In the horror community, it is common knowledge that legendary horror author Stephen King is no fan of Stanley Kubrick’s iconic 1980 onscreen adaptation of his novel, The Shining. So, it should come as no surprise that, according to IndieWire, King was hesitant to allow director Mike Flanagan (Oculus, Gerald’s Game) to tackle the onscreen adaptation for the sequel, Doctor Sleep, when the filmmaker expressed interest in incorporating Kubrick’s imagery. However, King’s trust was not misplaced as Flanagan brings to life the magic and troubling darkness from the author’s pages while blending elements of Kubrick’s distinguishable vision.
Opening with nostalgia as a young Danny Torrance pedals his bike through the Overlook Hotel stopping at door 237, the film shifts to events soon after the young boy and his mother flee to Florida to escape their traumatic experience. However, Danny can’t escape the ghosts who follow him from the haunted hotel. The young boy lives in fear until his old friend, Dick Hallorann (Carl Lumbly: A Cure for Wellness), visits from the afterlife with some advice. Learning how to use his “shining” ability to imprison the ghosts, Danny can finally get some relief.
Following this prologue, we are re-introduced to Danny as an adult portrayed by Ewan McGregor (Trainspotting, Star Wars Episode 1). Now an alcoholic drifter using booze and drugs to run from his childhood trauma and dull his ability, which has become a curse, Dan finds himself hitting rock bottom. After an action that plagues him with regretful remorse, which is highlighted more as a turning point in the novel, Dan finds himself in New Hampshire where he meets Billy Freeman (Cliff Curtis: 10000 BC, The Meg). This newfound friendship leads the troubled man to AA, stability and a job at a hospice where his “shining” power becomes useful in helping comfort those about to cross over into the afterlife.
Although McGregor truly brings Dan to life from the novel as he stumbles through dark and troubled times, his performance doesn’t seem to transcend much past serviceable through the remainder of the film’s runtime. This comes as a slight disappointment given the award-winning actor’s talent suggesting what could have been had McGregor taken the character to another level. However, one surprise knockout performance is Rebecca Ferguson portraying what is sure to be a new favorite villainess in horror.
As the leader of a caravan of rovers calling themselves the True Knot, Ferguson embodies Rose the Hat in every way possible. From her piercing eyes to her devious smile and charismatic attitude hiding deadly intentions, this award-winning actress pulls out all the stops as she seeks out children gifted with the same “shining” ability as Dan. Although they are human in most sense of the word, Rose and her fellow travelers feed from this power through torture and murder allowing them to live unnaturally long lives. As this food for the True Knot has been running in short supply in recent years, their sights turn to a young girl named Abra Stone (Kyliegh Curran) who has more of this extraordinary power than Rose ever believed possible.
Although she is relatively new to the screen, Curran gives an impressive performance of a brave young girl who may need some help, but ultimately faces fears head-on. As she discovers a way to telepathically communicate with Dan from long distance, Abra also catches the attention of Rose and the True Knot. Despite this dangerous situation, the young girl seeks Danny’s help in recovering the rover’s latest victim so his family can be at peace. However, this escalates into a showdown that brilliantly ties in Kubrick’s world from The Shining to satisfy fans of the book and the film on many different levels.
Despite missing emphases on some pivotal character arcs, Doctor Sleep manages to capture the heart of the story about finding redemption and facing one’s fears. Diehard Stephen King fans will be delighted as a good portion of the film stays true to source material. However, when it diverts from the novel, it does so in a nostalgic way that will work for fans all across the board with an ending that gently tugs on the heartstrings.
Surprisingly, Doctor Sleep has barely surpassed $14 million at the box office for opening weekend, projecting a possible $30 million loss for the film. Following this startling revelation, King took to social media calling the film “terrific” and “excellent.” Had I not seen the film, I would have likely shrugged this encouragement off as a PR move in conjunction with the studio. However, I have seen the film. While it isn’t as dark and gritty as Kubrick’s vision, it is one shining sequel that deserves much more attention than it has received.[usrlist “Four out of Five Stars:4”]