A sequel to one of the most beloved horror movies of all time might seem like a disaster waiting to happen, but Doctor Sleep manages to buck that trend by delivering a disturbing cinematic treat that is sure to please fans of The Shining. A perfect homage and balance is struck between the two worlds of Stephen King’s book and Stanley Kubrick’s cinematic vision by director and writer Mike Flanagan, who adapts King’s 2013 novel to startling effect. Doctor Sleep does the book proud whilst keeping the visual style and eeriness of The Shining in-tact, making this a near perfect companion piece to the 1980 original.
It’s no secret that Stephen King wasn’t a fan of Kubrick’s masterpiece movie, so any continuation of this story was always going to present some logistical problems. Mike Flanagan has taken the best elements of both worlds and crafted a movie that stands on its own, whilst also honouring its parental heritage. It’s also a movie that the casual viewer can join without having seen or read The Shining (although I don’t imagine there are too many of those still knocking around). That makes the achievements of this film all the more remarkable. Flanagan has managed to do justice to everyone and that’s a monumental win for the filmmaker.
Danny Torrance (Ewan McGregor) is now grown up and is still struggling with the demons of his past. He befriends a young girl named Abra (Kyliegh Curran) who also possesses ‘the Shining’. When she is targeted by a mysterious group of travellers led by Rose the Hat (Rebecca Ferguson), Danny must face his fears head on – which includes revisiting The Overlook Hotel.
Easily the best horror of the year, this is a must-see movie with plenty of wow moments and a fantastically eerie sense of dread that’s always tapping on your forehead. By keeping the visual cues from Kubrick’s masterpiece, this continuation of the story feels relevant right from the start. Steven Spielberg’s Ready Player One delivered a wonderful homage to The Shining back in 2018. Doctor Sleep manages to top that, but with a true sense of its own identity too, and it’s something that the script empowers to its impressive ensemble.
Ewan McGregor is always reliable and he does the role of Danny Torrance proud. He shares a wonderful chemistry with newcomer Kyliegh Curran, who seriously impresses in her first mainstream role. Expect big things from her in the future. Emily Alyn Lind is beguiling as the fantastically named Snakebite Andi, with genre legend Carel Struycken, Zahn McClarnon and Robert Longstreet quite menacing as part of the chilling True Knot gang. Cliff Curtis is sublime, Carl Lumbly is pitch perfect as Dick Hallorann, the role made famous by Scatman Crothers in the original Shining, and there’s noteworthy cameos from Jacob Tremblay and Bruce Greenwood.
But a film is only as good as its antagonist, and Doctor Sleep is blessed by having Rebecca Ferguson as Rose the Hat. Rose is one of King’s best villains, with a charisma and charm that sets her aside from the usual bad guys. Ferguson clearly has fun with the role too, punctuating every look and smile with a piercing evil that’s not shy to show itself. Rebecca Ferguson has always been a superb actress but her role in Doctor Sleep is perhaps her finest performance to date.
There’s a tremendous amount of work that has gone into keeping the aesthetic of Kubrick’s film present in Doctor Sleep. Flanagan is the first to say that he isn’t Kubrick, and nor is he intending to be, but his fandom towards The Shining is so evident to see in this movie, and it conjures up a wonderful viewer experience that fans will devour just as enthusiastically as Rose the Hat absorbs innocent souls. The attention to detail is stunning, and when the film trudges to its inevitable finale, you can’t help but take a deep breath when The Overlook Hotel returns. It’s safe to say the Overlook and Room 237 have been painstakingly recreated and it’s a wonderful (and terrifying) thing to marvel at.
Doctor Sleep is a perfect homage to King and Kubrick that does practically everything right. It’s easily the best horror of the year and it manages to create something new whilst honouring the past perfectly. The ensemble is incredible and the finale delivers a memorable return to a classic location that will send a shudder down your spine. Doctor Sleep is a proper success from start to finish and a must-see addition to the ever increasing catalogue of brilliant Stephen King film adaptations.
Cast: Ewan McGregor, Rebecca Ferguson, Kyliegh Curran, Cliff Curtis, Carl Lumbly, Emily Alyn Lind, Carel Struycken, Jacob Tremblay, Zahn McClarnon, Cliff Curtis, Bruce Greenwood, Alex Essoe, Jocelin Donahue, Violet McGraw, Robert Longstreet Director: Mike Flanagan Writer: Mike Flanagan, (based on the book by Stephen King) Certificate: 15 Duration: 151mins Released by: Warner Bros Release date: 31st October 2019