Years following the events of “The Shining,” a now-adult Dan Torrance must protect a young girl with similar powers from a cult known as The True Knot, who prey on children with powers to remain immortal.
In terms of gaps between an original film and a sequel, there won’t be many longer than the 39 years between ‘The Shining’ and ‘Doctor Sleep’, a film that acts as both a sequel to Stanley Kubrick’s film and an adaptation of Stephen King’s follow up novel. The film, like the novel it’s based on, is about the adult Danny Torrance (played here by Ewan McGregor) and it leans more into the mythology and background of the ‘shining’ ability itself. I actually really liked this film and a couple of days after seeing it, I’m still struggling to quite pinpoint why. I think in many ways it’s because it seems to ignore a lot of the rules that generally govern sequels and it feels like an original vision more than mere fan service (it doesn’t completely avoid this of course).
After an opening coda that introduces the films antagonists, we move towards the present day and find Danny Torrance as an adult, struggling with alcoholism and clearly scarred from the events in his past. He moves to a new town and befriends a local AA sponsor (Cliff Curtis), and finds a job as a cleaner in a local hospital, where he discovers a use for his lapsed shining abilities in helping dying patients pass on in comfort. He seems to be getting over his trauma when an old friend comes to visit, reminding him of his responsibilities and drawing his attention to a young girl (Kyliegh Curran) with similar abilities who may need his help. A separate plot centres around a cult called the True Knot, led by Rebecca Ferguson’s Rose, who are a group of partly immortal vampiric beings who feed on the energy from those with shining abilities. Both storylines converge at the only place where this story could realistically head and it forces Danny to finally confront his demons and move past his trauma.
As I mentioned, I really liked ‘Doctor Sleep’ and I felt it captures the spirit of the ‘The Shining’ but with enough originality to feel fresh. It is definitely too long and its slow pace could be offputting but I enjoyed both the supernatural aspects and the exploration of Danny’s psyche and I thought his journey to overcome his demons was well handled. Rebecca Ferguson is great in most things and she’s terrific as the primary antagonist, with McGregor, Curtis and newcomer Kyliegh Curran all impressive as well. ‘Doctor Sleep’ is a worthwhile follow up to ‘The Shining’ that may lack the intensity and terror of Kubrick’s film, but makes up for it with a slow burning narrative that rewards your patience.
Directed By: Mike Flanagan
Starring: Ewan McGregor, Rebecca Ferguson, Kyliegh Curran, Cliff Curtis, Carl Lumbly, Zahn McClarnon, Emily Alyn Lind, Bruce Greenwood, Henry Thomas and Jacob Tremblay