Warner Brothers Pictures
Written by Mike Flanagan (Based on the novel by Stephen King)
Directed by Mike Flanagan
Starring: Ewan McGregor, Rebecca Ferguson, Kyleigh Curran, Cliff Curtis, Zahn McClarnon, Emily Alyn Lind, Robert Longstreet and Carel Struycken
Years following the events of “The Shining,” a now-adult Dan Torrance must protect a young girl with similar powers from a cult known as The True Knot, who prey on children with powers to remain immortal.
I’ve been a Stephen King for decades now and I have seen faithful and loose adaptations of his work on the big screen. Do all of them work? Some more than others. Does Doctor Sleep work as an adaptation of the King novel? Not really. Does it work as a sequel to Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining? Absolutely.
The story finds an adult Danny Torrance (McGregor) dealing with the aftermath of his time at the Overlook Hotel and his long, deliberate spiral into alcoholism and self-destruction. Intercut between Danny’s journey are both the burgeoning powers of young Abra Stone (Kyleigh Curran) and the travels of the villainous True Knot under the command of Rose the Hat (Rebecca Ferguson). As Danny begins to finally get sober, Abra starts to grow into her powerful abilities and the True Knot’s supply of Steam (the lifeforce taken from children with the Shining) dwindling, the three stories will converge to a final showdown back where it all began for Danny.
McGregor is great as Danny Torrance. He conveys the anguish and trauma of a man who has lived through horror and is doing his best to be a better man than he was. There are some genuinely heartbreaking moments for Danny throughout the film, but Danny’s change just seemed abrupt. There wasn’t any incident that induced his need for sobriety so his struggles in the film didn’t have as much weight as they should have.
Rebecca Ferguson is an absolute standout as Rose the Hat. She has the perfect mixture of sensuality and menace that can easily draw others in without her having to use her powers on them. She plays Rose with an exuberance and evil that relays to everyone that she knows how powerful she is and that arrogance is also her Achilles heel when she goes up against the raw power of Abra.
The plot does its best to hit on all of the themes and tropes that the book its based off of does, but the pace Flanagan lays out seems to be just one long setup to bring everything back to the Overlook Hotel. Once the story shifts there, the movie does its best to close all the open threads with a horror filled finale intended to redeem the first film in the eyes of the writer who hated it. Flanagan even decides to use the original Shining’s ending as a means of tying the films together.
Doctor Sleep is not a horror movie in the traditional sense. It is a psychological/supernatural thriller with some haunting and scary moments. It struggles with trying to tell a lot of story in a short period of time and you can tell when there are moments that should have played out longer. While the performances are great, the film struggles to have a voice of its own outside Kubrick’s original adaptation of The Shining, but as a sequel to that film, Doctor Sleep works.