Struggling with alcoholism, Danny “Dan” Torrance (Ewan McGregor) remains traumatized by the sinister events that occurred at the Overlook Hotel when he was a child. His hope for a peaceful existence soon becomes shattered when he meets Abra Stone (Kyliegh Curran), a teen who shares his extrasensory gift of the “shine.” Together, they form an unlikely alliance to battle the True Knot, a cult lead by Rose the Hat (Rebecca Ferguson), whose members try to feed off the shine of innocents to become immortal.
Let’s just get this right out of the gate – Stanley Kubrick’s 1980 horror film The Shining is one of the greatest films ever made. It is my second favorite movie of all time, and continues to be an influential masterpiece for audiences all around the world. Virtually everything about that picture was utterly flawless and will chill viewers for decades more. Whenever a film released almost fourty years ago still manages to be influential, you know something had to be done right.
As I adore The Shining, you can probably imagine how excited I was to see Mike Flanagan’s new follow-up feature Doctor Sleep, which takes place after the events of the predecessor with a grown up Danny Torrance. This was more than likely one of my most anticipated movies of all time. Besides the all-star cast that consists of the likes of Ewan McGregor, Rebecca Ferguson, and Cliff Curtis, one of the most promising aspects of the film was Flanagan not only writing the screenplay, but helming the picture as well.
He is quite simply one of the greatest horror filmmakers of this generation. With excellent films already under his belt such as Oculus, Ouija: Origin of Evil, and last year’s Netflix series The Haunting of Hill House, he is somebody that all horror afficionados should take more notice of. If anybody can do a Shining sequel right, it had to be Flanagan. Doctor Sleep is not only one of the best films of the year, but it is a terrific film in its own right. As a sequel to The Shining, this is about as good as it gets.
All of the performances here as truly brilliant and are some of the best performances of the whole year. McGregor is the perfect grown up Danny Torrance. He has been through a world of pain due to the events at the Overlook Hotel during his childhood, and growing up, became an alcoholic, just like his father Jack. Seeing him struggle with alcoholism throughout and try to better himself constantly was depressing and suspenseful simultaneously. We always root for Dan here, and he is an extraordinarily likeable protagonist for this story.
Rebecca Ferguson portrays main antagonist Rose the Hat, who leads the deadly cult the True Knot, whose primary goal is to feed off of those individuals that possess the power of the “shine”. They believe that by feeding off people that are gifted (or cursed) with “the shining” that they will live much longer lives and constantly seek out new victims to live as long as they possibly can. When they discover that Abra Stone has an incredibly strong shine, she is the True Knot’s next target, and Danny has to do his best to protect her. These moments were truly riveting and some of the things Flanagan does with this story made me thrilled.
Speaking of Abra Stone, her actress counterpart Kyliegh Curran is without a doubt of the most impressive child actors I have seen in recent years. This is a highly demanding role, especially for such a young actor, and a lot of child actors would have immense difficulty portraying a character this complex. But not Kyliegh Curran. She almost makes it look easy in Doctor Sleep. Her dynamic with Dan Torrance was one of the most powerful aspects in this film, and there are some sequences involving Abra and Dan that made me extremely excited, especially as a fan of The Shining.
This is also one of the most breathtaking features of the year, with the director of photography being Michael Fimognari, who has been a long time collaborator of Flanagan’s. But this may just be his most gorgeous looking film to date. Every shot in Doctor Sleep is carefully thought-out and planned incredibly well. The camera work here is remarkable.
In The Shining, one of the biggest reasons why the film was so creepy and unsettling, and continues to be to this day, is because of the masterful score by Wendy Carlos and Rachel Elkind. Although this new score by The Newton Brothers is not as strong or effective as the one used in The Shining, it is still effective. In fact, there were a number of times in which this score gave me chills down by entire body.
Something potential viewers should know before seeing Doctor Sleep is that this is not at all a convential horror film that many may be used to. There is not any loud jump scares or any traditional horror beats here. If anything, this is more of a character study with amazing moments of true tension and horror elements. Also, people should be aware that this movie is in no way better than Kubrick’s The Shining, but crafting a film better than that would be a nearly impossible task. Instead, this is an incredible follow-up to that film, and that is quite honestly all that it needed to be.
Doctor Sleep is an utterly bone-chilling, skillfully acted, tension filled masterpiece that serves as an incredible sequel to The Shining.
Overall Grade: A+
MPAA Rating: R for disturbing and violent content, some bloody images, language, nudity and drug use
Cast: Ewan McGregor, Rebecca Ferguson, Kyliegh Curran, Cliff Curtis
Directed by: Mike Flanagan
Distributed by: Warner Bros. Pictures
Running Time: 152 minutes