“Doctor Sleep” stars Ewan McGregor, Rebecca Ferguson, Kyliegh Curran, Carl Lumbly, Zahn McClarnon, Emily Alyn Lind, Bruce Greenwood, and Cliff Curtis. Released on November 8, 2019, the film is about a man who discovers that he’s not the only one with psychic powers.
The film is directed by Mike Flanagan, who also directed films such as “Oculus”, “Hush”, “Before I Wake”, and “Gerald’s Game”. It is based on the 2013 novel of the same name by Stephen King, which is a sequel to King’s 1977 novel The Shining. Looks like the spirit of Halloween is still lurking because we got ourselves another spine-tingling film to check out. Less than 40 years ago, acclaimed director Stanley Kubrick released the film adapation of Stephen King’s terrifying novel known as “The Shining”, which tells the tale of a husband who goes mad due to the influences of the ghosts and tries to kill his family. Despite receiving some mixed reviews during its first few days of release and the fact that King was not pleased with how it turned out, “The Shining” went on to become one of the most influential and scariest horror films of all time. Many studies were made for the film by plenty of movie buffs that analyze its symbolisms, themes, and theories, and I do mean “many”. That’s how popular this movie is. In 2013, Stephen King wrote a sequel novel to “The Shining” titled “Doctor Sleep”, which chronicles Danny Torrance, the boy who has psychic abilities, as an adult. Six years later, it was adapted into a movie by the creator of “The Haunting of Hill House”, Mike Flanagan. Not only does it serve as a film adaptation of the novel, but also as a sequel to the 1980 film adaptation of “The Shining”. This type of combination sounds like a win-win for both fans of the novel and fans of the horror classic on paper, but does it work well on the screen?
Taking place decades after the events of “The Shining”, the film follows a grown-up Danny Torrance (McGregor), a man who possesses psychic abilities known as…well, “The Shining”. He is constantly haunted by his experiences at the Overlook Hotel, and he has suppressed his abilities by becoming an alcoholic. Like father, like son. He then encounters a young girl named Abra Stone (Curran), who also has the Shining. When she becomes a target for the True Knot, a group of mysterious people that feeds on the Shining, Danny will have to overcome his trauma in order to protect her. The film is more along the lines of a dark modern fantasy compared to the psychological horror nature from “The Shining”, but it still contains the elements that fans of its predecessor are familiar with. If there’s one thing I learned from watching the recent “It” films from Andy Muschietti, it’s that with the right people behind the camera and the script, the film adaptations of certain novels from Stephen King will succeed in honoring the author’s visions. I’m pleased to say that “Doctor Sleep” is another Stephen King adaptation done right. Similar to the “It” movies, the film has a steady balance that focuses on representing both its poignant themes and its disturbing imagery that will make everyone’s spines tingle with fright. Most modern horror films have done the opposite by putting their themes in the back seat and let the cheap horror cliches do the driving. I’m talking about you, “Countdown”. Under the command of writer/director Mike Flanagan, “Doctor Sleep” allows the horror elements to cooperate with his storytelling and its themes of childhood trauma to provide an easy-going road trip for its audience. The film’s representations can come off as either underwhelming or slow at times, especially for those who prefer horror films that are fast-paced and exciting, but it had enough juice in its horror tank to keep me intrigued in this world and the characters. The film is over two and a half hours long and due to its pacing, you might feel its length by the second act. However, because of its interesting story, it didn’t come off as a chore for me, so bonus points for that. Ewan McGregor was great in his role as Danny Torrance and Rebecca Ferguson was a thrill to watch as Rose the Hat, the leader of the True Knot. Kyliegh Curran also did really well in her feature film debut as Abra Stone. Stop me if you heard this before, but I can’t wait to see what she will do next in the future. If you’re wondering whether the film is downright scary or not, well, wonder no more. From my personal perspective, I wouldn’t consider it to be a “scary” movie. It’s a film that relies on its atmosphere and supernatural elements rather than jump scares and horror cliches to provide an unsettling sense of dread. Mike Flanagan had a pretty interesting way of presenting that type of film when it comes to his directorial style and the cinematography, with the third act being a superb example. Without spoilers, the third act is like revisiting an old friend, and the way this reunion was handled was unsurprisingly effective. The musical score by The Newton Brothers was not only haunting, but it was also nostalgic for those who grew up watching “The Shining”.
Overall, “Doctor Sleep” is a creepy and well-acted continuation of the “Shining” story arc, even though it doesn’t shine as bright as its predecessor. Its overlong running time and the underwhelming representations of its themes and scares might make this one a tough sell for modern horror fans. However, it still has the right tools to provide an effective and atmospheric horror experience, such as the cast, Flanagan’s direction, and a solid story. It’s not as impactful or thoughtful as “It”, but I appreciate the effort that was put into this film. If you’re familiar with “The Shining” or if you’re in a mood for a watchable horror film, this one’s worth checking out.