The much-anticipated sequel to The Shining is here almost four decades after the first one was released in cinemas.
Doctor Sleep starts off where the first one left off, the remaining Torrances left the Overlook hotel behind and Dani (Ewan McGregor) and his mum (Alex Essoe) are trying to cope and rebuild their lives as best as they can. However, Danny secretly continues to see the ghosts from the hotel. The movie then skips through his life, giving audience members a brief overview of what he has been up to throughout his adult life, right until present time. Traumatised, he has not coped well with what he experienced and his supernatural abilities – which he calls his “shining”. At some point in his adulthood, he turned to alcohol to suffocate his abilities and memories. As he tries to turn his life around, he “meets” a determined young girl, Abra Stone (Kyliegh Curran), who also happens to have the “shining”.
Unbeknown to Danny, a group of wanderers, called the Knot, hunt, kill, and consume people like Danny and Abra for their powers. Through her “shining” Abra witnesses them brutally murder, eat his essence, and bury a young boy. She joins forces with Danny to try to stop the Knot and the only way they can do that is by returning to the infamous Overlook hotel.
The Shining has a massive cult following, however, Stephen King has never been a fan of Stanley Kubrick’s style of the film. With that, Mike Flanagan (director) had the difficult job of finding the right balance between satisfying both Kubrick fans while also sticking closely to King’s ideas of evil and focusing more on the characters. Though challenging, Flanagan managed to successfully join the two methods seamlessly. He pays tribute to Kubrick’s visual signatures by incorporating the most iconic scenes from his film and including new ones involving Danny’s father (Henry Thomas), while also focusing on the impact it all had on the characters involved.
Doctor Sleep has a consistent pace and tone throughout its running time, except for the last quarter where the action begins and produces what Kubrick and The Shining fans would be waiting for – and yes, the blood scene makes its return. This film is not scary, however, it does a good job at creating and sustaining an eerie tone. There are two witty moments that serve to cut the tension, but even those moments are brief and unnecessary for a Stephen King story.
This film has a couple of weaknesses. I have yet to read the novel but know that the beginning of the story sticks closely to King’s book, the creators then chose to alter the direction by leaving out a lot of elements and made key changes to offer up a different ending. Unfortunately, that’s where the flaws are obvious. There is a scene involving guns that is highly uncharacteristic of the film and it seemed to have been included to unnecessarily tweak and shorten the original story.
Jack Nicholson does not reprise his role, instead Henry Thomas takes over and does an excellent rendition of Jack Nicholson’s Jack Torrance, much like Alex Essoe’s execution of Wendy Torrance, who was played by Shelley Duvall in 1980. Being a seasoned actor, Ewan McGregor carries the movie well, as does Rebecca Ferguson, who plays the leader of the Knot group. The most impressive of them all is the talented Kyleigh Curran, who plays Abra. She is incredibly charismatic on the big screen and is a joy to watch.
Overall, if you are solely expecting a Kubrick style approach to the film then you might be disappointed, but if you have enjoyed King and Flanagan’s work in the past then you will thoroughly enjoy Doctor Sleep. 8/10
Doctor Sleep is in cinemas now – you can also listen to our interview with the Producer of the film Trevor Macy here.