, are in, and in the words of Larry David, they’re “pretty, pretty, pretty good.”
The movie is an adaptation of Stephen King’s 2013 novel of the same name that is also a sequel to his horror classic “The Shining.”
The new film follows an adult Danny Torrance, played by Ewan McGregor, as he works to live a normal life, while still dealing with the lingering effects of what he experienced at the Overlook Hotel as a child. Torrance’s plans go sideways, though, when he bumps into a teenager that shares the “shine” ability and needs his help to fend off some nefarious characters.
The movie hits theaters Nov. 8, but critics that caught a screening this week have been praising it already.
Daily Dead writer Heather Wixson said “Doctor Sleep,” in a year of “great” Stephen King adaptations, is “the best of the bunch.” She added that it’s a “wonderful celebration” of Stanley Kubrick — director of the 1980 film — along with King and Flanagan.
It’s been a great yr for Stephen King adaptations but I think #DoctorSleep is the best of the bunch. Thrilled me in ways I wasn’t expecting, made me emotional at times & Rebecca Ferguson is ferocious. What a wonderful celebration of Kubrick, King & @flanaganfilm’s career as well. pic.twitter.com/jQ8ktEeUVE
— Heatherface Wixson (@thehorrorchick) October 25, 2019
Slash Film managing editor Jacob Hall lauded the movie as “spooky, emotional, ultimately optimistic.” “Doctor Sleep” is “not only a sequel to ‘The Shining,’ but a response to it, an attempt to reconcile King and Kubrick. Loved it.”
DOCTOR SLEEP: The boldest choice here is that Mike Flanagan doesn't even try to do Kubrick. He makes a Mike Flanagan movie: spooky, emotional, ultimately optimistic. Not only a sequel to THE SHINING, but a response to it, an attempt to reconcile King and Kubrick. Loved it.
— Jacob Hall (@JacobSHall) October 25, 2019
Paul Shirey, editor-in-chief of JoBlo.com, praised the cast, especially Rebecca Ferguson as villain Rose the Hat. “A great new villain to add to Stephen King’s long line of unforgettable baddies that you can’t help but love (and love to hate.)”
Ewan McGregor and Kyliegh Curran are excellent, but the standout for me was Rebecca Ferguson as Rose The Hat, a great new villain to add to Stephen King’s long line of unforgettable baddies that you can’t help but love (and love to hate). #DoctorSleep
— Paul Shirey (@arcticninjapaul) October 25, 2019
Collider editor Haleigh Foutch said the flick “shakes up the book quite a bit, but keeps King’s heart right where it needs to be.”
#DoctorSleep is another trauma-fuelled emotional horror from Flanagan that made me ugly cry in public. Understandably shakes up the book quite a bit, but keeps King's heart right where it needs to be. Where does one sign up for Rebecca Ferguson's cult? Asking for a friend. pic.twitter.com/Jfs2FggiPf
— Haleigh Foutch (@HaleighFoutch) October 25, 2019
We Live Entertainment editor-in-chief Scott Manzel called “Doctor Sleep” “the best Stephen King adaptation since ‘Shawshank Redemption.'”
Doctor Sleep is the best Stephen King adaption since Shawshank Redemption. Mike Flanagan has perfectly combined nostalgia with tension, mystery, and suspense. The entire cast is superb. There are a number of surprises that will make King fans squeal with delight. #DoctorSleep pic.twitter.com/PhSDm6EZsZ
— Scott Menzel (@TheOtherScottM) October 25, 2019
Freelance critic Jason Gorber called it a “brilliant love letter to Kubrick’s original, unafraid to be both thrilling and entirely worshipful of what came before.”
I -loved- #DoctorSleep, such a brilliant love letter to Kubrick's original, unafraid to be both thrilling and entirely worshipful of what came before. Equal parts nostalgia and axing it's own path, not unlike the (underloved) 2010, it's my most surprising gem of 2019. pic.twitter.com/328Kp2jtlH
— Jason Gorber (@filmfest_ca) October 25, 2019
Slash Film critic Chris Evangelista said the movie “stumbles a bit” when trying to recreate the 1980 film, but “Flanagan nails the emotional elements (no surprise there). And Rebecca Ferguson owns the entire movie.”
#DoctorSleep works best when it's sticking to Stephen King's novel. The moment it starts trying to recreate elements of Kubrick's SHINING, it stumbles a bit. Still, Flanagan nails the emotional elements (no surprise there). And Rebecca Ferguson owns the entire movie.
— Chris EvangelistAHHH!!! (@cevangelista413) October 25, 2019
All 44 Stephen King Movies, Ranked Worst to Best (Photos)
Where does “Doctor Sleep” place among the many big-screen adaptations of the horror master’s work?
Stephen King isn't just an author by this point: He's an institution, a legacy of classic horror stories that capture our imaginations, fuel our nightmares, and speak -- when he's at his best -- to our shared experiences as flawed, emotional beings. The best King stories scare so many of us that we all feel connected, and even the worst are usually pretty fun.
King's books and short stories quickly became hit movies, many of them celebrated in their time, and some flopped so hard that hardly anybody remembers them. Cataloguing every adaptation might be a fool's errand, so we made some tough choices and decided to focus only on his theatrical releases.
And even then, there are so many King adaptations that it gets tricky. The sequels to King's work rarely have anything to do with the source material, so they're all disqualified (even though some, like Larry Cohen's prescient anti-fascist monster drama "A Return to Salem's Lot," are genuinely interesting). We also cut King some slack and removed "The Lawnmower Man" from our watch list, since he fought to have his own name removed from the film and won.
(There are also some adaptations that are simply difficult to find in America, like the Indian adaptions of "Misery" and "Quitter's, Inc." -- "Julie Ganapathi" and "No Smoking" -- but we tried. We promise we tried.)
Even with all those caveats we felt one particular film deserved a quasi-official, honorable mention. Before we rank into every theatrically-released Stephen King adaptation let's give out one honorable mention...
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