It is hard to answer the question of whether we really need a sequel to The Shining as many people have been asking, but we have one. Mike Flanagan hoped to use the film to somewhat reconcile the differences between Stanley Kubrik’s film and Stephen King’s original novel. But crucially he has crafted a film that can also stand on its own merits.
The film mostly takes place in the 2010s years after Danny, now going by Dan, escaped the Overlook hotel, although he never really escaped the demons from that place. Haunted by spirits from his time there, he develops problems with alcohol, just as his father had before him. When he comes into contact with a young girl, Abra Stone, he realises he must save her from a cult that feed on those who shine like Dan and Abra. Flanagan does a mostly fantastic job of layering in references to The Shining in ways that don’t distract from the new story he’s telling. There are a couple of moments that’ll make you roll your eyes as they’re a bit on the nose, but for the most part Doctor Sleep is its own beast.
And it is a hell of a ride. This is the story of Dan coming to terms with the demons of his past, and his attempt to protect a young girl from falling into the same patterns he did following his childhood traumas. Ewan McGregor is fantastic in the lead role, and he really brings the pain of someone suffering from their childhood trauma to life. His chemistry with Kyliegh Curran, who plays Abra is great as he takes on a mentor figure in her life. Curran doesn’t have a tremendous amount of acting experience, but that doesn’t show as she delivers an incredibly assured performance.
In the trailers the antagonists of the film, the cult led by Rose the Hat, didn’t seem to fit with with the world that The Shining created as they seem more like comic book villains than something in a more grounded horror world, but credit has to go to Flanagan for making them feel compatible with the world. Rebecca Ferguson as Rose is great, and really brings Flanagan’s vision of the cult leader to life in a very relatable way. They aren’t hugely scary, but I did enjoy what they brought to the film.
Honestly Doctor Sleep is incredibly reminiscent of Blade Runner 2049 as it is sequel to an 80s classic that probably doesn’t have any right being as good as it is. I’m surely Stanley Kubrick would hate it because it takes elements from The Shining in a very literal direction, but on its own merits it is fantastic, and a must see for any horror fan, even though for long periods of the film it is more of a dark fantasy film.