Doctor Sleep Drama

Review: ‘Doctor Sleep’ Shines, Though Not as Brightly as Its Predecessor

November 7, 2019Ben MK

Films don't get much more iconic than The Shining, director Stanley Kubrick's adaptation of Stephen King's 1977 masterpiece. Now, with Doctor Sleep, writer/director Mike Flanagan sets out to deliver a worthy successor to Kubrick's 1980 classic, in his own adaptation of King's acclaimed 2013 followup of the same name.

Primarily set 39 years after the original, this next chapter in The Shining story follows a 44-year-old Danny Torrance (Ewan McGregor), who, with some help from his old friend Dick Hallorann (Carl Lumbly, channeling Scatman Crothers), has managed to suppress his "Shine" so as not to attract the attention of such dark creatures as the ones that haunt the halls of the Overlook Hotel. Putting the trauma of the horrifying events that transpired when he was 5 has taken its toll on Danny, however, who wearily finds himself battling alcoholism, eventually ending up in New Hampshire, where the kindly Billy Freeman (Cliff Curtis) helps him find room and board, not to mention a job at a local hospice.

Meanwhile, elsewhere across the country, a teenage girl named Abra Stone (Kyliegh Curran) has started reaching out to Danny telepathically. Herself gifted with the same Shining powers as Danny, Abra soon finds herself a target for a cult calling themselves the True Knot, a group of seemingly immortal creatures — some centuries old — who gain their longevity by feasting on the "steam" of those who Shine. Led by the ruthless but beautiful Rose the Hat (Rebecca Ferguson), the True Knot spend their days hunting down and killing those with the most powerful Shining abilities — and now that they've set their sights on Abra, it's up to Danny to ensure that she doesn't meet the same fate as those unfortunate souls who have come before.

Much like Flanagan's The Haunting of Hill House, the result is a slow-burning tale of terror that leans much more on character drama and psychological horror than it does on supernatural scares. However, by no means does that make this sequel any less disturbing than its predecessor. On the contrary, Flanagan does a commendable job evoking and recreating the same sense of dread conjured up by Kubrick's original, especially when he has his characters revisit the ruins of the Overlook Hotel, where a climactic final confrontation ensues.

The movie also sees the return of Jack and Wendy Torrance (this time portrayed by Henry Thomas and Alex Essoe, respectively), although some viewers might find their appearances more akin to Halloween cosplay rather than the usual CGI de-aging efforts audiences have become used to. Suffice to say, that somewhat sums up Doctor Sleep as well, which functions well enough as an effective standalone story, but also can't help feeling at times like a pale imitation of that which inspired it.

Doctor Sleep releases November 8th, 2019 from Warner Bros. Pictures. The film has an MPAA rating of R for disturbing and violent content, some bloody images, language, nudity and drug use. Its runtime is 2 hrs. 31 min.

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