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If remaking a classic movie is the worst idea, an unnecessary sequel is a close second. Sometimes it’s just better to leave well enough alone. And while thatmay be your first reactionwhen you think aboutDoctor Sleep,a sequel to bothStephen King and Stanley Kubrick’sThe Shining, check that sentiment right now.Doctor Sleepmay not be “Necessary,” per se, but it’s highly engaging and entertaining on almost every level, and that makes it absolutelyWorthwhile.
Doctor Sleeptells the story of a grown-up Danny Torrance. You know, the young boy fromThe Shiningwhose father, Jack, went crazy with an ax in the Overlook Hotel.Stephen KingwroteThe Shiningin 1977 and Stanley Kubrickadapted it in 1980, but Kubrick made so many changes to the text, King was famously not a fan of the film. In subsequent years though, two things happened: Kubrick’s film got way more famous than the book it was based upon and King wrote a sequel novel, called Doctor Sleep.
Enter Mike Flanagan, who wrote, edited, and directedDoctor Sleep. Flanagan (who recently had a huge hit withNetflix’sThe Haunting of Hill Houseand has a long history with horror) decided to take King’s book and twist it just enough so it stays true to the source material, but also satisfies fans of the film. It’s a delicate balance, to be sure, but one that absolutely works. Maybe too well.
Torrance isplayed by Ewan McGregorand, for the first act of the film, we see that he hasn’t had a great life since the whole Overlook experience. Much like his father, Danny is now a violent alcoholic, and it’s not until he hits rock bottom and moves to New Hampshire to straighten out his life that he can begin to deal with the demons that have haunted him since he was a child.
Meanwhile, two other stories unfold in the film. First is that of Abra, played by newcomer Kyliegh Curran. Abra is a young girl who, like Danny, has the ability to “shine” —meaning, do things with her mind. Without anyone to explain it to her, though, she’s very unsure about her place in the world. Then there’s Rose the Hat (Rebecca Ferguson) who leads an evil group called True Knot. They’re kind of spiritual vampires who live extraordinarily long lives by feasting on the “steam” of people who “shine.” Basically, they suck the special out of them until the person dies and, in the process, live for centuries.
Okay, movie reviews should not have that much exposition. Seriously, what am I doing? But forDoctor Sleep, it’s all absolutely crucial. That means, much like this review, the film takes a good long while to set everything up. And, also like this review, it gets a tiny little tedious. Information is layered on top of more information and there are so many plates spinning there’s a chance everything could go horribly wrong. Thankfully, it doesn’t.
Once all the pieces are set,Doctor Sleepstarts to soar. Rose, Abra, and Danny’s stories begin to intersect and hint at an eventual showdown. All the while, we get to watch strong performances by McGregor, Ferguson, and Curran, as well as their supporting actors (which include the likes of Cliff Curtis, Jacob Tremblay, Bruce Greenwood, and more) keep this fantastical story grounded and relatable even as they engage in what is basically mental warfare with a supernatural twist.
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