Verdict: A daring sequel to a classic film that shines in its own light.
Stephen King is rightfully known as the master of the horror genre and when his book, The Shining, was adapted as a film by Stanley Kubrick, it brought spine-chilling terror to the audiences. The Shining remains an iconic horror film and when it was announced that a sequel would be made based on the follow-up novel that was published in 2013, expectations were already high. Doctor Sleep is quite different from Kubrick’s masterpiece and although it takes cues from the original, it stands well on its own.
What’s Doctor Sleep About:
As an adult, Danny Torrance (Ewan McGregor) struggles with alcoholism much like his father and is haunted by ghosts from his past. He still has powers that he calls the ‘shining’ and works as an orderly at a hospice. He is contacted by Abra (Kyliegh Curran), a girl who shines brighter than anyone he has ever seen. Meanwhile, True Knot, a cult that feeds on people with the powers led by Rose the Hat (Rebecca Ferguson), finds out about Abra and decides to track her down.
Director Mike Flanagan has previous experience directing both book adaptations and horror films and this expertise shines through in Doctor Sleep. He seamlessly mixes nostalgia with the fresh story for the film. The foreboding orchestral music, the reminiscent scenes from the Overlook Hotel, even the characters, don’t feel out of place in this story of people with magical powers and the cult that hunts them.
Doctor Sleep’s strength lies in its characters, all of whom are fleshed out, including the minor characters like Danny’s friend, Billy (Cliff Curtis), or members of the cult, Crow Daddy (Zahn McClarnon) and Snakebite Andi (Emily Alyn Lind). Ewan McGregor and Kyleigh Curran give great performances and the scenes where they are together are a delight. Rebecca Fergusson is seductive and fearsome as Rose as she deftly lures in those with the shine.
The horror in the film comes from the evil actions of the cult with a few well-placed jump scares along the way. The ease with which True Knot operates is unsettling considering that they target defenseless children. The cinematography is brilliant, especially in the places where the shine is being used. The script is also written well as Doctor Sleep remains engaging throughout, ramping up the tension of whether Rose will get Abra till the very end.
What Could’ve Been Better:
Doctor Sleep isn’t a horror film like The Shining, so it might be disappointing for those who expect the same level of nightmarish moments. It leans more towards being a fantasy thriller with horror elements.
Why You Should Watch:
Doctor Sleep is a well-made successor to The Shining which provides closure to the character of Danny Torrance as he grows and has a chance to use his shine to protect someone else. There’s plenty here for fans of the original film and also a completely new story with menacing villains who give the act of inhaling steam terrifying new implications.