Based on the novel of the same name, ‘Doctor Sleep’ is the sequel to one of Stephen King’s book and his best film adaptation, ‘The Shining’. Set many years after the events at the Overlook Hotel, Danny (Ewan McGregor) is at his lowest point in life. Struggling with alcohol abuse, just like his father Jack Torrance and seemingly alone in the world, he finally comes across a town in New Hampshire where he can finally settle down and get his life back on track. That is until a young girl named Abra (Kyliegh Curren) comes along. Abra, with a shining ability that far outstretches Danny alarms him that there are terrible people with the shining that are using it to kill children. After the vicious murders, they then eat their steam which is released when they die, which in turn makes them younger. The leader of this group named The True Knot is led by Rose The Hat (Rebecca Ferguson).
When you realise what the film is about, it’s slightly puzzling. I remember years back when the book was announced over five years ago thinking how on earth would this work? It sounds ridiculous that the sequel to ‘The Shining’ would effectively be about vampires sucking the souls of dead children when there was no mention of this in the first film/book. To our surprise, the book is actually decent. It is in no way as good as ‘The Shining’ but it’s a brilliant follow-up as we get to see what happens to Danny in later life. We’re glad to be able to say that the film adaptation is just as great. As ‘The Shining’ is one of our favourite movies of all time, you obviously can’t go in trying to compare the movies at all because there will never be a film quite like it ever again. The great part about this film is that it’s so different in regards to the story to the 1980 movie by Stanley Kubrick. ‘The Shining’ benefits from its claustrophobic setting and inability to call upon others for help. Danny and Wendy are truly alone in their battle against Jack and the Overlook. ‘Doctor Sleep’ loses that fear factor because of the openness of the environment. Abra and Danny both have the ability to run away and hide for a long period of time. ‘The Shining’ emphasises that the ghosts are the real enemy in the film whereas ‘Doctor Sleep’ moves away from that and focuses on the wider spectrum of the shining ability.
What makes this film work so well is the superb direction from Mike Flanagan. His ability to translate the source material from book to screen works extremely well. The best example of this is his visionary imagination to bring the book to life in a way we could never anticipate. The film feels like a lucid dream which you find yourself floating through and enjoying every single moment of. Another example of Flanagan’s great work is making the True Knot seem scarier than they are in the book. They’re kinda lame in the book and we never got the sense that they are the biggest threat to Abra and Danny, mainly because coupled together, they are unstoppable. Flanagan made the True Knot more like a cult with a fierce vendetta against children with the shining in the film. They are more ruthless and unforgiving in the film adaptation, too.
‘Doctor Sleep’ is very close to its roots within the book. I would say that a huge chunk of the film is loyal to the book. The biggest issue they have is that there is no way they can completely translate every line or piece on screen because of the huge differences in Kubrick’s ‘The Shining’ compared to the book. The big changes happen towards this films climax, it’s completely shaken up in order to please fans of the classic horror and implements ways for the Overlook Hotel to make another appearance on the big screen. It was wonderful to see Flanagan bring the hotel back to life once again but I fear that there is too much exposure on the hotel and its inhabitants that make it slightly overused which in turn makes it less effective.
We take great pride in being able to say though that we really enjoyed ‘Doctor Sleep’. At the best of times, it’s an effective horror film that does work well with its predecessor. Ewan McGregor and Rebecca Ferguson both shine and provide us with their best work for a long time. Kyliegh Curren impresses in his first big role in film, not only does she possess a sassy attitude like any teenager would have but her capability to shine as well as she does around talented and experienced actors like McGregor and Ferguson show that she has a bright future ahead.
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Ian Crow’s Film Masterclass – The Shining (1980) #8
The Sh*t movie podcast #7 – 1995
Judy (2019) Review