The Shining (1980) is one of my favorite horror films of all time, and my first choice when asked “best Stanley Kubric film.” Despite that fact, I’ve managed to not read the book, nor was I even aware that Doctor Sleep – a sequel – existed until the trailer for the film dropped. Needless to say, I was worried that the sequel which appeared to be for both the book and the movie – which, if you know anything about Stephen King’s take on Kubrick’s masterpiece, clashes – would not be good. I’ve never been more pleased to be wrong. Be warned…there will be some spoilers to plot details of The Shining, because of the nature of the sequel.
Dan Torrance (Ewan McGregor) has struggled to deal with life after the events of the Overlook Hotel, as well as the loss of his mother when in his early twenties. He’s suppressed his shine with alcohol – a habit his father also had – but has decided it was time for a change. After sobering up with the help of Billy (Cliff Curtis) and restarting his life, Dan finds himself using his shine to communicate with Abra Stone (Kyliegh Curran), who is even more powerful than he has proven to be. She witnesses a horrific crime committed by a cult called The True Knot – who prey on children with powers to remain immortal – and they seek to fight them and their leader Rose the Hat (Rebecca Ferguson).
McGregor does many films, and while I generally enjoy him in the roles, I don’t always enjoy the movies around him. This is a film that I think he is excellent in, and that I truly enjoyed watching. Doctor Sleep feels a bit more like an X-Men film than a horror film at times…but that’s not to say it is completely lacking in that area. There are plenty of moments that are terrifying, but they are intercut between fun moments of the shine getting to be used. I started listening to the audiobook of The Shining the next day after seeing Doctor Sleep, and I noticed that the Shine is much more prominent in the book. I enjoy this aspect of the film, and seeing the variety of powers that come from it in the world of the film was also exciting.
Ferguson was absolutely menacing and engaging in her performance. She was able to manipulate those around her (and the audience) as she was charming, cruel, and conniving. The first time we see her interact with a little girl, she is by a lake performing magic tricks for her with her special hat, which starts innocently enough…then turns so wickedly evil. It sets the tone right away that this film isn’t going to pull punches, and that no one was inherently safe.
Curran is a newcomer, and I really thought she did exceptionally well. She had a lot of chemistry with McGregor and was able to really bring Abra to life. Her character seems to embrace her gift far more than Dan and his shine. However, they certainly have lived very different lives. The way their bond grows – and the various set pieces that follow – are greatly entertaining.
I’m not really sure exactly why, but I truly loved Doctor Sleep. Maybe it was the homage to the original film, the continuation of an interesting character, seeing really great performances, or just director Mike Flanagan’s clear vision for the movie that just clicked with me throughout. I was so engrossed that I risked not rushing to the bathroom because I couldn’t find a moment I felt I could miss. Doctor Sleep earns the Not Quite Golden, Ponyboy rating.