"A Mixed Bag, with an Occult Overlay from the Creepy Overlook Hotel"
What You Need To Know:
DOCTOR SLEEP has a strong, suspenseful plot structure. As Danny, Ewan McGregor creates a sympathetic hero. As the teenage girl, Ryliegh Curran also turns in a terrific performance. DOCTOR SLEEP has some positive moral, redemptive content. For example, self-sacrifice occurs, people are encouraged to help other people, and the Serenity Prayer is partly recited. However, DOCTOR SLEEP has a strong, abhorrent occult worldview and contains strong foul language, disturbing violence and two scenes with extreme nudity.
DOCTOR SLEEP is a horror sequel to THE SHINING, both Stephen King’s original book and Stanley Kubrick’s 1980 movie, and tells how Jack Torrance’s psychic son, Danny, an alcoholic like his troubled father, becomes sober, rediscovers his psychic powers and helps a teenage girl with psychic powers battle an evil cult preying on children. DOCTOR SLEEP doesn’t always explain how the psychic world works, but Ewan McGregor and Ryliegh Curran turn in terrific performances as Danny and the teenage girl who battle the malevolent cult leader and her followers. DOCTOR SLEEP has some poignant, uplifting moments, but it also has an abhorrent occult worldview, disturbing violence and gratuitous foul language.
The movie opens with Rose the Hat, the female cult leader, and her followers grabbing a young girl in 1980. Cut to Danny Torrance and his mother, Wendy, in Florida trying to recuperate from their horrific experiences at the Overlook Hotel in Colorado, where Danny’s father tried to murder them. The demonic ghosts at the Overlook Hotel are still after Danny, however. Danny thwarts their attempts, though, after the ghost of Dick, the black caretaker who was killed in the movie version of Stephen King’s story, teaches Danny a technique for locking them up in their own coffin in his mind. Dick tells Danny to use his powers to help people. One day, says Dick, Danny will be asked to mentor a young person with psychic powers, just like he, Dick, has been mentoring Danny since they met at the Overlook Hotel.
Cut to 2011. His mother dead now, Danny has become an alcoholic like his troubled father. Danny settles in Frasier, a small New Hampshire town, where he’s befriended by another alcoholic, a man named Billy. Billy gives Danny a place to live, a job at a local tourist attraction and invites him to an AA meeting.
Meanwhile, Danny starts getting communications from a young black psychic girl named Abra. The messages appear on the chalkboard wall in Danny’s room. Danny and Abra become sort of like psychic pen pals.
Eight years later, Danny is totally sober. However, his psychic powers, dulled because of years of alcoholism, have returned full force. In addition to his job at the local tourist attraction, Danny also works at a local hospice. At the hospice, Danny uses his powers and his compassion to comfort scared patients on the verge of dying. Danny’s “partner” is the hospice cat, “Azzie” or Asmodeus, who can sense when a patient is about to die. Because of his hospice work, the patients refer to Danny as “Doctor Sleep.”
Cut to somewhere on the road in the middle of the country. The cult members have kidnapped a Little League pitcher with psychic powers. In a disturbing scene, they start torturing the boy. The more pain the boy experiences, the more some white smoke or “steam” (for want of a better word) comes out of the boy’s mouth, and the cult members breathe in the steam. At first, it seems that the cult members are consuming the boy’s life energy or soul, but later the movie reveals that the steam is actually the boy’s psychic powers, his “shine.” The cult consumes other people’s “shine” because it makes them more powerful psychics and also prolongs their life.
During this event, Abra is able to sense this awful event. Rose the Hat, the powerful psychic leader of the cult, senses her presence. Rose decides they need to find out who this person is and either consume her “shine” or turn her to become of them. When Abra’s psychic connection to the cult is suddenly broken, Abra screams and her screams break the chalkboard on the wall in Danny’s room. Danny tells Abra to avoid this evil cult. He correctly surmises they’re dealing with a very powerful group of psychics.
However, Abra’s conscience won’t let her drop the matter. Also, one evening, Rose astral projects herself into Abra’s room. Abra’s too powerful for Rose, however, and she eventually flings Rose’s spirit back to her cult’s campsite, lifts up Rose’s physical body and slams Rose down onto the roof of the RV where Rose lives. Chalk one up for the good guys!
Abra manages to track Danny down and tell him what’s happening. Danny knows it’s only a matter of time before the murderous cult will find where Abra lives and kill her or exploit her powers. Abra thinks that, if she can hold the murdered boy’s baseball glove, she can track down the cult first. So, Danny gets his friend Billy’s help to track down the boy’s makeshift burial site and get the baseball glove for Abra.
Meanwhile, Rose and her followers are getting closer to knowing Abra’s location. Abra’s life is in real danger now, but Danny has a few tricks up his sleeves. The tricks work and several cult members are killed, but Rose is working in separate location nearby. Meanwhile, Rose’s lover, a man named Crow Daddy, manages to sneak into Abra’s house, injects Abra with a drug that dulls her psychic powers and spirits her away. How can Danny rescue Abra from Crow Daddy and Rose if he can’t sense her psychic powers?
DOCTOR SLEEP has a strong, suspenseful plot structure. As Danny, Ewan McGregor creates a very sympathetic hero. As the teenage Abra, Ryliegh Curran also turns in a terrific performance. Finally, Rebecca Ferguson makes a very creepy villain as Rose the Hat, the determined cult leader. It all ends in a scary, but poignant, climax where Danny meets his destiny, a destiny that’s foreshadowed in the first act.
DOCTOR SLEEP has some positive moral, redemptive content. For example, Danny, the lead character, is in recovery from his alcoholism through Alcoholics Anonymous. One scene at the local AA meeting Danny attends shows the members reciting the most famous part of the Serenity Prayer (“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference”). God is invoked in one or more other positive lines of dialogue. Also, Danny’s mentor tells him to use his talents to help other people, and Danny eventually risks his life to do that to save Abra and save the world from the evil, selfish, murderous cultists and their wicked leader. In addition, self-sacrifice plays a role in defeating the wicked cult leader and the demonic ghosts who want to consume Danny and Abra’s power for themselves. Finally, the movie has two or three powerful, poignant scenes between Danny and beloved mother.
Despite all that, the dominant worldview in DOCTOR SLEEP is occult. Although Danny and Danny’s friend shoot most of the cult members dead in one scene, Danny and Abra also use their psychic powers to battle the cult and the demonic ghosts from the Overlook Hotel. Eventually, they use their psychic powers to pit the demonic ghosts against the evil cult leader, in a kind of divide-and-conquer strategy. The Bible condemns occultism in Deuteronomy 18:9-13, Acts 19:17-19 and Revelation 21:8. Also, despite the positive reference to God in the Serenity Prayer at the AA meeting, the movie’s occult worldview presents a purposely vague theology and false religion. Although there seems to be an afterlife in DOCTOR SLEEP, it doesn’t resemble the afterlife presented by the Bible or by Jesus Christ and the apostles in the New Testament part of the Bible. In fact, Danny doesn’t tell the dying patients much about the afterlife. Instead, he likens death to a kind of sleep. Of course, the Bible sometimes likens death to a kind of sleep, but it tells us so much more than that! Furthermore, the movie doesn’t quote the best part of the Serenity Prayer, which says to trust that God “will make all things right if I surrender to His Will; that I may be reasonably happy in this life and supremely happy with Him forever in the next.”
MOVIEGUIDE® thinks THE SHINING movie has always been a bit overrated, despite all the stunning cinematic flourishes the talented Stanley Kubrick brings to one of Stephen King’s most popular horror novels. That said, it’s hard to forget Jack Nicholson’s crazy performance in that movie, even though Kubrick undercuts Nicholson’s brilliant performance with one of the strangest, most anti-climactic endings in horror movie history. Kubrick’s movie ends with a whimper, not a bang. In contrast, DOCTOR SLEEP ends with a big climax, but the story (as in most, if not all, of the things Stephen King writes) never inserts Jesus Christ, much less the Bible itself, into the story’s moral premise, even though it’s clear that the protagonists are facing demonic evils trying to destroy them. Thus, the ending to DOCTOR SLEEP, and the whole movie itself, would be so much better and more powerful if the filmmakers (and Stephen King in the original books about the shining and the supernatural world) made Jesus, Christianity and the Bible an overt, strong part of the story’s battle between good and evil, including the triumph of good over evil.
Notably, in an interview with ROLLING STONE magazine several years ago, Stephen King said he still believes in God but rejects organized religion because it’s “a very dangerous tool that’s been misused by a lot of people.” King’s also agnostic on whether or not there’s an afterlife. “I choose to believe in God because it makes things better,” he explains. “You have a meditation point, a source of strength. I don’t ask myself, ‘Well, does God exist or does God not exist?’ I choose to believe that God exists, and therefore I can say, ‘God, I can’t do this by myself. Help me not to take a drink today. Help me not to take a drug today.’ And, that works fine for me.” Beyond that, King says, he refuses to be certain about the details, because “certainty breeds complacency.” Ironically, in the interview, King makes several pronouncements about things he considers evil, or morally suspect, such as ISIS, Christian hypocrites who say one thing but then visit prostitutes, Protestants who say Catholics are going to Hell, and people who oppose illegal immigration or Republicans who don’t believe the world is in an imminent ecological crisis (Andy Greene, “Stephen King: The Rolling Stone Interview, ROLLING STONE, Oct. 31, 2014, https://www.rollingstone.com/culture/culture-features/stephen-king-the-rolling-stone-interview-191529/). Of course, everyone is fallible and everyone sins, including all Christians and all politicians and their followers, so Stephen King’s objections and ethical pronouncements should not be convincing to any thinking person. Also, without a logical, empirically accurate and insightful philosophical, moral, spiritual, and psychological guidebook like the Holy Bible and without a perfect, wise, genuine, and relatable human sage who’s also fully divine like Jesus Christ of the New Testament documents, all our statements about what is evil and what isn’t evil, and why, are just unreliable if not irrational subjective opinions without any real ontological and epistemological foundation.
As Jesus tells everyone, through the Apostle John in Revelation 3:20, “Listen. Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and dine with him, and he with me.”
DOCTOR SLEEP also contains excessive foul language, disturbing violence and two scenes with extreme nudity. Sadly, unlike Stephen King’s book, Danny’s father isn’t redeemed at the end. That’s because Kubrick made major changes to King’s first book about Danny Torrance. In the original THE SHINING, Danny’s father comes to his senses, so the evil hotel, which is like a malevolent spirit in the book, just destroys him.