Rating: 4/5 Stars
Of all of Stephen King’s adapted works, none was as impactful and iconic as Stanley Kubrik’s creative approach to “The Shining.” Though heavily different from King’s original source material, Kubrik’s inventive filmmaking style and Jack Nicholson’s unforgettable performance cemented the movie in cinematic history and still holds up to this day. The idea of a sequel (book or film form) sounds like an absurd and impossible task to accomplish, however, Mike Flanagan who had stellar success directing “Oculus,” “Ouija: Origin of Evil,” and Netflix’s “Haunting of Hill House” TV series; proves to be up to the task of adapting King’s spinoff/sequel to “The Shining” entitled “Doctor Sleep.”
Set decades after the horrific events of the Overlook hotel incident, Danny Torrance (Ewan McGregor) had suffered from alcoholism, depression and horrific nightmares of the ghosts that still haunt him (literally and figuratively). He travels around trying to find purpose in his life and finds a new talent using his “shining” powers helping dying patients in a hospital. He stumbles across a group of beings who siphon the shining off kids as “steam” in order to live forever. When a young girl (Kyliegh Curran) possesses the strongest shining Danny has ever sense, Rose the Hat (Rebecca Ferguson) leads the immortals after the girl and now Danny has to use his gifts to save her life and stop the evil before it takes more young lives.
Following Danny’s life, after “The Shining” is not only an interesting story approach, it’s also the most sensible considering how the original film ended. What’s surprisingly satisfying about “Doctor Sleep” is how it crafts its own story and fleshes out its own characters so well that even with the earmarks of “The Shining” being present during its 2 and a half hour running time; it never feels boring or like it’s relying too much on callbacks for its core material. Both Danny and Rose get equal amounts of screen time; alternating back and forth between the two and learning more and more about their lives, their beliefs and how they use their powers for themselves and towards others. Everyone gets a chance to shine (pun intended) and the world and story building feels stronger/better for it.
Ewan McGregor isn’t my first choice for playing an adult Danny Torrance but he clearly proves he was the BEST choice. McGregor beautifully displays the broken, aching misery that someone like Danny would naturally experience considering what happened to him. You feel for his struggle and applaud his noble acts to help others even while struggling to help himself; both of which are presented in raw, intense performances from McGregor throughout the film. Ferguson plays a delightfully charismatic and wicked villain as Rose the Hat. She truly feels like a real life King character brought to life with her mannerisms and twisted motivations. Her group serves as excellent villains and provides a variety of intense and terrifying challenges to our heroes.
The callbacks to “The Shining” mostly work, but at times they do fail to feel like a properly connected sequel should when the film makes the unfortunate mistake of re-creating key scenes from “The Shining” with different actors. Sometimes it’s not really noticeable like with the excellent casting of Carl Lumbly as Dick Hallorahn and Alex Essoe as Wendy Torrance, other times (like Jack Torrance essentially), it’s hard not to cringe a little at the poor imitation. I will say though the film’s climax brings the story full circle back to the Overlook Hotel in a sequence that is chilling, intense, horrific and satisfying on every possible level. I won’t say how everything plays out but I will say that whether you are a fan of the film or the book, this movie’s grand finale will please people all across the board.
Overall, aside from a few weak imitations of key “Shining” scenes, “Doctor Sleep” is a masterfully crafted successor that manages to stand on its own two legs; using its connections to the previous film as winks and clever nods rather than leaning on them like crutches. McGregor and Ferguson are perfectly portrayed, written and developed along with everyone else involved. This is a worthy continuation of King’s story and manages to be its own beast without leeching off the original’s coattails. It’s a lengthy sequel but one that definitely does the books and the film justice and of course, quality.