Making a sequel to Stanley Kubrick’s horror masterpiece The Shining is a pretty crazy notion considering it is, as mentioned, Stanley Kubrick’s horror masterpiece The Shining. The decades later sequel Doctor Sleep delivers two hours of a super–powers / addiction recovery drama / vampire movie and then a half hour when Shining stuff kicks in. Still there’re some effective bits throughout, a great lead villain, and it even plugs in pieces from Stephen King’s original Shining novel that was omitted from Kubrick’s film, much to the author’s dismay. While Doctor Sleep probably didn’t need to be two and a half hours, it does provide Shining sequel goodness with artful creepiness throughout.
Danny Torrance (Ewan McGregor) is a middle-aged guy traumatized from his experience at the haunted Overlook Hotel 40 years ago and boozing to keep his psychic “shine” powers repressed. Eventually he meets a young girl who also “shines”, Abra (Kyliegh Curran). She is being tracked by a nearly ageless psychic vampire known as Rose the Hat (Rebecca Ferguson) and her group of super–powered folk who want to take Abra’s powers and use it to extend their lives. Danny decides to stop their murderous rampage and save Abra but the final confrontation will lead Danny back to the Overlook Hotel and unlock all the ghosts he has literally kept trapped for years.
McGregor as Danny is compelling although his stuff seems almost tangentially related to the main plot of Abra and Rose the Hat. Even when he finally confronts Rose in the finale, her reaction of “Who are you?” is pretty apt considering he is basically off in his own movie about alcohol addiction that crashes into the vampire film. Still, McGregor does emotionally wounded really well which makes sense considering how much insanity Danny went through in the original film as the movie shows him growing as a person, using his powers to help patients in hospice care move on. Danny’s emotional baggage is revisited very effectively in the third act when the characters converge on the Overlook Hotel. This is the awesome stuff as it returns to Kubrick’s iconic film but adds the weight of years upon the setting for emotional resonance. He’s saddled with a sidekick buddy played by Cliff Curtis who takes up a lot of time and his scenes could have been clipped since ultimately Danny’s sidekick buddy is irrelevant to the larger story. Curran’s Abra is the superpowered kid the plot moves around and a psychic confrontation she has with Rose is fantastic.
Doctor Sleep recasts characters from the 1980 film who are probably about 82% close to the original actors. If Doctor Sleep had Marvel Movie Money behind it they probably would have gone for the full digital de–aging move which may have worked better. The recasting of kid Danny and his mother works well as the actress playing Danny’s mom does a pretty great impersonation of Shelly Duvall’s distinctive voice. There’s an extremely compelling moment with a confrontation between Danny and a character from the original film that is really powerful. Oddly the flashbacks are shot by shot remakes instead of using footage from the 1980 Shining movie which works well enough but hardcore fans may notice the difference.
Ferguson as Rose the Hat is fantastic, wearing a jaunty chapeau that is incongruous with how nasty she is. The best moments she has involves her starting off as nice and then slowly sliding into pure evil. There is a lot of time devoted to Hat’s crew and only a few members stand out. Emily Alyn Lind plays a new recruit to the cult who is basically there to be an exposition delivery device. Her introductory scenes are extremely creepy as she can command people to do what she wants and her final scene using her powers is appropriately messy. Zach McClarnon plays Hat’s second in command, he’s the one who she delivers most of the plot details to, and he gets in a great evil monologue where he has Abra trapped and tells her about how the world is evil and unfair. The only other member of the tribe that is memorable is an old guy played Carel Struycken (The Giant from Twin Peaks!) because he’s such an imposing physical presence. An extremely graphic and disturbing scene shows what is it like when the crew “feeds” and it is quite unpleasant but effective.
A lot of the movie is three distinct plotlines, Danny getting over his alcoholism, Rose eating people to say alive and Abra developing her powers. Things in the first two acts could have been tightened overall as the movie truly kicks in in the third act. Writer and director Mike Flanagan doesn’t try emulating Kubrick’s directorial prowess but every once in a while he throws in a little bit of stylistic flair that calls back to Kubrick’s Shining movie. Doctor Sleep comes together in the finale which is emotionally deep and extremely cool.
It is exceptionally difficult to both make a sequel to Shining but also be its own thing and Doctor Sleep mostly succeeds. The whole thing goes on too dang long but when the cool stuff happens, it totally hits and delivers an intense payoff. V
Director: Mike Flanagan
Starring: Ewan McGregor,
Kyliegh Curran and