“Doctor Sleep” Review: a Sequel That Shines

Almost 40 years after Stanley Kubrick’s “The Shining,” comes a long awaited sequel to the iconic horror masterpiece. Based on the 2013 novel by Stephen King, “Doctor Sleep” is not only necessary in completing King’s story, but has matched the high bar set all the way back in 1980. In short: “Doctor Sleep” is one of the best movies I’ve seen all year. 

The film is set in current day, in which Dan Torrence (Ewan McGregor) is a struggling alcoholic, haunted by the ghosts of his childhood and traumatic stay at The Overlook Hotel. As he begins his road to recovery, he’s forced to deal with his psychological powers he calls “The Shining.” However, it is soon clear that Dan is not the only one with supernatural abilities. 

 There are innocent children who “shine,” including Abra, a young girl who has been communicating with Dan throughout her childhood. But there’s also the True Knot: a group of those with The Shining who feed off of others’ powers, targeting Abra as a next meal. It’s left up to Dan to face the past and fight for those who shine.

“Doctor Sleep” is written, directed, and edited by Mike Flannigan, who is best known for the Netflix original, “The Haunting of Hill House,” which was my Halloween obsession this October. However, “Doctor Sleep” wasn’t easy to pull off. 

Due to the fact that Kubrick completely changed the ending of King’s “The Shining,” Flannigan was left to put together a plot that would adapt King’s series of books, as well as Kubrick’s iconic film. And boy, did he do it. 

In general, my greatest complaint with sequels is that they are often unnecessary. “Toy Story 4,” “Zombieland: Double Tap,” and “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” are all entertaining movies, but not needed for the development of plot or characters. They add nothing to the series, which begs the question of why they were made in the first place. 

“Doctor Sleep,” on the other hand, is not only necessary but wonderfully provocative and engaging. The film answers essential questions from “The Shining,” yet still raises new and intriguing plot points. The characters introduced are strong and exciting additions to the film’s universe, possibly more so than in the first film.  

The performances of Ewan McGregor and Kyliegh Curran were heartfelt, creating a great sense of sympathy and care from the audience. On top of that, the script was extremely intense, but balanced with touches of humor and love. 

What “Doctor Sleep” does best though, is its ability to pay wonderful homage to Kubrick’s masterpiece, while still remaining a significantly different and important film on its own. The most memorable moments of “The Shining” are recreated with completely new context, which is not an easy task to do well. Flannigan, however, does it so very well. 

My entire row of friends were squealing with delight over the iconic cinematography, set design, and props that we love so much from Kubrick’s film. Besides the fact that “Doctor Sleep” is a good movie, it’s also fun to watch. Those obsessed with King’s universe should not hesitate. 

As far as the horror aspect of “Doctor Sleep” goes, it’s fairly balanced to that of “The Shining.” The film deals a lot with alcoholism and death, bringing mature themes to the screen, but nothing visually scarring. There is, however, a few shockingly violent scenes, including violence against children. Although disturbing to watch, it is not overly graphic throughout the film.

While I have small complaints, my biggest issue with the film is the re-casting of the iconic cast for the use of flashbacks. While I understand that it’s a difficult task to accomplish, no one can play Jack Torrence, other than Jack Nicholson. I wished that we could have seen more actual footage from “The Shining,” rather than remakes with a knock-off cast. 

Also, what the heck is up with King’s obsession with old lady boobs? First “It: Chapter Two,” and now “Doctor Sleep”? I don’t think anyone wants this.

Ignoring the saggy trauma, “Doctor Sleep” is not something you want to miss. Maybe it’s the fact that I’ve been generally underwhelmed by the recent selection of films, but Flannigan’s work is one of my favorites of the year. 

One could say that “Doctor Sleep” is truly shining. (See what I did there?)


Story by: Amanda Walton
Photos courtesy of IMDB