HomeMovies'Doctor Sleep' Review: One of the Best Horror Films of the Year

‘Doctor Sleep’ Review: One of the Best Horror Films of the Year

Dr. Sleep
Photo Credit: Warner Bros. Entertainment

Here it is, Doctor Sleep, one of my most anticipated films of the year. Why, you ask, is a sequel to The Shining nearly 40 years after the film came out, something that would get me on the edge of my seat just for trailer? There are a variety of reasons: you have a massive Stephen King fan here, someone who loves both The Shining novel and Stanley Kubrick’s film (and has even found a fondness in the 1997 TV-miniseries). I’m a fan of horror and someone who really needed to see how director Mike Flanagan would adapt this film from both the novel and its two predecessors.

If one does not know the history between King and Kubrick’s The Shining, do a quick Google search. The short story is, King hated it — mostly due to deviations from his book. Thus, Flanagan had his work cut out for him, needing to please King, fans of the book and fans of the film. Somehow, the man did it and created not just one of the best horror films of the year, but one of the best of the decade.

Without getting into far too heavy spoilers, Doctor Sleep briefly ventures back to the aftermath of The Shining (which, in its own right, deviates heavily from King’s book). We then meet Dan Torrance, (Ewan McGregor), a drifter, alcoholic and damaged man following the terrors of The Overlook Hotel. Some years later, Dan is sober and dealing with other addicts. Through his shine, which has remained strong through the years, he meets a young girl named Abra (Kyleigh Curran), who shines exponentially more than him. Her powers are then discovered by a group of Shine-Suckers known as the True Knot, led by Rose the Hat (Rebecca Ferguson). Dan and Abra must face the fear of this cult, while Dan must also battle his past at the Overlook Hotel.

Yes, I see it too. The premise is a lot sillier when written down. However, the film still strikes a chord of dread that was present in its predecessor thanks mostly to the formidable group our two protagonists face. While The Shining dealt with one man (and to a larger extent, the hotel) wreaking havoc on a family, Doctor Sleep focuses on a group of super-powered telekinetics who can track and kill those with the shine. The cat and mouse chase between the True Knot and Dan and Abra is enthralling. Watching a thirteen year-old outsmart a group of highly skilled killers is very intriguing to watch, as mind-power and will become a big factor to watch out for.

Curran, a newcomer, jumps off the screen, another well-trained child actor doing great things. McGregor, who I always champion as underrated, is also incredible here. You’d swear you’re seeing Danny all grown up, a man damaged by his murderous father and his mother’s death. But it’s Ferguson who really, ahem, shines here. She is a true threat, ahead of our heroes at every turn and ready to do more damage to those who shine than the Overlook ever could. I won’t throw out my usual jinx, but look for her during awards season.

But the thing everyone wants to know is the connection to The Shining. Does it play off the book or the movie more. The answer is simply both, as Flanagan masterfully takes moments in the books and works them to fit what Stanley Kubrick did before. Somehow, without delving too deep into spoilers, it all works. The Overlook in the book burns down but it does not in the film. Dick Halloran gets axed in the film but is alive and well (until old age gets him) in the novels. These are all addressed and tightly so in Flanagan’s film and fans of both will get a kick out of them.

To add to this, Flanagan and company recreate scenes from Kubrick’s film to an absolute tee. I was in awe at the cinematography, matched PERFECTLY to what John Alcott did in 1980. The hallways, the twins, the axed door and the blood elevator all make a comeback in some form, and while I can already hear “ohmygodfanservice” from people, it isn’t. It’s a construct in Dan’s mind, something he MUST face to survive and keep Abra alive. I still don’t understand how Flanagan did it, but he did.

Doctor Sleep is a master craft in filmmaking, especially the way Flanagan keeps the most diehard of the King novel fans and Kubrick fans happy (King has even said so himself). Tying this to the enthralling story, the absolute terrifying horror elements, the top notch direction and design and brilliant acting, I see Doctor Sleep becoming a classic quite easily, much like The Shining!

Doctor Sleep opens in theaters nationwide today.


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