After overcoming his nightmare ordeal at the Overlook Hotel and subsequent inherited alcoholism, Dan Torrance (Ewan McGregor) finds work at a hospice, helping the dying pass over peacefully with his “shining”, earning him the nickname Doctor Sleep.
Dan’s sober new chapter is suddenly disrupted when teenager Abra Stone (Kyliegh Curran) contacts him. Possessing powerful shining abilities, Abra has become a target of the True Knot. A vampire-like cult, led by Rose The Hat (Rebecca Ferguson), who murder and feed on kids that shine to remain immortal.
Writer-director Mike Flanagan incorporates more of The Shining source material into his sequel than Stanley Kubrick did in his 1980’s adaptation, while still skillfully lining up events with the classic horror film. Scenes from which are expertly recreated and new life breathed into reappearing characters.
A masterstroke of casting sees Alex Essoe dazzle as Wendy Torrance and Henry Thomas is a convincing Jack Torrance until being slightly overexposed. Layers (that King would be quick to tell you) were absent from Jack’s flawed core in Kubrick’s The Shining are touched upon through dialogue ripped straight from King’s novel and Dan’s recollections. Despite returning to the past, there’s thankfully not an overreliance on nostalgia as by the time we revisit the Overlook Hotel and the demons it holds, it’s well-earnt. Michael Fimognari’s cinematography and The Newton Brothers’ score also nod lovingly to Kubrick’s atmospheric approach, where the dreamlike dissolves into sheer dread.
Dan is also given the full clout of his gift from the book and while character inconsistencies may be jarring for some, Flanagan weaves both Doctor Sleep’s literary and film predecessors together into one satisfying timeline. McGregor quietly captures a scarred, shell of a man who’s tormented by his past but finds new meaning mentoring a new generation, as Dick Hallorann (played here by Carl Lumbly) did for him. As for the new editions, Ferguson is a villainous delight as the charismatic but ruthless Rose The Hat, who meets her match with a plucky performance from youngster Curran.
While staying somewhat loyal to King’s 2013 follow-up novel Doctor Sleep, Flanagan thankfully omits contrived family connections and other filler, which begs the question why he didn’t trim the fat of his Netflix adaptation of King’s Gerald’s Game. Flanagan also handles the mind trickery, which felt somewhat unfilmable and destined to remain within the confines of the book, with creativity and flair resulting in trippy set pieces. Rather than the streamline exercise in foreboding terror that was Kubrick’s The Shining, Doctor Sleep offers thrilling showdowns with sporadic glimpses of horror, but still somehow works as a companion piece.
An amalgamation of King and Kubrick influence, Doctor Sleep is a worthy sequel.