Doctor Sleep Parent Guide
With grotesque violence, this movie is completely unsuited for family viewing. But for Stephen King horror fans, it's a scary ride.
Parent Movie Review
Struggling with the trauma of his father’s failed attempt to murder him and his mother, Daniel “Doc” Torrance (Ewan McGregor) grows up with a serious alcohol problem, which spirals into a host of other issues. While trying to straighten his life out in a small town in New England, Dan makes contact with Abra (Kyliegh Curran), another girl who shares his “shining”- that strange assortment of psychic powers he has been trying to suppress with alcohol. But when Abra finds herself pursued by Rose “The Hat” (Rebecca Ferguson) and the True Knot, a group of vampires who feed on the shine, Dan has to find it in himself to confront his past and his own abilities in order to protect this young girl.
The Shining, directed by Stanley Kubrick and released in 1980, is one of my favorite horror movies of all time. I watched it with a friend during a blizzard when I was 15, and it scared my pants off. Now it’s a movie I watch every year when the snow starts falling. The novel of the same name, written by Stephen King, is another of my favorites. It’s a thrilling character study of a man under intense pressure, both uncomfortably real and terrifyingly otherworldly. Having established my credentials as a complete geek for all things Overlook Hotel, here’s how Doctor Sleep stacks up:
Doctor Sleep faces an uphill climb. Stephen King is very difficult to adapt (for reasons I’ve discussed in reviews of Pet Sematary and It), but the film handles that the usual way: trimming down all of the character building that makes the story so compelling in the first place. In that department, this film does better than many others, but it still leaves Dan a little underdeveloped. This movie also faces a difficult choice - whether to be a direct adaptation of the novel, and therefore a sequel to the original book, or whether to function as a sequel to Kubrick’s 1980 film adaptation. There are significant differences in tone, structure, and plot, and trying to balance all those differences is a real juggling act. Doctor Sleep seems to go for door number three by mixing the two approaches - taking elements which Kubrick had neglected and working them back in with his visual design and casting. Honestly, it works much better than I thought it would.
That said, from a parental perspective, Doctor Sleep is loaded with negative content. The drugs and alcohol are the least of your worries, as they are just there to dramatically demonstrate the lowest point in the protagonist’s life and serve as an agent of self-reflection and change going forward. (This is an even stronger theme in the book, some of which reads like an advertisement for Alcoholics Anonymous, which is especially poignant as King wrote the original novels about his own journey with alcoholism and recovery.) The bigger concern is that Doctor Sleep’s violent content becomes grotesque when it veers into child torture. Does it make sense in the plot? Yes. Is it at all pleasant to watch, even without excessive detail? Not even a little bit. Add the profanity and Stephen King’s enduring fear of naked old women, and you’ve got a rough ride for all ages which makes it impossible for us to recommend this movie for family viewing.
What appeals to me, though, as a fan of classic horror flicks, is this show’s heart. Doctor Sleep is clearly the product of a team that respects the source material almost as much as I do, and although the movie is still slow, occasionally awkward, and a little meandering, I appreciate it for trying. Doctor Sleep makes a difficult attempt to stitch together two different versions of the same story without ruining either one. All heart and partial success makes this flick a slow trek- but I’ll take it. If you need me, I’ll be trying to find that famous orange carpet and installing it in my basement.Directed by Mike Flanagan. Starring Ewan McGregor, Rebecca Ferguson, and Kyliegh Curran.. Running time: 151 minutes. Theatrical release November 8, 2019. Updated February 6, 2020
Watch the trailer for Doctor Sleep
Rating & Content Info
Why is Doctor Sleep rated R? Doctor Sleep is rated R by the MPAA for disturbing and violent content, some bloody images, language, nudity and drug use.
Violence: There are jump scares and scary music. A man is beaten in a bar fight. A child is kidnapped and tortured to death. Children are heard screaming in pain. A character is cut across the face. An individual has their hand caught in a trap, and in trying to extricate it, breaks several fingers and tears a great deal of skin off. Several people are shot and killed. A person is forced to commit suicide. An individual is stabbed in the chest. An individual is killed in a car wreck. Two people are struck and injured by a fire axe. A character dies and turns to dust.
Sexual Content: A woman is shown nude in bed, although all that is seen is her posterior. A man’s bare backside is seen. The apparition of a dead woman is shown fully nude for several moments and appears in a number of scenes. A married man tries to pick up an adolescent girl.
Profanity: There are nine uses of extreme profanity, five uses of scatological profanity, and about half a dozen uses of profanity from other categories.
Alcohol / Drug Use: The protagonist is shown drinking heavily and taking cocaine before going into an addiction recovery program. An individual is shown taking a drink to calm his nerves.
Page last updated February 6, 2020
Doctor Sleep Parents' GuideThe message of this movie appears to be that if you have the power to help, you have the responsibility to do so. Do you agree?
Loved this movie? Try these books…
For more Stephen King, try reading Doctor Sleep, The Shining, Bag of Bones, and Misery.