Review – Doctor Sleep

The sequel to ‘The Shining’ strikes a careful balance between homage to the cinematic predecessor and offering an entirely new film, and delivers an impressive and engaging dark thriller

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Stephen King’s cinematic legacy is huge. From The Running Man to Misery, to The Shawshank Redemption to It, his stories have been made into films since 1976’s Brian De Palma helmed Carrie. There are few films originating from his work that are more famous though, than Stanley Kubrick’s 1980 version of the 1977 novel – The Shining.  Although King himself famously disliked the film, it is now considered a classic (interestingly though, wasn’t well received at all when released).

2013 saw King returning to the world of The Shining with a sequel – Doctor Sleep. The story follows the now adult Danny Torrance (only 5 years old in the original story) – who had ‘the shining’ a form of supernatural telepathic power.

2019 now sees the inevitable film version of the sequel, with Mike Flanagan directing and having written the screenplay. Flanagan has some previous here, having delivered the version of Gerald’s Game (also from King’s source material) in 2017, and with a back catalogue of a number of horror / thriller films.

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Ewan McGregor stars in the role of Danny Torrance who, after some brief ‘what happened next’ scenes, we find now an adult and struggling with alcohol much like his father Jack. As he attempts to make a clean start, he is contacted telepathically by a young girl (Abra – played by Kyliegh Curran) who too has the shining powers.

At the same time, we meet a sinister group known as the ‘True Knot’ with similar powers. These led by Rose (with a scene stealing performance by Rebecca Ferguson) are seeking out young children with the power to shine.

Flanagan works hard through the film to strike a balance between connecting the film to its cinematic predecessor, but also in setting out its own style and approach. Oddly, the film works best when telling its own story rather than in these points of homage or reference, and is a captivating story throughout.

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The supernatural power elements now of course are common place now in film with the likes of X-Men and superheroes, however the movie stays far clear of these worlds, and is far better for it. McGregor’s performance delivers throughout but Ferguson’s leader of the dark gang is the standout role and she takes every opportunity, of which there are many, afforded to her.

It strikes a careful balance in recognising Kubrick’s contribution to the universe of The Shining and building a view of the world beyond the Overlook hotel, and as a result delivers an impressive and engaging dark thriller.

8/10

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