Who doesn’t love a sequel? Having the story continue. Watching our characters grow. A good sequel is always fun. However, it can be hit or miss in storytelling. If it’s a sequel being pushed forward by people who aren’t the original creator, or some greedy suit looking to cash in on a credible name, you’re not always going to strike gold twice. So, why does any of this matter for the movie I’m reviewing? Well, “Doctor Sleep” is not only a sequel, but a sequel to one of the most memorable and notable horror stories ever: “The Shining.”
It’s been decades since Danny Torrance (Ewan McGregor) survived the terrible events at the Overlook Hotel. Now an adult, he tries to rebuild his life working at a hospice and forget about his strange powers known as the shining. Meanwhile, a young girl named Abra Stone (Kyliegh Curran) begins to display shining abilities of her own. She even finds a way to communicate telepathically with Danny and the two become pen pals. However, Danny and Abra aren’t the only ones with such abilities. A whole cult of them exists, a cult named the True Knot, led by a sadistic and wicked woman who only goes by the name Rose the Hat (Rebecca Ferguson). Unlike Danny and Abra, this cult uses their powers for personal gain as they kidnap and murder individuals who display shining abilities. After witnessing the cult murder a child, Abra turns to Danny for help. With a dangerous cult now pursuing them, Danny will have to reawaken his shining in order to protect Abra. Worst of all, he’ll have to confront the monsters he locked away in the now-abandoned Overlook Hotel.
Okay, so bear with me for a moment. There’s a lot to unravel regarding the background for this movie. No, it wasn’t a typo, “Doctor Sleep” is indeed a sequel to “The Shining.” In fact, it’s not only a sequel, but it’s also based off the 2013 sequel-novel of the same name by Stephen King. I guess King decided naming it “The Shining II” or “The Shinings” didn’t have much of a ring to it. Getting back on topic, the 1977 novel “The Shining” is considered by numerous readers to be one of Stephen King’s best tales. And it’s 1980 film adaption of the same name, directed by the late Stanley Kubrick, is considered to be, “a masterpiece of horror.” The film possesses a haunting atmosphere and spins a tale of psychological horror so jarring that fans to this date continue to speculate and debate scenes from the movie.
Fantastic as “The Shining” is, it definitely derails from the original story; to the point where Stephen King has outright admitted to absolutely hating the movie. While I believe the movie is a classic, I can understand his animosity. Look at it from an author’s perspective. Imagine seeing your own vision warped and changed into something you barely recognize, and to have people give praise and credit to said changes, then it’s not too hard to see why King dislikes the original film so much. It might even explain why King waited 36 years to release a sequel.
Where am I going with this? Well, it’s a bit of a head-scratcher when you stop and realize that “Doctor Sleep” the movie is more of a sequel to Stanley Kubrick’s “The Shining,” as it follows the continuity of that story. The film even uses some pretty decent look-a-like actors as “Doctor Sleep” mimics moments from the original in Danny’s flashbacks. The big question on everyone’s mind, however, is how does the film match up to its glorious predecessor?
Sadly, as a horror film, it doesn’t. Nothing in this world will ever be able to match the talents of Stanley Kubrick. The man, with all respect, was a mad genius who understood how to use suspense and subtlety. Not so much for “Doctor Sleep.” Here it’s more on the nose. Then again, talented as Stephen King is as a writer, he was never known for his subtlety. However, just because the film doesn’t match up, doesn’t mean it’s bad—far from it.
While “Doctor Sleep” is not a great horror film, it does tell an interesting story that held my attention and kept me invested in its plot and characters. Ewan McGregor is great and likable as an adult Danny. Even when the film begins and he’s a washed-up drunk, just like his father was, it’s interesting seeing him try to better himself and use his abilities to help others. And I’ll admit, the film gives a small but clever explanation behind Danny’s abilities.
While I said this wasn’t the scariest film I’ve seen, it does do something so severe that it made me have to shield my eyes. “Doctor Sleep” has, what might just be, the most gruesome child murder I’ve seen in a movie—and I’ve seen all the “IT” movies. Credit to Stephen King’s writing, he sure knows how to write deplorable villains you want to see pay for their crimes. Which, as despicable as it sounds, is another credit to the movie.
“Doctor Sleep” does what a sequel is supposed to do. Take what the first story established and expand on it with new ideas. What if there were other people with powers like Danny? What if they used them for evil? What if a now adult Danny went back to the Overlook Hotel? In my eyes, even if a sequel doesn’t perform as good as the original, so long as it tries to continue the story with good ideas, it gets a pass from me—and “Doctor Sleep” passes with a C+ for effort.
“Doctor Sleep” is rated R for disturbing and violent content, some bloody images, language, nudity and drug use. If you’re going into this movie hoping it’ll scare you like “The Shining” did, you’re going to be fairly disappointed. However, if you go into it wanting to see some closure to Danny’s story, then I recommend “Doctor Sleep.” The characters and story will keep you invested, and it all leads to an interesting climax at the original Overlook Hotel. Which is why the final score for “Doctor Sleep” is a 7.5 out of 10.
Marco Island resident and avid moviegoer, Matthew Mendisana is a Lynn University alumnus. While he possesses a bachelor’s degree in science, it’s the arts that attracted his attention. In his four years at Lynn, Matthew managed to achieve Magna Cum Laude status, earn three publications in the Lynn University magazine, make a short documentary featured in the university’s Film Festival, and created a radio PSA that was later broadcasted overseas.