In 1980, director Stanley Kubrick brought to the world the descent into madness, The Shining. Despite being polarising at the time of release, especially from the author of the book, Stephen King, it eventually became one of the most iconic horror films of all time. During this age of late addition sequels, especially with a hot streak of adaptations like Pet Sematary and It: Chapter Two, it’s not THAT surprising to see a follow up to the Kubrick classic with a contemporary Stephen King book, Doctor Sleep. Does this almost 40-year sequel shine as bright as the original film?
Many years after the events at the Overlook Hotel, an adult Dan Torrence (Ewan McGreggor) is fighting alcoholism and drug addiction due to the trauma of his father attempting to murder him and his mother at five years old. As he settles in New Hampshire, Torrence uses his telepathic powers known as “the Shining” to assist patients while working in a hospital, given the nickname “Doctor Sleep.” A young girl named Abra Stone (Kyliegh Curran), who also has the telepathic power, communicates with Torrence for help as she senses a looming threat of a group who kills and steals the gift from young children, led by Rose the Hat (Rebecca Ferguson).
Making a sequel to The Shining seems like a very unenviable task as it would have to balance out between so many factors. Writer and director Mike Flanagan (The Haunting of Hill House & Gerald’s Game) would have to both pay tribute to such an iconic movie with devoted fans and skeptics (Look up Room 237 for those wacky theories), while also making sure to follow the framework lead by Stephen King. But at the end of the day, Flanagan manages to balance out both aspects, while also making Doctor Sleep a supernatural/ psychological thriller that explores how childhood traumas can form adulthood in different ways. As McGreggor provides this vessel in an excellent performance as Torrence, a special shoutout goes towards Curran in her big-screen debut, especially when she is given some complex parts to play.
Clocking in at almost 2 and a half hours, a potential criticism that could be drawn on Doctor Sleep is the lack of scares, especially since it is a sequel to an iconic horror movie. Despite some horrific imagery of children being sacrificed by Rose the Hat and her group and some creepy visions, the film delves further into building on the lore from the original film and the books. If you ever felt that The Shining was too abstract and left too many unanswered questions, then this is the movie for you! But as the film reaches its climax, there is plenty of moments that will please both fans of King and Kubrick as there are references and re-created sequences that drop quite a few surprises.
Overall, Doctor Sleep is a very welcome addition to a film that may have not necessarily needed a sequel, but it provides some answers to unexplored territories. While Doctor Sleep may not reach the heights of scares from The Shining, the film is still a wonderfully executed slow-burn thriller with some great performances all-round. I can definitely recommend his revisit the REDЯUM-eous world from King.