Doctor Sleep Review

I’m not the biggest Shining fan in the world.

I really liked the 1980 film and thought it was effective, intriguing and contained some of the creepiest moments ever committed to film, but it doesn’t rank outrageously high in my list of top horror movies.

Visually it’s something to behold, but I guess one of my main issues was how Jack Nicholson’s character never seemed very even-tempered in the first place, which dulled the impact of his eventual descent into madness.

I’ll also throw in the fact that I haven’t read the novel, though have seen my fair share of Stephen King adaptions and read plenty of his other books.

My credentials, or lack thereof, now exposed, I’ll give my views on Doctor Sleep, which is out in cinemas this week, just in time for Halloween.

At a pre-screening Q&A, director Mike Flanagan clarified that this film was intended as both an adaptation of King’s 2013 follow-up novel, as well as a sequel to the 1980 movie.

So, just two sets of fans to satisfy there… no pressure.

The story picks up directly after the events of the first film, with Danny Torrance (Ewan McGregor) suffering increasingly horrific nightmares and visions. With some guidance from Dick (now played by Carl Lumbly), Danny learns to master his fears.

We are also introduced to Rose the Hat (Rebecca Ferguson), a sinister figure with a menagerie of followers which seemingly abducts young children. We later learn that the group feeds off children who are displaying the same kind of powers as Danny.

We ultimately jump forward to the present-day via a pitstop in 2011: Danny (sorry, Dan) has found work in a hospice up north and is 8 years sober. He has been psychically communicating with a teenager named Abra (Kyleigh Curran), who seems to possess similar powers to his own as a child.

Rose and her group are meanwhile running on fumes. They become aware of Abra and close in. Can Abra and Dan join forces to survive?

At just over two and a half hours, it would be easy to make some joke about Doctor Sleep’s soporific qualities, but in truth it was engaging throughout.

McGregor is fine as the adult Dan and Curran shows great promise as Abra, but it is Ferguson who walks away with the film as Rose the Hat: seductive yet repulsive and holding attention in every one of her scenes.

Flanagan seems to have hit his target by creating what feels like a very Stephen King movie, with scenes of genuine creepiness and terror (notably an unsettling sequence involving Jacob Tremblay), whilst simultaneously recalling Kubrick’s cinematic vision, particularly in the final stretch.

The main point of concern is whether the filmmakers will accept victory and draw the line here or not. The marketing suggests that this is simply the ‘next’ chapter in the Shining story, as opposed to the final chapter. It would certainly spice up the current Scorsese Vs MCU debate if an auteur-helmed classic like The Shining spawned a franchise four decades after release, but let’s wait and see.

It may not appeal to die-hard fans of the 1980 film, but for everyone else, this is a satisfying follow-up.

Conor Brennan

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Dates ‘n stuff

October 2019