Doctor Sleep

Doctor Sleep ★★★

Making a sequel to a classic film is always a risky business, especially when that film is Stanley Kubrick's The Shining, widely regarded as one of the greatest horror films of all time. When adapting Stephen King's sequel Doctor Sleep to the big screen, writer/director Mike Flanagan also had the difficult task of bridging the gap between two wildly disparate source materials, as it's no secret Stephen King was never a fan of Kubrick's adaptation of The Shining given the artistic liberties the legendary auteur took with King's novel. Therefore it's a real credit to Flanagan that Doctor Sleep manages to pull off the difficult tightrope act of being both a satisfying adaptation of King's novel while at the same time respectful towards the legacy of Kubrick's highly idiosyncratic vision.

Doctor Sleep is really two stories, the first follows Ewan McGregor who gives an excellent performance in the lead role as Dan Torrance. The little boy who survived the traumatic events of the Overlook Hotel is now a grown man struggling with the same alcoholism that consumed his father, while he still must live with his psychic abilities (or "the shining") and the demons they bring out. Eventually he discovers he shares a telepathic connection with another young person who has the ability to shine just as he did as a little boy, thirteen year old Abra (Kyliegh Curran) whom he takes under his wing in a similar manner that the ghost of Dick Hallorann (Carl Lumby) still does for Dan. The second story, and the one that is somewhat less convincing, concerns the insidious workings of a secret psychic cult led by the enigmatic and powerful Rose the Hat (Rebecca Ferguson) who leads her fellow psychics like a supernatural Manson family as they seek out and prey on the souls of others who have the ability to shine. It doesn't take long for Abra to fall on their radar, and from here Doctor Sleep plays like a fairly straightforward, if still entertaining cat and mouse thriller with spooky overtones. It's this portion of the film that gives me a bit of pause, as the characters feel like they would be more at home in an entirely different horror film rather than a sequel to The Shining. I also would've liked to have seen more flashback scenes featuring an outstanding Alexandra Essoe in the role of Wendy Torrance, who Shelly Duvall originally made famous. Nevertheless, Flanagan is able to direct the film's various tense set pieces with enough creepy atmosphere to sustain interest, even if the film's 152 minute runtime is a slight miscalculation. I also found the third act of Doctor Sleep in which Dan and Abra return to the haunted grounds of the Overlook Hotel to confront the forces of darkness which threaten to consume them to have made for a satisfying climax. Doctor Sleep ultimately works as a well-acted supernatural thriller, but after watching it do yourself a favor and revisit the genre-transcending masterpiece that Stanley Kubrick created nearly 40 years ago. It's one of the best movies ever made, horror or otherwise, with all due respect to Stephen King's feelings towards it.

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