Warning: Minor plot spoilers ahead.
Much has been said about Stanley Kubrick’s 1980 film adaptation of Stephen King’s “The Shining.” While it is widely regarded as one of the best horror films of all time, the film’s had a long road to its reigning title. In a 1980 review, Variety wrote, “With everything to work with, ... Kubrick has teamed with jumpy Jack Nicholson to destroy all that was so terrifying about Stephen King's bestseller." Even King himself said that the film was a poor adaptation and is one of the few he remembers hating.
Mike Flanagan’s “Doctor Sleep,” the sequel to “The Shining,” is based on the 2013 novel by Stephen King that also features some elements from the 1980 film. It follows an all-grown-up Danny Torrance (Ewan McGregor) as a struggling alcoholic plagued by his childhood trauma. After landing in rural New Hampshire and being sponsored for Alcoholics Anonymous by Billy Freeman (Cliff Curtis), Torrance begins receiving written and telepathic messages via his shine from Abra Stone (Kyleigh Curran). Stone notifies Torrance that she has been “feeling” the work of the True Knot, led by Rose the Hat (Rebecca Ferguson), that feeds on "steam", a psychic essence produced in the dying moments of people with the shining ability, to slow their aging. Torrance and Stone must team up to defeat the True Knot before they can harm anyone else in a climactic showdown that eventually leads them back to the Overlook Hotel for a full-circle moment for the series.
On a greater scale, “Doctor Sleep” is a metaphor for dealing with the demons of our everyday life. This is exemplified in a quote by Torrance stating, “a man takes a drink, the drink takes a drink, the drink takes a man.” Torrance masks the pain he feels from the events of the first film by turning to alcohol rather than facing his problems head-on; on the same note, he’s instructed by the ghost of Dick Hallorann (Carl Lumbly) to lock his memories of the Overlook away instead of facing them. Torrance goes through a beautiful character arc from beginning to end that, in a way, closes the door for him in the series. McGregor and Curran do a great job as allies-turned-friends and the latter could easily carry a sequel to this movie on her own. On the other hand, Ferguson does a great job as an unconventional horror movie antagonist; Rose the Hat is just as interesting as she is frightful. The character steals the show with her spine-chilling charm and fearful demeanor.
The film wraps up at around two-and-a-half hours which feels a bit drawn out, but it packs in plenty of fears and even a couple of laughs bringing together the best of both Kubrick’s adaptation and King’s original novel. Similar to the results of the first film, “Doctor Sleep” has not been a popular trip to the movies. However, I believe that the film will likely become a fan-favorite down the line as it stands as a proper sequel to the entire story of “The Shining,” offering real-world relatability and unconventional scare tactics that both King and Kubrick can agree on.
Rating: 4 out of 5
See the trailer for "Doctor Sleep" here.