Back in 1980, Stanley Kubrick gave us Stephen King’s The Shining, a story of a recovering alcoholic who accepts a job at the Overlook Hotel. However, after his son Danny uses his “shine” to look at the hotel’s dark history, Jack’s sanity begins to deteriorate leading to one of the most iconic scenes in cinema. Danny Torance is back in the highly anticipated sequel, Doctor Sleep, an adaptation of Stephen King’s 2013 sequel novel.
Struggling with his memories of the Overlook Hotel, Danny follows the same path as his father and begins to drink. He also buries his “Shine”, believing it to be a curse rather than a gift. His road to recovery and peace are shattered when he meets Abra, a teenager with a gift of her own. They team up to fight Rose the Hat and her followers, The True Knot. The dangerous group and their leader feed off the “Shine” to increase their own powers and live longer. Danny is forced to confront his demons in order to save Abra from the villainous and hungry group.
I think what is most important to point out about this film is that it does a brilliant job of standing on its own. Now, Stephen King’s thoughts on The Shining are notorious, however, Doctor Sleep is still set within the same universe. So, despite King’s opinion, this film follows on from Kubrick’s film.
While the events and the visuals from The Shining are imperative to Doctor Sleep‘s narrative, there are only moments that feel inspired by Kubrick’s vision. Certain shots, music and scenery utilize what Kubrick’s film did in 1980 and it creates an incredibly exciting experience, one that simultaneously feeds off nostalgia and offers something completely fresh. The halls of the Overlook, the chilling music and the sweeping shots of a car driving along an empty road all evoke the work of Kubricks, yet the film offers so much more that allows it to operate on its own.
The World Will Shine Again.
Unlike The Shining, Doctor Sleep dives deeper into the supernatural world, offering a wider range of characters, locations, and a detailed look at the “Shine”. For me, this exploration has some pros and cons. The introduction of a completely new array of characters, as well as an older Danny, was absolutely wonderful. Ewan McGregor and Kyliegh Curran really do shine as Dan and Abra. Their chemistry is built around compassion and understanding. Much like Danny, Abra is still young and is still learning to control her powers. This is very much a situation that Danny is familiar with and they are able to help each other.
They weren’t the only stars of this show though. I wish I could say it more with other films but I tend to find some villains very lacking. Some are absolutely brilliant but there are a some that just don’t have an impact. Take Pennywise for example, he is a really cool villain but he just tends to appear and tease the main characters. Rose the Hate is an entirely different story. There is something very charming about her. A lot of horror’s tend to focus on a physically disturbing villain but Rose is the complete opposite. Doctor Sleep doesn’t try to disturb the audience through physical horror, it’s all mental.
A villain like Rose is perfect since she has a clear motive and is willing to do whatever it takes. However, what I found most interesting about her was that she is a vulnerable villain throughout the entire film. Some villains tend to come across all powerful to begin with and then suddenly falter at the end so that the hero can succeed. Rose is a villain that is not all powerful and is completely thrown off the arrival of Abra. Seeing her panic and seeing her plan her next move is really quite an intriguing spectacle, particularly when you see how she utilizes her own “Shine”.
I always called it “the shining.”
My biggest concern was how big the world suddenly became. When you consider The Shining, the entire story is very contained. The events are narrowed down to one key location and a few characters and that is the beauty of it. However, with Doctor Sleep, you are introduced to an entirely new world inhabited by other wielders of the “Shine”. That’s not to say that the introduction of new characters was a bad thing. It’s the fact that there is a lot more to take in. You have different types of “Shines”, new ways for it to be used, new settings and you have individuals that have unlocked the secret to immortality. The leap from The Shining to Doctor Sleep is massive in terms of content. It works very well but at the same time there is also a lot to digest.
Doctor Sleep, while being a psychological and supernatural thriller, also dived deep into themes concerning recovery and acceptance. The thought and care that went into this film is obvious. This film was created by fans of both Kubrick and King. The film is full of heart, a great cast, and some brilliant throw backs to The Shining. It’s a film that should please fans of The Shining and introduce audiences who haven’t read the 2013 novel to a new world set after the events at the infamous hotel. While it is by no means scary, the film’s overall atmosphere does an excellent job of building tension. There is an aura of uneasiness that runs consistently throughout the film. There may be a lot to take in but that won’t stop you from enjoying this exciting, thoughtful and chilling thriller.
You can check out Doctor Sleep this Halloween!
Doctor Sleep stars Ewan McGregor (Star Wars: Episodes I, II & III, T2 Trainspotting) as Dan Torrance, Rebecca Ferguson (Mission: Impossible, The Greatest Showman) as Rose the Hat, and Kyliegh Curran, in her major feature film debut, as Abra.
James Lister is a University student in the UK, currently undertaking his Masters degree in Media & Communication. He has a strong passion for everything Marvel, DC, Star Wars, and Anime related.