(Also note, this review is about the movie. I haven’t read the book yet, so if it’s explained in the book, that’s fine, but criticisms still stand if left out of the film)
As most of my readers know, I do not typically do movie reviews… like ever. Most of my reviews deal with action figures, commentary on writing, etc. So as you can imagine, for me to arse myself to do a review of a movie, it must have either really pissed me off, or been something really special.
So which is it? Well, let’s dive in.
The movie starts out by taking us back to where it all began; The Overlook Hotel and room 237. We are taken back to familiar scenes and characters, despite not being played by the same actors. Let’s stop right there. I really want to address this.
As you can imagine, most of the actors at this point will have aged out of their period-appropriate roles. Danny Llyod has been replaced by Ewan McGreggor. All in all, not a bad replacement for Llyod, though I should note that Llyod makes a cameo in the baseball scene. He’s the one commenting on the little league batter (heh, bet you didn’t know that, did you?). McGreggor is an awesome actor who IMHO has really been overlooked since his days as Obi Wan Kenobi. Thankfully, recently he’s been getting more high profile roles, both as a hero and a villain.
Alex Essoe takes over for the legendary Shelly Duval, and honestly does an amazing job. There are times that I actually forgot that it wasn’t the same person. She looked like Shelly, sounded like her, and even her facial expressions were dead on. I have no complaints here.
Carl Lumbly relieves the late, great, Scatman Crothers as Dick Hallorann. This is arguably the best replacement, I’m not kidding. He looks the part, talks the part, everything looked perfect and was absolutely believable.
Okay, now let’s move on from the good to the one everyone is wondering about… Jack, himself. Yes, Jack makes an appearance very late into the movie and no, he is not portrayed back Jack Nicholson. Nicholson has pretty much retired from the mainstream and… let’s face it, de-aging and CGI has been really criticized as looking fake or ‘plastic’ as of late. Sometimes it’s good, but too often, it causes problems and takes you out of the movie.
In this case, Henry Thomas… yes THAT Henry Thomas:
… takes over as Jack. This… is arguably the weakest performance. God love him, he’s definitely trying hard and the camera work to keep his face at an angle so that it looks like Jack Nicholson works to a point, but… it’s just not the same. Jack Nicholson had a particularly devious look about him and a weaselly voice Henry simply cannot emulate well. He does as good a job as he can, but in the end, Nicholson is just a very difficult act to follow. Arguably the weakest of the portrayals, but not necessarily Thomas’s fault.
They are joined by a new cast of characters, but we’ll get into them later on.
The story basically details a bit of a struggle between people who “shine” and “dark” people, as Hallorann describes them. In this case, the so-called ‘dark’ people, are a group of wandering… I actually don’t know what to call them. They kind of strike me as a sort-of small commune, living on their own and moving from place to place. Unlike those who shine, these people are not human. They are basically a kind of spiritual parasite that feeds off the shine. They are extremely long-lived with the oldest of the group supposedly existing since the time of Ancient Greece. Their methods are cruel and extremely brutal. However, as the world changes, less and less people are shining, and their food source is diminishing. This posses a threat to their lifespan, and they are getting desperate.
The Overlook closed up after the events of the Shining and has remained empty ever since. The result is the spirits of the hotel desperately reaching to Danny for nourishment. Dick appears to him at the same time in order to help him lock these beings away so they cannot torment him. While he is successful, his life takes a turn for the worse. Following his mother’s death, he finds himself following in his father’s footsteps as a burnt out drunk.
Desperate to change his ways and haunted by Dick Hallorann’s scolding gaze, he moves to Frazier, NH to try and start anew. Here, he meets Billy, a kind-hearted man who recognizes the state Danny is in and offers a helping hand. Danny quickly get’s involved with the community, joins an AA group, and even get’s a job as an orderly, taking care of dying patients.
Oddly enough, he even get’s a pen pal, though not in the traditional sense. Someone is sending him messages via a chalk board.
Over the next 8 years, Danny completely turns his life around. The people at the hospice refer to him as ‘Doctor Sleep’ as, with the aid of a cat, he visits a patient that is about to die and comforts them as they pass.
Everything seems to be going good for him until his mystery pen pal, a girl named Abra from a small affluent neighborhood, senses something horrific. The group of ‘dark’ people, known as the True Knot, have abducted a young boy who shines, tied him down, and begin inflicting pain to force him to release his shine for their consumption.
I’m going to pause here, because I want to address this scene. This is arguably the darkest part of the movie. For all the disturbing imagery to follow, this scene draws out this child’s suffering to give us an in-depth look at who these creatures are and how they work. It’s definitely not for the faint of heart, but IMHO it is a necessary scene as up until this point, these people seem rather benign or even sympathetic to a point (we get one of our first intros to them when one is basically steaming from and permanently marking pedophiles).
Their leader, Rosie the Hat, is a very unusual character. She’s very calm and collected and honestly… her entire demeanor effectively put’s the audience at a high level of unease that holds throughout most of the movie. She seems friendly yet cunning and underhanded. The way her shoulders shift as she talks is eerily welcoming, while her voice is soft and non-threatening. Yet there is an air of malice about her, even before that scene.
This works well for her, but it does bring me to a criticism I have to make. The villains in this movie are kind of weak. Yes, they’re menacing, yes, they’re scary at times, but if you take a look back once you’ve watched the movie… at no point do they really have the upper hand, even when they think they do. Rosie falls into traps set by both Danny and Abra pretty much every time and winds up losing all of her companions as a result.
The only one who really seems to be playing the game of 3-D chess even remotely well is one known as ‘The Crow’ who successfully captures Abra. However, even he is easily thwarted a few scenes later by Danny due to his overconfidence… and lack of a seatbelt.
Abra represents a long term supply of pure shine or ‘steam’ for these creatures, given how powerful she is, and it’s a race against the clock for Danny to protect her. After successfully leading the True Knot into a trap and killing all but Rosie, Danny takes Abra to the one place where there may be hope to overcome Rosie’s power… and it’s the one place Danny never wanted to see again… The Overlook Hotel.
I’m going to end the synopsis here as I don’t want to give away too much. This movie runs for almost three hours and honestly… full disclosure, I had no interest in seeing this movie, at all. As far as I was concerned, this was another distant sequel that no one asked for to a movie that didn’t need it. It was likely just another Hollywood cash grab and a panderfest.
As a result, I forgot about it for a few months. Then my wife buys us a subscription to YouTube TV which came with HBO… and boom, there was the movie. So since I was paying for it anyway, and after a Halloween slasher marathon, I figured why not? I’d just finished Halloween Resurrection and my senses were dulled from a prolonged bore.
I… was wrong. This movie had my eyes wide throughout, kept me engaged, and awake well past 4am to finish the whole thing. I paid for that the next morning, but it was more than worth it. This movie was incredibly dark, incredibly well-made, and addictively engaging. You can tell from the casting choices and the set redesigns that they did their very best to keep true to the original Kubrick version, despite Stephen King’s disdain for it. It managed to balance being a loving tribute as well as it’s own original story almost flawlessly.
I will say that the ending is somewhat sad and not what I would have liked to see happen, but it is what it is. All in all, it’s a movie worth seeing and one that will stick with you.
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