DIR/WRI: Mike Flanagan • DOP: Michael Fimognari • ED: Mike Flanagan • DES: Maher Ahmad, Patricio M. Farrell• PRO: Jon Berg, Trevor Macy • MUS: The Newton Brothers • CAST: Rebecca Ferguson, Ewan McGregor, Jacob Tremblay, Kyliegh Curran
Almost forty years have passed since the infamous events in the Overlook Hotel occurred and the Torrance family were tormented in Stephen King’s The Shining. This iconic psychological-horror was adapted to the big screen by Stanley Kubrick in 1980 and was notoriously disliked by King. Doctor Sleep acts as a sequel and follows Danny Torrance, played by Ewan McGregor, dealing with the post-traumatic effects of that harrowing night in Colorado.
The audience is reintroduced to the gifted Danny, where The Shining left off, as a little boy with his mother, Wendy. Danny, still plagued by the ghosts of his past, is taught how to hone his Shine abilities by the apparition of his old mentor and friend Dick Hallorann. This nostalgically eases the viewer into the new storyline as we are brought back to the now grown-up Danny, dealing with a drinking problem, and searching for solace in a small town in New Hampshire.
During this time we are introduced to both the young heroine of the story Abra Stone, played by Kyliegh Curran, and the villainous Rose the Hat, played by Rebecca Ferguson. Both these characters and Dan become inextricably linked as the plot unfolds and Dan must face his past in order to protect Abra.
Both director and writer Mike Flanagan not only had the task of establishing this film within the repertoire of cinematic classics adapted from King’s works, but also to follow the act of Stanley Kubrick. In this regard, Flanagan produced a film that was not only its own enjoyable and independent narrative, but also fleshes out and brings light to the mysterious King universe in which The Shining resides; and answers forty-year old questions. The shining ability conveyed in Kubrick’s original was always secondary to the psychological terror, however Doctor Sleep focuses heavily on these ethereal gifts of the main characters, while staying true to the stylistic horror of its predecessor.
Flanagan meticulously recreates renowned longshots of lonesome cars driving through the night and reintroduces the ominous score by the Newton Brothers. The film also demonstrates the marvel of what CGI and camera magic can do, when characters on-screen in 1980 appear as they were decades later in 2019.
This being said, whilst Flanagan has filled every nook and cranny with a nostalgic reference, Doctor Sleep by no means piggybacks off of the success of The Shining. Ewan McGregor, as likeable as ever, brilliantly carries on the Torrence story, but acts as a great accompaniment to the new story of Rose the Hat and Abra Stone. Rose the Hat brings the terror to this story as a leader of an occult group of child killers. Searching for children who project similar shine abilities to Dan. This leads to scenes of an extremely violent nature featuring some promising child actors such as Violet McGraw (The Haunting of Hill House) and Jacob Tremblay (Room). Although Tremblay has a brief scene, his capabilities shine through in his participation in one of the more gruesome showings of gore and terror to date. This unfortunately undermines the performance of Kyleigh Curran as the leading girl, who becomes of less interest as the plot comes to a conclusion.
The film does unfortunately start in a rather staccato manner jumping between storylines and toward the end loses traction as the pace of the film quickens quite abruptly. This leads the film to prioritise Danny and his past over Abra and Rose, who become secondary characters in the final act of the film. Other elements conspire to break the reality, such as Rebecca Ferguson’s rather peculiar Irish accent breaking through in certain scenes, estranged from her cross-atlantic Hollywood voice the viewer knows from the start of the film.
Overall, Doctor Sleep is not only a respectable sequel to a classic but is a great movie in its own right. Not for the faint-hearted, this film is one for fans showing Mike Flanagan’s appreciation for what the cult following of The Shining needed whilst also creating a unique and atmospheric horror to hold its own within the genre.
16 (see IFCO for details)
Doctor Sleep is released 31st October 2019