The Shining (based on a book by Stephen King) is truly one of the most unsettling and memorable horror films of all time. A masterpiece that has garnered tons of theories and speculations on what the true meaning of many of the scenes are. King was displeased with the Kubrick directed adaptation and has since written a sequel book following a grown-up Danny Torrance called Doctor Sleep. Now, we have the adaptation of said book directed by one of my favorite modern horror directors Mike Flanagan, so I was hyped! While nowhere near as great as The Shining, Doctor Sleep is a terrific sequel that feels refreshing considering how many sequels tend to rehash the same gags and scares just to appease fans.
Mike Flanagan manages to not only stay very faithful to the tone of Kubrick's The Shining but also adds his own trademark flair of creepy atmosphere and some great character work to make for a very effective and enjoyable two and a half hours. The amount of added lore you get in the first two hours alone is worth the price of admission. I love when a great idea gets expanded upon in a unique and thoughtful way, and that's exactly what Flanagan & King did here with Doctor Sleep.
Doctor Sleep is set almost 40 years after The Shining and now follows a grown-up Danny Torrance (played by Ewan McGregor) who remains traumatized over the events that took place at the Overlook Hotel in 1980. Danny, who's locked away his "shining" abilities from his own use, meets a young girl named Abra who shares the same abilities that he does, and they must work together to stop the True Knot cult which feeds on the "shining" to keep their immortality.
Sounds pretty different than you'd think for a sequel to one of the creepiest horror films ever, huh? While the story is not without its faults, mainly with some of its side characters, I appreciated the amount of focus that was put on the strange but fascinating lore. The "shine" aspect is front and center and I loved the deep dive the film took into explaining some of the weird abilities it gives the user. Another thing I loved was the True Knot, led by the terrific Rebecca Ferguson, which is a truly terrifying cult that does some heinous, brutal things throughout the film.
The only negative I have for the overall plot is that the ending felt a bit unneeded, as if it were only there to appease the fans of the original. Not to say it was badly done, but it was just wholly unnecessary in my opinion.
ACTING | CHARACTERS | DIALOGUE:
The acting from all of the cast is top-notch with the standouts being Ewan McGregor who plays Danny with a quiet, depressed demeanor throughout the film. You can tell Danny has a dark past even if you were to meet him for the first time. McGregor does a great job of conveying the perfect amount of emotion through his facial reactions and lack thereof.
Rebecca Ferguson playing the playfully evil Rose the Hat is my favorite part of the entire film. Her character is not only creepy but also feels oddly human. She's not a mustache-twirling villain, but a leader trying to keep her people alive. She still does hideous things including one scene that had my entire theater squirming (let’s just say Jacob Trembley is in his best role since The Predator). The rest of the cast is solid as well with some of the highlights including newcomer Kyliegh Curran playing the shining inhabited Abra and Carl Lumbly taking over the role of Dick Halloraan (once played by Scatman Crothers).
Like I said, the acting is pretty much solid across the board, but I can't help but think that this film would have benefited heavily if it was instead a mini-series because a lot of the side characters get the shaft pretty quickly here. Certain people that we've felt a personal bond with because they shared bonds with other characters either get offed or disappear from the plot as if they were nothing. It felt very odd to me and left me feeling a little cold.
VISUAL EFFECTS | MAKEUP | DESIGN:
MUSIC | SCORE | SOUND DESIGN:
The Shining has one of the greatest compositions ever in not only the horror genre, but in the movies period. Doctor Sleep, just like with everything else, tries to do its own thing while also paying homage to the past with an unsettling and intense score that, of course, includes the classic theme for The Shining but creates a memorable and effective original score all for itself. A score that adds more to a film will always be a great score in my book.
Doctor Sleep could've gone the tired horror sequel route of adding tons of CGI jump scares to appease the brainless masses (sorry if that offends, but seriously? The Nun made more than this? Come on!) but decided to use special effects only when it needed to continue the story or to set a tone. Its minimal but effective, and the makeup, especially some of the intense gore, is top-notch! Mike Flanagan loves to add one scene in every one of his films that will make you squirm and oh boy does he deliver here. Great stuff!
While it's not The Shining in terms of quality, Doctor Sleep is still a worthwhile endeavor that focuses more on its main characters than it does on creepy imagery. It's a slow burn but one that is worth the trip. The ending might leave some wanting something a bit more original, but the lead-up and the performances make up for it and then some. I enjoyed my 2nd and most likely the last trip into this universe and I'll happily await the next Flanagan joint.