Doctor Sleep brings The Shining back to life (in more ways than one). Since Stephen King notoriously hated Stanley Kubrick’s adaptation of his horror classic, no one knew how a sequel could be made. King wrote Doctor Sleep in 2013 as a direct continuation of his novel. So respected modern horror director Mike Flanagan compromised between both visions. Although I’m a big fan of The Shining, Doctor Sleep is part King weirdness and part Kubrick nostalgia. Characters are recast without feeling like an imitation and the Overlook Hotel is recreated just as well as in Ready Player One. Jack Nicholson obviously doesn’t return.
Danny Torrance and his mother Wendy deal with the aftermath of The Shining. The ghost of Dick Hallorann tells Doc more about the “shining” since he was supposed to be alive in the novel. Danny literally locks up his trauma and grows into an alcoholic Ewan McGregor. Even though I was more invested in Shining references, the sequel story is interesting enough on its own. Flanagan fills the 2 hour & 32 minute runtime with a creepy atmosphere, strong characters, another mangled hand, and a refreshing absence of jump scares. The King weirdness is the ambiguous nature of “shining” and a nomadic cult of psychic vampires that feed on the “steam” of children. Rebecca Ferguson turns Rose the Hat into a memorably intense villain.
With a few exceptions, the True Knot don’t have a lot of characterization, but I knew I’d be uncomfortable if children were involved. Dan cleans himself up and gains the titular Doctor Sleep nickname as an orderly. A new “shining” kid named Abra Stone played well by newcomer Kyliegh Curran befriends Danny with messages of “REⱭЯUM.” Together they seek to stop Rose the Hat in a very familiar location. The Overlook climax wasn’t in the book, but it is technically part of the original. Danny ends up with an axe, the twins return, there’s a bloody elevator, the naked woman, and other iconic moments are brought back just to adapt the true end of The Shining. Doctor Sleep can’t always bridge the gap, but fans like me should be pleased.
Preceded by: The Shining