‘Doctor Sleep’ leaves audiences’ eyes wide open in a satisfying conclusion to its prequel, ‘The Shining’.
A thrilling and epically confronting instalment, the Stephen King novel-turned-film does justice for fans and establishes itself as its own standalone movie, thus completing the tale.
Following the traumatic events at the Overlook Hotel, which claimed the life of his father, Danny Torrance (played by Ewan McGregor) is a broken man, haunted by his past. Like father like son, he’s descended into a life of alcoholism and aggression. Hoping to recover from such vices, Danny aspires to live out a life of normalcy, suppressing his urges. But all his dreams are destroyed when he encounters a young girl with similar powers, named Abra Stone (played by Kyliegh Curran), who is being hunted by a gang of monsters, hungry for her 'shine'.
While it shouldn’t need to be said, ‘Doctor Sleep’ is nothing like ‘The Shining’. It certainly continues the legacy from its earlier slow-burn original, but with a whole new story, change of circumstances and fresh set of characters. For enthusiasts devoted to the classic, director and writer, Mike Flanagan, has successfully recognised elements of King’s novel, while paying homage to Stanley Kubrick’s 1980 movie. Flanagan has perfectly captured a balance between old and new, timeless and innovative. There are enough satisfying touchstones from the past to spur sentimental feels, all while introducing new audiences to an epic saga.
Not only does the movie commence from where it was left, but it feels like a three-part narrative, which aptly finishes the first story, introduces us to the second and then roundly concludes the concept. Although a confronting two-and-a-half hours long, time flies as plot points quip at a rapid pace, action abounds, and tension easily rises and falls. In fact, ‘Doctor Sleep’ feels so engrossing to those watching on, you have to remind yourself to blink.
While it’s not a scare-fest, ‘Doctor Sleep’ packs many disturbing scenes that sit uncomfortably with audiences. At its core is its cult-like vampire troupe, entitled The True Knot who feed off the 'steam' of children – an essence that provides immortality. What’s more, is that the steam is considered juicier when the death is more painful and violent. So without spoiling the storyline, there are plenty of distressing scenes that capture this frighteningly.
As the grown Danny, who’s now known as just Dan, Ewan McGregor portrays a sincere and affected man who attempts to settle in a quiet, routine lifestyle. His ascent from drunk to dependent is impressively conveyed, and further aided by the hauntings from the ghosts of his characters past. Literally – he’s visited by Dick Hallorann, reimagined by Carl Lumbly who cooks up a tributing performance.
Dan’s relationship with Abra Stone is another interesting layer, cleverly devised. While Dan’s childhood experiences are smothered in horror, Abra comes from a family built in love and encouragement. In a yin and yang-fused relationship, Dan hides from his experiences and his abilities, while Abra is all parts brave and naive. Kyliegh warms audiences with her optimism, and their earnest ‘child and adult’ relationship is completely different from that within ‘The Shining’.
As one of King’s few leading female protagonists, Rebecca Ferguson is cruel, cold and calculating as Rose the Hat. Although the origin of her accessory, from which she has acquired her nickname, is never explained (in the book and the movie), Ferguson rocks a boho-chic look with villainous flair. She switches between good and evil, which adds great depth and layers to her character, who can also instantly turn into something horrifying. Her leadership power as queen of The True Knots is weighted by her band of followers, made most memorable by her evil sidekicks Crow Daddy (played by Zahn McClarnon) and Snakebite Andi (played by Emily Alyn Lind). Unleashing a reign of terror, the group are violently ruthless and the stuff of nightmares. Within the movie, cinematographic touches fantastically pay visual homage to ‘The Shining’, recreating memorable scenes and reconciling it with the movie version most fans remember, all while honouring Stephen King’s novels. The result is a film that is a sequel to two stories at once, with its own narrative and multifaceted ending. There’s much fun in finding the Easter-egg like nods to the original, which add to the overall experience of this entertaining thriller.
‘Doctor Sleep’ is bound to keep its audiences awake, as it holds suspense right until the very end. Some may even find themselves saying for once the movie is better than the book. While others who haven’t even seen ‘The Shining’ won’t be disappointed. The movie stands in its own right.
From its opening sequence shots and recognisable synth music to its refreshing charms and dynamic storyline, if you snooze and miss this in cinemas, then you’ll lose big time.