For the past 39 years, Stanley Kubrick’s “The Shining” has been touted as one of, if not the, best horror movies in existence. While Stephen King, author of the book the film was based on, notoriously hated the film, it was praised by audiences and critics alike. For many years, no one ever thought we would get a sequel to the book or the film.
This was until Stephen King released his book “Doctor Sleep” in 2013, a direct sequel to “The Shining.” It wasn’t long after the book’s release that production began on a film adaptation. Many, including myself, were incredibly skeptical of the sequel. How could a film with so little creative connection the original possibly do it justice?
Well, in many ways, it doesn’t; but this isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
“Doctor Sleep” sees a now adult, alcoholic Danny Torrance attempt to get his life together after the traumatizing events that took place in “The Shining.” When things finally seem to be going his way, he meets a young girl named Abra with similar powers to his own. After discovering that a cult named The True Knot plans on killing Abra in order to stay immortal, Danny must do everything he can to protect her.
If this plot summary doesn’t really sound like a horror movie to you, that would be because the film really isn’t one. While it certainly has a lot of horrific themes and elements, the film plays more like a suspenseful character drama than horror. While some may be disappointed to not get a true horror film, “Doctor Sleep” delivers some of the best suspense and character drama that I’ve seen in a long time.
I was truly invested in “Doctor Sleep” from the beginning of the film began until its credits rolled. This is mostly thanks to the outstanding screenplay and direction by Mike Flannigan. Each of the characters in the movie, no matter how outrageous they might be, truly felt like real people.
Another main reason I was able to get so invested into the film’s story and characters was due to the all-around stellar performances featured in the film. Ewan McGregor brings a kind of timid intensity to the screen as Danny Torrance. Watching his evolution throughout the film was a true delight.
Kyliegh Curran gives a memorable performance as young “shiner” Abra Stone. Seeing as how this is one of Curran’s first roles in a major motion picture, its clear that she is someone to keep an eye on.
“Doctor Sleep” also features outstanding cinematography by Michael Fimognari and a memorable score by The Newton Brothers. Thanks to elements such as these, almost everything about the film comes together to make something truly special. While it is very different from its predecessor, I believe that it completely stands on its own.
During most of the film, I was convinced I was watching one of the best films of the year. This was until “Doctor Sleep” reached its climax, which wasted all of the momentum it had been building for its admittedly lengthy run time. The ending felt incredibly anti-climactic, unearned and unnecessary.
Although the film’s ending left me with a sour taste in my mouth, I still really enjoyed the vast majority of “Doctor Sleep.” The best way to enjoy the film is by not expecting it to be a true follow up to “The Shining.” While incredibly different from the first film, “Doctor Sleep” is still able to tell a compelling story with almost every aspect of the film being above average.