Doctor Sleep—while seemingly unnecessary—still satisfies
When I first learned that Doctor Sleep—a sequel to The Shining—was going to show in theaters, I knew to keep my expectations to a minimum. After all, this year has proven that remakes and second chapters can never quite live up to the original releases.
At the same time, however, the names tied to the film had me intrigued: Ewan McGregor as a grown Danny Torrance, Rebecca Ferguson as Rose the Hat and Mike Flanagan as director, writer and editor? I was on the Doctor Sleep train—still with my head out of the clouds. After all, there was no way that this film could reach the heights of The Shining.
After an amazing throwback to those dizzying floor patterns and little Danny on his tricycle exploring the halls of the Overlook Hotel, we’re greeted with a harsh reality: Danny Torrance is an alcoholic with a talent for blackouts and black eyes. It seems that losing his mind in booze has helped him keep his sanity—and his shine—at bay.
He eventually kicks the habit and finds himself a quiet life. But as the years pass, Dan meets Abra (Kyliegh Curran), whose shine is extraordinary, and things go awry when the teenager discovers a cult led by Rose the Hat. The two form an alliance to take down the True Knot, which feeds off the shine of others to become immortal.
The plot of Doctor Sleep is far less mind fuck and definitely more mind games than its predecessor, as Danny and Abra battle it out against Rose. They play a game of cat and mouse, using their shines to outdo one another—and it is honestly in these moments where the film falls a little short. In the contexts of horror and the Stephen King universe, the middle third of the film falls a little flat. I wanted more scares and less power struggles, more scenes to cover my eyes from and less scenes that had me praying for the next one. This relative fault aside, however, the film in its entirety deserves praise.
McGregor is great and Ferguson is a believable crazed lady that will do anything to keep her power; Curran is that teenager that’s hell bent on righting a wrong. The film’s brilliance, however, truly has to be credited to Flanagan. The director/writer/editor truly knows how to twist a scene (sometimes literally) to create fear without modern cinema’s cheap tricks—jump scares and a heart pumping score. Instead, he creates a face for what we can’t see, evokes a feeling for something we don’t know is coming. And in a year of disappointing copycat moments, Doctor Sleep shines.
Some will criticize that Flanagan tried too hard to play within the world that Stanley Kubrick created back in 1980—evidenced by the cut scenes and lookalike actors—but the movie is a sequel and a little continuity is expected. Besides, the throwbacks were strangely welcome throughout the watch. Doctor Sleep has an uncanny ability to make reliving the horrors of The Shining feel like coming home. Flanagan has made the impossible, possible: to marry the classics of film and literature.
— Stephen King (@StephenKing) October 31, 2019
Doctor Sleep opens in theaters nationwide on November 7. It’s a little late for Halloween, but a good scare is always a welcome thing.
Art Alexandra Lara