“Doctor Sleep,” directed by Mike Flanagan (“The Haunting of Hill House”), takes on the enormous challenge of continuing the story told in Stanley Kubrick’s “The Shining.” Both films are based on novels by Stephen King, and Kubrick’s “The Shining” is widely considered a masterpiece and icon of horror. However, King greatly disliked Kubrick’s telling of his story, and Flanagan was tasked with combining elements from King’s novels, Kubrick’s film and his own vision as a director.
Viewers don’t have to see “The Shining” to be able to enjoy “Doctor Sleep,” but the viewing experience is greatly enhanced if they do. “The Shining” is such an iconic film; it couldn’t be ignored in this modern continuation, even if King wished it could be. Flanagan carefully planned out shots that mirror some of Kubrick’s most iconic moments. For instance, Dr. John Dalton’s office is almost identical to Stuart Ullman’s office, a detail that doesn’t influence the plot but is a fun Easter egg for Kubrick fans to find.
The same powerful musical score and god-awful orange hexagon carpet appear early in the film, transporting viewers back to Kubrick’s world. When the characters return to the Overlook Hotel, the camera follows their lone car, sweeping across Colorado lakes and mountains in the same fashion as the opening scene of “The Shining.” Die-hard fans of Kubick’s film will likely be pleased with the homage “Doctor Sleep” pays to it.
For those who haven’t seen “The Shining,” the first 20 minutes of “Doctor Sleep” will get them caught up on most of the important elements. Carefully cast look-alikes reenact the events that immediately followed the conclusion of the original film. With modern technology, filmmakers can digitally recreate faces to help match the originals better. Flanagan said in an interview with Collider that he chose not to do this because he felt it wouldn’t be authentic. So, although the faces aren’t exact, the replacements are fully believable.
The movie follows an adult Dan Torrence (Ewan McGregor) years after the traumatic childhood incident that occurred at the Overlook Hotel. But he can’t escape his past, no matter how hard he tries. He still runs into issues with his “shining,” or telepathy-like ability. “Doctor Sleep” plays as more of a spooky fantasy drama than a true horror movie, but it still gives the viewer a true fright.
Dan soon finds himself accompanied by a young girl named Abra Stone. Abra shares Dan’s gift, his “shining.” This supernatural power is an integral part of their bond. Portrayed excellently by Kyleigh Curran, Abra is a tough and powerful kid who takes down monsters of her own.
Rebecca Ferguson gives a beautiful and disturbing performance as the film’s main antagonist, Rose the Hat, a character who could be described as Stevie Nicks turned sleep paralysis demon. She’s simultaneously captivating and creepy, leading a cult of semi-immortal humans who feast on souls. At first, Dan and Abra’s storyline is completely separate from Rose’s, leaving viewers intrigued as to what the connection might be.
Worlds collide when Rose’s group goes on the hunt for Abra, and Dan tries to use his powers to help save the little girl. The clash between the two groups plays much like an action movie, making the film even more complex and compelling. Flanagan crafted this horror film as a fantasy adventure that completely draws viewers in.
While “Doctor Sleep” may not be as scary as “The Shining,” something Flanagan arguably does better than Kubrick is the character portrayal. Young Danny is creepy in his deadpan reaction to his family falling apart, but adult Danny reveals true and deep emotions in response to this experience. He’s more human. Combine this with the inevitable fragility that Abra brings as a middle school-aged girl, and the audience is truly connected to and rooting for the good guys. Although they aren’t related, Dan and Abra make a more compelling family than the Torrence’s ever did on screen.
Flanagan’s “Doctor Sleep” has turned out to be a film King can be proud of and that fans of both Kubrick and King can enjoy. It isn’t the most terrifying movie of 2019, but it’s certainly one worth watching.
Contact Taylor Sarlo at email@example.com. For more on the culture, arts and lifestyle of the JMU and Harrisonburg communities, follow the culture desk on Twitter @Breeze_Culture.