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‘Doctor Sleep’ helps overcome bedtime fear

Muthi Achadiat Kautsar
Muthi Achadiat Kautsar

The Jakarta Post

-  /  Fri, November 15, 2019  /  11:05 am

Disturbing images I have seen in horror movies often haunt me in bed at night. I couldn’t take it lightly so I had to stay away from the genre for years, if not decades, until the day when Doctor Sleep was screened. It was unavoidable for me.

An adaptation of the novel of the same name by Stephen King, Doctor Sleep presented images of the infamous Overlook Hotel at the beginning, where young Danny Torrance cycled along its empty corridors, passing room 237 with curiosity. Those who have watched Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining, also an adaptation of a Stephen King novel of the same name, must be familiar with the scene and the hotel, said to be located in the Rocky Mountains.

A design enthusiast who is into photography - although without an academic background in the subjects - I must say that Doctor Sleep delivers good pictures from the beginning. The pictures will possibly make me respond to my hotel experiences differently, be it a weekend staycation with family or a business trip when I sleep alone in my hotel room, especially when the room has a bathtub.

Doctor Sleep - written, directed and edited by Mike Flanagan - does not merely depict a story about a haunted hotel. Grown-up Danny, played by Ewan McGregor, had survived a horrifying incident at Overlook as a child and is now struggling with an addiction that began with attempts to dull his powerful extrasensory gift, known as the “shine”.

Able to hear people’s thoughts and even see their deaths, Danny finds the gift painful. Hence his addiction.

As alcoholism brought Danny to the lowest point in his life, he drove as far as he could from his home town, aiming to start afresh. He ended up in Frazier, New Hampshire, where he met and became friends with Billy Freeman, played by Cliff Curtis.

The Frazier chapter is where the title Doctor Sleep gets its explanation. Danny, warmly welcomed at the town’s AA meetings, eventually landed a job at a hospice. He became helpful in accompanying patients who were dying, talking softly to them and convincing them that death is a wonderful sleep, thus the dying souls crossed over in peace. Naturally, Danny was given the nickname "Doctor Sleep".

Read also: 'Utterly terrifying': 'Shining' sequel melds King and Kubrick

Far more than in the scenes where Danny helps the elderly to "sleep", conflicts in the movie occur while the stars were asleep. Protagonist Abra, played by newcomer Kyliegh Curran, had to witness faraway murders while she sleeps. She is, inevitably, blessed (or cursed) with the same powerful gifts as Danny's, only stronger.

Abra somehow found the way to be in touch with Danny and, although initially reluctant, Danny agreed to team up with Abra on a mission. They were to solve child murders committed by a quasi-immortal cult known as the True Knot.

Rose the Hat, played by Rebecca Ferguson, led the True Knot, somewhat a reminder of vampires who live long by drinking blood. However, in this movie it is the “steam” coming out of dying children that gives them power. The part where the True Knot committed their brutal act is the most disturbing of the movie, but it made the other parts more bearable for someone who is watching a horror movie for the first time in decades.

Carrying on the mission was not a walk in the park for Danny and Abra, who fought the True Knot with a bag of tricks. After victims fell on both sides, the ultimate battle took place at the Overlook, where it all began.

Apart from shutting my eyes at that most disturbing scene, I realized that I stayed wide awake during the whole movie. This was not the case in some action-packed superhero movies that I watched lately. I wonder if this is the reason why people need to watch horror movies to get entertained. I was, however, most excited about the fact that I had overcome my fear of the genre.