Last year, the Stanley Kubrick classic, The Shining, had finally received a sequel. That sequel was Doctor Sleep. If you know me, I wasn’t too happy with the film and was even more upset with it being a sequel to one of my favorite horror films.
But maybe I was too harsh on Doctor Sleep, as looking back on it, it did have something interesting to say. Some of you might think maybe it was a metaphor for alcoholism, despite the fact that before Danny gives his whole speech about why he’ll never take a shot of alchohol again to his father’s face he already shows that he’s given it up when he throws the bottle down at the end of act two and decides instead to try and save Abra.
Maybe it has something to say about our government or human nature, just as the first film did talking about how the Overlook Hotel was built upon a sacred Indian burial ground and they constantly speak about the “white man’s struggle,” despite this film being about vampire hippies going on a nation wide roadtrip to kill kids and suck on their smoke.
No, it talks about something way more important than that, almost acting as a satire, revealing the true genius of this film and how it dissects the very nature of character writing itself. Me being the film analysis expert, I believe that the true meaning of this film is a dissection of Isekai genre anime and why an overpowered protagonist makes a story feel empty and have no stakes.
What exactly is an Isekai? 異世界 or Isekai in Japanese translates to “Other World” which acts as a subgenre to anime, manga, light novels, games, etc. The point of the Isekai genre is to be an escape from reality to another world where the main character, whom is usually a shallow character made to be a stand in for the audience, is given a chance to be the hero/gamer/sex cult leader (harem target)/white knight they’ve always wanted to be.
What does this have to so with Doctor Sleep?
In Doctor Sleep, the film makes multiple references to the anime RWBY, an action adventure Isekai anime where anyone with the right amount of training and skill can become a RWBY warrior, such as Yang, who despite being unable to defeat Tifa Lockheart in a fight to the death, is a pretty powerful character who fights with Gauntlets that also double a shotguns.
One of the main protagonists of the film, Abra (played by Kyliegh Curran), is a huge fan of a particular character from RWBY, Emerald Sustra. A weird choice to be sure. Emerald Sustra is a villain in the anime but Abra is very obviously the protagonist in Doctor Sleep, but if one is to view the film from my perspective this all fits in.
You see Abra is the protagonist of the story but the antagonist of the films theme. The obviously fleshed out and definitely menacing main antagonist of the film ‘Rose The Hat,’ whom wears what is most definitely the most terrifying top hat of all time (she wouldn’t rank #1 in my top 5 villain hats but she is around #3), is the protagonist of the themes. Abra represents what all amature writers fear. Bad Writing Characteristics, or BWC for short, while Rose reflects on Better Being Charming writing, or BBC for short.
The film shows that because Abra and Danny are overpowered characters whom can’t be defeated and have no actual weaknesses that they are really the bad guys. They ruin the point of the story by destroying fleshed out characters and understandable plots in turn for escapism and references.
This is even more apparent in the third act of the film, as despite Danny already quitting alcohol he gives that redundant speech to dead dad, but that speech is the crux of the theme. The speech isn’t there to tell us that Danny has given up alcohol, it’s for the fans who kept on asking Danny’s father, Jack Torrence, not to drink alcohol when watching The Shining.
The third act talks about what happens when an anime/manga/game starts to lose its audience, it drags them back with fan service. It reels the audience in with flashy but nonetheless empty fan service. Danny facing off with Jack, the classic Shining score coming back, all the classic spirits and moments from the Overlook Hotel, the Overlook Hotel itself, the now iconic door torn down by Johnny “Here’s” Torrence, Danny fighting off Rose with an Axe on the Iconic staircase. This film revels in its fanservice knowing the audience won’t complain, just as an Isekai does when they introduce a new character with a big ass and j-cup 45 boobs.
The film acts as a deconstruction of the genre, truly a genius. I had criticized Mike Flanagan’s masterpiece too harshly in the past but now I see the error of my ways. Happy April 1st y’all.