Now grown up, Danny Torrance is battling his own demons when he meets a young girl with abilities similar to his own who he must protect from dark forces who prey on children with the ability to shine.
As a writer/director, Mike Flanagan can pretty much do no wrong. With titles such as Oculus, Hush, Gerald’s Game, and The Haunting of Hill House under his belt he has become one of the most trusted horror/thriller directors of note. His next attempt to captivate audiences comes with Doctor Sleep, a film that was originally reported as not a sequel to the all time classic The Shining, even though the book is considered as such. After watching the film how this could ever not be considered a sequel to The Shining is baffling. There are visual and musical callbacks all throughout the film with The Overlook Hotel even being a key location.
Personally, The Shining was more of a psychological thriller with horror tendencies. Doctor Sleep kind of leans away from that for a more science fiction and fantastical thriller approach with horror tendencies. The film is able to sit with you but isn’t what you could call a traditional horror film. There are jump scares here and there and the atmosphere of the film is generally creepy, but surprisingly the film feels more fantastical in nature.
Also fantastic are the performances given in the film, from Kyliegh Curran as the young girl the story centers on, to Ewan McGregor as our reluctant hero, to Rebecca Ferguson as our motivated villain, all the way to Cliff Curtis as a helpful stranger to Danny (Ewan McGregor). Kyliegh Curran is given so much to do and she outstanding and even almost outshines Ewan McGregor in his titular role. Then there is Rebecca Ferguson as Rose the Hat who isn’t a villain you can root for but somehow she is so endearing and you can understand why she and her group are doing the despicable things they are doing. With some of the best moments in the film showing the physical and mental sparring matches between her and Abra (Kyliegh Curran).
While the film is long at 2 hours and 31 minutes Flanagan’s directing grips you throughout. Filled with protagonists and antagonists you understand you don’t feel slighted when there is almost an equal amount of screen time for both. One of the main issues with the film were some of the familiar faces seen throughout. If there is anything that can somewhat pull you out of the experience that is Doctor Sleep that would be it. Another minor issue is that the movie feels like it is explaining everything to the audience. The Shining had an air of mystery to what exactly was happening. Doctor Sleep pulls the cover off and breaks down what it is to shine and even The Overlook Hotel.
Overall, Doctor Sleep is a well-done sequel to the Kubrick classic. Unfortunately, it will be compared to its predecessor to which it doesn’t really stack up to. On its own, it is a very well made, creepy, and fun adventure and a welcome return to the world of The Shining. Fans of the Shining will love all the references and visuals that constantly remind you that you are back in this world. The Shining kind of seems like required viewing beforehand to get the most enjoyment from the film. It is still unclear if Doctor Sleep can be considered a “horror” movie, although it definitely has horror elements. But you can categorize it as whatever you’d like as long as you go see it.
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