A sequel to the 1980 film, “The Shining”, “Doctor Sleep” greatly expands on the lore set up in Stanley Kubrick’s film, while also creating an identity of its own. With an impressive cast lead by Ewan McGreggor, “Doctor Sleep” works tremendously as a sequel to Kubrick’s film and Stephen King’s novel.
Four decades after the events of “The Shining”, Danny Torrance has fallen down the same beaten path as his father, as he suppresses the traumatic memories and his psychic ability through alcohol. But after learning about the True Knot, a cult that feeds off the shine within young children, Danny must now protect Abra, a young girl who seems to shine more than him. Waging battle against the True Knot, Danny is forced to reopen his mind and confront the horrors of his childhood.
From the beginning, there has been one main challenge plaguing this film: do you create a sequel to Kubrick’s or King’s version of the “The Shining”? Luckily for director Mike Flanagan, the answer appears to be “you do both,” as Flanagan’s love for both iterations can be seen throughout his work. The movie recaptures the look and dread from Kubrick’s film but remains adamant on adapting King’s novel. But in its attempt to appease both iterations of “The Shining,” “Doctor Sleep” seems to share just as many differences from the source material as its predecessor. The difference now is that King has given his blessing to Flanagan’s changes, something he notoriously didn’t do for Kubrick’s film.
Despite the major deviations from the original novel, the story still maintains the same emotional breath that King put into his writing. The movie is a slow burn that relegates more to the use of tension, as it creates an eerie feeling that is present throughout its 153-minute runtime. Following the character’s across multiple years and locations, the film is relieved of the claustrophobic feeling that made the original so iconic. The film is presented with a true sense of practicality, as character’s thoughts and actions seem thoroughly real or logical. The movie heavily benefits from a broad exploration of both it’s hero and villain, as both sides seem to continuously clash over who has the upper hand. This creates moments of true horror as the character’s are put into danger, and the movie utilizes the growing tension to create creepy moments instead of relying on cheap scares.
However, even if the film is imagined to be a sequel to “The Shining,” the movie feels more self-contained, despite a few key visual elements from its predecessor. The movie focuses on it’s own story for the large majority of the film, with only the final act turning into a direct sequel to the original. “Doctor Sleep’s” return to The Overlook may be a mixed bag for fans, as it seems all too keen on referencing elements from the 1980 film. While some audiences will no doubt love the return to the iconic location and set pieces, others may feel that it is trying to painstakingly recreate elements from the original. The entire scene proves to be an enjoyable return, as Flanagan beautifully rebuilds the sets and environments that have remained so iconic. But despite the obvious fan service in returning to The Overlook, the scene allows for Danny’s arc to be completely rounded out, as the audience witnesses Danny’s direct confrontation with his trauma. The very idea of having a protagonist that is redeemable allows for Flanagan to adapt aspects of King’s version of “The Shining” that Kubrick was famous for omitting.
“Doctor Sleep” is a remarkable horror film that is thoroughly crafted in it’s characters and story. The film itself is a well-rounded, high-stakes thriller that is constantly changing the situation for the audience. And the fact that Flanagan was able to pull off the impossible task of creating a sequel to both iterations of “The Shining” is nothing short of remarkable. It’s safe to say that fans of both versions of “The Shining” will find much to love about “Doctor Sleep.”