‘Doctor Sleep’ proves to be a worthy sequel

Dan Torrance, played by Ewan McGregor, sees the word Redrum, or murder backwards, in “Doctor Sleep.” The film is an adaptation of the Stephen King novel and is a sequel to “The Shining.”

By Parker Otto

Making a sequel to one of the greatest horror films of all time can be a recipe for disaster. Fortunately, “Doctor Sleep” manages not only be good as a self-contained horror film, but also is a fantastic sequel to director Stanley Kubrick’s interpretation of “The Shining.”

Based off the Stephen King novel of the same name, and also a sequel to “The Shining” novel, the film takes place during the present day and sees Dan Torrance, played by Ewan McGregor, as an adult who is coming to terms with his inner demons and his psychic powers, which he calls “the shining.”

When Dan encounters a young girl named Abra, played by Kyliegh Curran, who also has the power to “shine,” he must protect her from an evil group called the True Knot who wish to consume Abra’s powers.

Ewan McGregor’s performance is fantastic and truly captures the genuine emotion of his character. This includes dealing with alcoholism and PTSD, which are tackled with the utmost respect. His character development is strong, and McGregor always appears to be in control throughout the film, yet still frightened of the world that surrounds him.

Curran also manages to deliver a well-acted performance as Abra and perfectly captures the feelings of a child discovering that they possess “the shining.” Unlike Dan, who sees “the shining” as a curse, Abra is much more accepting of her powers and wants to learn about what she can do, which creates an interesting dynamic between her and Dan. 

Stephen King is well-known for his villains, including Annie Wilkes from “Misery,” Pennywise from “It” and The Man in Black from “The Stand” and “The Dark Tower” series.

The True Knot and their leader Rose the Hat, played by Rebecca Furgueson, are among one of King’s best and are absolutely chilling in this film. The True Knot are able to live long lives because they capture people with “the shining” and kill them, which creates a mist which they absorb.  

The film spends a long time with the True Knot and the viewer is able to gain a sense of how their society works. The more the viewer sees the villains, the more they are able to understand their motivations which leads to more investment in the film. 

For those expecting jump scares or other cheap thrills, “Doctor Sleep” contains very little of those, but spends a lot of its time building up a suspenseful atmosphere. Much like “The Shining,” there’s not a lot of straight-up scares, but when they happen, they are terrifying.

The direction of Mike Flanagan and cinematography by Michael Fimognari are masterful and perfectly recreate the style of “The Shining” while also creating its own distinct style. 

Flanagan has made a fair share of wonderful horror films including “Oculus,” “Hush” and “Gerald’s Game.” Each time Flanagan makes a film, his style of filmmaking just keeps getting better.

In particular, there are several high-angle shots from a helicopter which follows vehicles and dissolves to other locations which are similar to “The Shining.” The score by The Newton Brothers is comprised of obscure sounds and high-pitched music which makes “Doctor Sleep” even more of a continuation of “The Shining.”

Despite the filmmakers trying to replicate the style and atmosphere of “The Shining,” “Doctor Sleep” manages to stand alone as its own unique world. For those who haven’t seen “The Shining,” watch it. It’s one of the greatest horror films of all time. But for those too stubborn to rent “The Shining,” “Doctor Sleep” will be more than satisfactory.

The first half of the film is devoted to character development, as it should be. Horror films nowadays spend too much time focusing on the scares without creating fully developed characters.

A screenwriter doesn’t have to give every single character a soliloquy about their feelings, but can just give each character something interesting to say or do.

Stephen King has made it quite clear that he hates “The Shining” because of the changes Kubrick made to the source material as well as the treatment of protagonist Jack Torrance, played in “The Shining” by Jack Nicholson. “Doctor Sleep,” while different from the source material, manages to bridge elements of both the novel “The Shining” and Kubrick’s version. 

There will, no doubt, be comparisons between “Doctor Sleep” and “The Shining,” but it’s truly impossible to say which one is objectively better due to “The Shining’s” iconography and the 40 years that it has existed, compared to a film released barely a week ago.

Overall, “Doctor Sleep” is a fantastic film which shows that horror is in good hands, especially with Mike Flanagan in the director’s chair.