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Review: “Doctor Sleep,” falls short to Kubrick’s “The Shining”

Updated: Jun 2, 2020

Disappointing cinematic sequel to the classic film which mixes old and new story elements haphazardly. 

By Gene Wickham, Special to the Star

Photo Courtesy of Warner Bros.

If viewers are looking for a true followup to Stanley Kubrick's 1980 classic “The Shining,” this new cinematic experience, based on Stephen King’s 2013 novel “Doctor Sleep,” may leave some still searching for a promising sequel.

On a higher level, “Doctor Sleep” tries to be a lofty metaphor of good versus evil but lacks emotional equality between the deeply conflicted Danny Torrance and the two-dimensional villains he is fighting against. This, and an awkward convergence of multiple storylines, leaves the viewer dramatically disoriented.

Picking up where Kubrick’s film left off, the story follows young Danny, who continues to suffer from visions and nightmares due to his psychic experiences with his shining power which allows him to see the dead. Years later, a grown Danny, now Dan, is a suffering alcoholic and drug addict. He finds security working as a hospice orderly where he helps patients deal with end-of-life issues, earning him the name Doctor Sleep.

Meanwhile, a group of ancient supernatural beings known as The True Knot, led by arch-villainess Rose The Hat, are roaming the country searching for children with supernatural powers, so they can kill them and consume their “essence.” 

Dan learns about Abra Stone, a 16-year-old girl with the shining and begins to psychically communicate with her. They both sense a great evil emanating from The True Knot and decide to join forces to confront the evil threat.

While the overall atmosphere of “Doctor Sleep” feels more fantasy than horror, one particularly brutal scene is the kidnapping and gruesome murder of a young baseball player by The True Knot. In an unnecessarily lengthy sequence, his bloody murder is sensationalized, leaving the audience disturbed.

Director Michael Flanagan did a great job with juggling time and plot lines in “The Haunting of Hill House,” but in “Doctor Sleep,” the multiple storylines don't mesh until much later in the film, causing a shallow dramatic lull and plodding action. He does, however, take great pains to replicate visuals from “The Shining,” including look-alike actors, adding some authenticity.

Ewan McGregor does an exceptional job as the older Dan, creating a multi-layer character who goes from a pitiful soul to a spiritually self-confident man.

Despite the lack of depth in the development, supporting players Rebecca Ferguson as Rose The Hat and newcomer Kyliegh Curran as Abra, still exude a strong female presence.

Curran is a strong young woman, with enough smarts to stay one step ahead of the villains while Ferguson’s persona drips pure arch-typical malevolence.

“The Shining” had an underlying feeling of dread and paranoia, leaving audiences something to feel and think about. While the fans of the most recent book may find some redemptive elements here, “Doctor Sleep” as a film and sequel to the classic film, is not very creepy and fails to awaken any deep passions or lasting thoughts. 

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