Currently in theaters is Doctor Sleep, the latest film by director Mike Flanagan (Oculus, Ouija: Origin of Evil) based on the eponymous book by Stephen King. Nerd Nation Magazine was in attendance for the early press screening courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures, Allied Marketing, and Regal Cinemas.
A sequel to Stanley Kubrick‘s legendary adaptation of King’s The Shining, Doctor Sleep continues the story of Danny Torrence, first in 1980 immediately following the events of the original film, and then again in 2011, with the now adult Dan Torrence (played by Ewan McGregor) still traumatized by the horrors he experienced during his time at the Overlook Hotel, as well as the hauntings that followed, yet somewhat better at controlling his strange mental abilities that he refers to as “the shining”. Dan has become a drifter, and much like his father before him, an alcoholic. When he takes a bus to a small town he meets and befriends Billy Freeman (played by Cliff Curtis of Blow, Live Free or Die Hard) a kind man who offers Dan a place to live, and a place in the local chapter of Alcoholics Anonymous. Dan takes a job at the local hospice facility, using his “shine” abilities to comfort dying patients, who give him the title of “Doctor Sleep”. Things go well for a few years, until Dan starts receiving telepathic messages from a young girl named Abra Stone (played by Kyliegh Curran in her debut role).
Meanwhile, a powerful cult of nearly-immortal vampiric beings known as the True Knot hunt and prey on anyone they can find with “the shining,” feeding on their spiritual lifeforce, which the cult calls “steam” to slow their aging and extend their unnaturally long lives. The cult is led by a strange woman known as Rose the Hat (played by Rebecca Ferguson) who tracks down young Abra, noting the immense power of her “shine” abilities. With the True Knot cult hunting her, Abra contacts Dan for help, and the two engage in a dangerous cat-and-mouse game that will bring them back to where it all started for Dan – the Overlook Hotel. Will the two be able to use their shining to stop Rose and the cult? Or will the cult… or the hotel itself claim even more souls? Perhaps more importantly, will anyone make it out alive? The answers may surprise you… and seeing as how this is a spoiler-free review… you’ll just have to watch and see for yourself.
While this entire film absolutely feels like a true sequel to The Shining, up to and including the many instances of Kubrick-inspired cinematography and cuts, as well as the many, many throwbacks and cameos to some old familiar characters… it also very much succeeds in finding an identity that is truly its own. The introduction of new characters, particularly the new villains in the True Knot cult, definitely add a few new layers to the story, a lot more adversity, and of course, a very interesting third party in the war between Dan Torrence and the dark beings of the Overlook Hotel. The entire cast is excellent, especially Ewan McGregor as the adult Dan Torrence and Rebecca Ferguson as Rose the Hat who both absolutely… well… shine in this with two award-worthy performances.
While the writing and pacing are definitely top-notch, the story does suffer at one point in writing itself into a corner, where it begins to drag, but recovers rather quickly and rights the ship back on course, which honestly pleasantly surprised me as a viewer. It could have been easy to turn to cliches and take the easy way out of this, but them choosing not to really made for a climax and ending that felt fresh and different in a genre all too often populated with the opposite. Flanagan and crew should absolutely be commended, too, for paying homage to Kubrick and the original, without depending entirely on it, when again, that would have been the cheap, easy way out.
The Bottom Line:
Overall, Doctor Sleep is a very good dark fantasy horror film that gives fans of The Shining plenty of nostalgia to enjoy, but also offers quite a bit of new story to dive into. While it is definitely not quite as groundbreaking or masterful as the original in any department, it is still a very solid film that holds its own and definitely deserves its place in both horror cinema and such an iconic franchise. – 8.0/10
Editor/Staff Writer: Nerd Nation Magazine