Doctor Sleep is the continuation of Danny Torrance’s story 40 years after the terrifying events of Stephen King’s The Shining. Still irrevocably scarred by the trauma he endured as a child at the Overlook, Dan Torrance has fought to find some semblance of peace. But that peace is shattered when he encounters Abra, a courageous teenager with her own powerful extrasensory gift, known as the “shine.” Instinctively recognizing that Dan shares her power, Abra has sought him out, desperate for his help against the merciless Rose the Hat and her followers, The True Knot, who feed off the shine of innocents in their quest for immortality. Forming an unlikely alliance, Dan and Abra engage in a brutal life-or-death battle with Rose. Abra’s innocence and fearless embrace of her shine compel Dan to call upon his own powers as never before—at once facing his fears and reawakening the ghosts of the past.
What We Thought:
Part of me really liked Doctor Sleep. Part of me sat there wondering what the hell it had to do with The Shining (movie version). Honestly, if I hadn’t known Stephen King wrote the book this movie is based on, I would have thought this was a cash grab from a studio wanting a sequel to The Shining (movie version). I know the movie version of The Shining is drastically different than Stephen King’s book version, but for this review, I’m sticking to just the movie’s story.
Let me explain my point of view. To me The Shining (again the movie version) is the story of Jack Nicholson’s Jack Torrance character slowly losing his mind at the Overlook Hotel and going after his wife and son. The hotel has a shady past and the ghosts and stories have been interpreted a million different ways since its release. His young son Danny had an ability/power referred to as The Shining, but the movie, maybe because of Nicholson’s performance, to me, is about Jack. It’s a psychological thriller in every sense of the meaning.
Doctor Sleep is about the son character and takes place decades later. Ewan McGregor plays adult Danny who has had a rough time since the events at the Overlook. His mom is dead. He’s had a problem with alcohol because of his abilities and his past and his father’s issue with it as well. He’s trying to stay sober, work a regular job as an orderly at an old age home type place. He then meets a young girl named Abra who has abilities like him. Through her he learns there is a group of people out there hunting down special people and they team up to stop them.
What does that have to do with a psychological thriller like The Shining? Other than it being Danny Torrance and popping in some Easter eggs (like Redrum) from time to time, until the very end, it’s nothing like The Shining. I don’t know if our attention spans are so bad today that a slow burn thriller won’t hold an audience’s attention, but this is a complete tonal shift from the first film. This is almost an action movie or something closer to a comic book movie. People with abilities and traveling through their minds and making someone kill themselves, that’s horror and science fiction, not a man slowly losing his mind and snapping. Until the very end (which I won’t spoil), it’s nothing like the original film. Heck this has a gunfight in it.
So if I think of Doctor Sleep as a separate entity, I do like it. Pull away all The Shining stuff (besides the ending) and it’s a solidly made film with strong performances from McGregor and Rebecca Ferguson. Director Mike Flanagan has come a long way from his indie horror days and has turned himself into a bonafide Hollywood genre director. I quite liked his film Oculus and The Haunting of Hill House series really put him on the map. This film will raise him even higher. It’s slow at times when it needs to be, but the action is handled well and the visuals are pretty cool too. To me it’s much more of a horror film than The Shining because only two people die in that if you include Jack and there are a slew of deaths and killings in this. Each film has its own tone with this being faster and more action oriented to fit today’s (short) attention spans.
Like The Shining, Doctor Sleep, the movie, is different than Doctor Sleep, the book. The ending is much different and characters end much differently. I had rewatched The Shining a week or so before seeing Doctor Sleep just as a reminder, but even if you haven’t seen it in years, this has enough backstory for you to follow along. If you haven’t seen The Shining you can follow along for most of the movie, but the ending you might not get 100%. I did think the ending dragged on a bit, but they always joked Stephen King couldn’t end his books well either. It’s nothing like the first film, but thinking of it as its own movie, overall I did like it for what it was.
Director: Mike Flanagan
Writers: Screenplay by Mike Flanagan, based on the novel by Stephen King
Producers: Trevor Macy, Jon Berg
Cast: Ewan McGregor, Rebecca Ferguson, Kyliegh Curran, Carl Lumbly, Zahn McClarnon, Emily Alyn Lind, Bruce Greenwood, Jocelin Donahue and Cliff Curtis