Doctor Sleep is the latest horror film from director Mike Flanagan and is a sequel to The Shining, one of Kubrick’s many masterpieces. The films follows Danny Torrance (Ewan McGregor) years after the events of the original film. As a massive fan of the original movie, I was skeptical about this. Obviously I didn’t expect it to be as good but the concept was intriguing and Ewan McGregor is one hell of an actor so I was definitely interested.
Doctor Sleep is an incredible, extremely atmospheric horror film that is well made from almost all angles. I was completely unfamiliar with Mike Flanagan before this but he does an exceptional job here. It would be so easy for him to rely to heavily on the original but for the most part he manages to effectively use King’s novel to craft a story that does enough to differentiate itself from the original. In fact, up until the final act the movie tells a story that can be followed and appreciated without any knowledge of The Shining. I wish they stuck to minor references but the final act does dissolve into a mashup of callbacks. Sure, it’s entertaining and there were some interesting ideas in between some of the more bombastic moments but it doesn’t hold up when you look at the rest of the film.
Speaking of callbacks to The Shining, there are several times Doctor Sleep chooses to flashback to the events of the previous film or shortly after. For obvious reasons the same actors were not available so I’d understand why they’d have to recast them. I do however feel that it was incredibly jarring to see such iconic characters played by completely different people. It took me out of the film several times.
While the film does have its downfalls, Mike Flanagan manages to recreate the same atmospheric horror and tension that Kubrick did so well. He uses the renowned landscape shots from the original while also creating a deliberately slow pace that leads to a higher sense of tension and discomfort while also giving him time to flesh out the three main characters and their dynamics. At 2 and a half hours, the movie feels that long but everything in it feels absolutely justified and helped either build character, deepen the mythology or heighten the tension. Another aspect that helped this was the score. The Newton Brothers managed to blend their own pieces of music with some iconic themes from The Shining.
Ewan McGregor was perfect casting for the young Danny Torrance and the writing for his character was spot on. They managed to effectively portrays the trauma the events at the Overlook Hotel had on him and explores how we can move beyond our problems and whether we even should. He shares a lot of scenes with Kyleigh Curran who stole the entire show. Kid actors often bring down horror movies so it’s nice to see one where she isn’t just good, she’s one of the best parts.
One of the problems I had with the marketing was Rebecca Ferguson. Her character looked like every generic cult villain we see in horror films. Thankfully, Rose the Hat actually has some depth while still being very creepy when she needs to be. This right here was a perfect example of how to have a compelling and layered villain without having the need to sit down and explain their past. Her cult was also an effective way to expand the world and the dynamics between the characters was believable and well handled.
Overall, Doctor Sleep does have some issues towards the final act but Mike Flanagan’s direction as well as three fantastic lead performances help create a compelling examination of Danny Torrance’s character after The Shining, while also building a rich world. Can’t wait to dive into Flanagan’s filmography and see what he does next.
DOCTOR SLEEP FINAL RATING: 8/10
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