I had no idea Steven King wrote a sequel to The Shining, that is, until I saw the trailer for this movie. I’m usually pretty good on keeping up with film development, but was shocked when I learned Ewan McGregor would play an adult Danny Torrance who deals with traumas from his past, while also faces new dark evil forces. The preview for Doctor Sleep looked awesome, and I was hoping the film would live up to the hype. Thankfully it does, and to my pleasant surprise, forms itself as more of a twisted superhero movie in a spooky setting, rather than a typical horror flick. This concept enforced by excellent acting made for a truly badass movie that should not be missed.
What really took me by surprise was how well developed the adult Danny Torrance was in this film. I was expecting someone with a degree of a traumatic baseline, perhaps just an extremely paranoid Danny. To Steven King’s credit, Danny has more demons than the ghosts who haunted him at The Overlook Hotel, and we see them manifested in extremely poignant and resonant detail, especially concerning the blowback caused by his father Jack. Ewan McGregor is excellent as always in this role, and it is very clear he took time and careful effort to really develop Danny, which could have been easily neglected by another actor. His personal challenges faced with a necessity to explore his ability to “shine” in the face of evil makes for a truly meaningful character arc, which Ewan executes with prowess.
At the forefront of Doctor Sleep’s narrative is the character Abra Stone (Kyliegh Curran), a young girl who also “shines”, and whose life is in danger when her powers inadvertently reveal herself to a cult known as The True Knot, a group who “feeds” off of the shining. This is Kyliegh’s first film role, and I’m looking forward to seeing her in more features. She’s an excellent young actress, and plays Abra with a steadfast necessity when overcoming the darkness possessed by The True Knot. While her character arc plays more into Danny’s personal development, it is interesting enough to make herself a significant aspect of the movie’s delve into a more creative “superhero” territory, rather than relying solely on the legacy horror elements.
By far my favorite acting in this film comes from Rebecca Ferguson as Rose the Hat, the creepy leader of The True Knot. She demonstrates tier 1 acting as a firebomb villain, pursuing the goals of The True Knot with vigor and unquenchable thirst. Rose is more than just a sort of huntress, she has distinct motives and a fiery personality that makes for unique and creative interactions with the metaphysical world of Doctor Sleep. Rose is one of my favorite villains of the decade, and certainly a key highlight of the Kubrick universe.
As much as Doctor Sleep takes Kubrick’s universe in a new creative direction, there are plenty of references to The Shining to satisfy anyone’s nostalgia. Kudos to director Mike Flanagan for putting this film together, as he was faced with the challenge of adapting a direct sequel to Stanley Kubrick’s film (which was hated by King), as well as King’s source material in the novel. What resulted was a necessity to depart from both sources at times to create new original narrative, which, although I haven’t read either novel, seems to pay off extremely well. Flanagan took effort to ensure this film had incredible cinematography (DP Michael Fimognari) and an excellent score (The Newton Brothers), both of which bring the supernatural aspects of the story into a new, fresh vision. By paying tribute to the source material and treading new narrative ground, Doctor Sleep is a film that skirts past “sequelitis”, and becomes one of my favorite films of the year. Even if you’re hungover from Spooktober, this movie is a must-watch in theaters. 8.6/10.Follow @ReelMasterShots