Most recently terrifying audiences with TV series ‘The Haunting of Hill House’ director Mike Flanagan returns to the big screen with new psychological horror ‘Doctor Sleep’. It’s an adaptation of the Stephen King novel, a sequel to his 1977 novel and Stanley Kubrick’s film adaptation, ‘The Shining’. The film stars Ewan McGregor as a grown up Danny Torrence as he continues to struggle with his childhood trauma.
Despite being written thirty six years after ‘The Shining’ the narrative for ‘Doctor Sleep’ is most definitely strong enough to warrant this film’s existence. Initially it picks up very soon after the events of ‘The Shining’ which is a good place to start. It’s interesting to see how Danny and Wendy are dealing with the aftermath of their traumatic experiences at the Overlook Hotel and after a short while spent with our characters in this time the film jumps into the future where we meet a grown up Danny. It’s here the main story for the film really begins. It follows Danny’s connection to a young girl, Abra who shares his abilities which are referred to as the shining. However, ‘Doctor Sleep’ has its own story to tell and isn’t over reliant on ‘The Shining’ for its plot. The introduction of Rose the Hat, played by Rebecca Ferguson brings with it a fresh story that adds scale to what was originally a very specific and isolated story. Although, ‘Doctor Sleep’ knows it’s a sequel and Flanagan’s screenplay wonderfully connects the three source materials using just the right amount of what audiences will associate with the original alongside the fresh narrative from the sequel. This combination makes sure that its lengthy runtime never becomes a problem.
Speaking of problems, it’s no secret that King was critical of Kubrick’s film adaptation, so it makes for a nice touch here that Flanagan has remade some of the classic scenes of the film rather than simply just using the original 1980 film footage. This of course involves recasting the characters and he and the new cast do a great job – capturing the essence of the original performances and sequences but making them their own and in doing so they keep the original at a distance without completely dismissing it. These performers only feature very briefly in comparison to the whole cast though. McGregor is good in the leading role, convincingly portraying Danny’s progression into manhood. Rebecca Ferguson is unsurprisingly brilliant and she gets to have a lot of fun with her role, the writing of her character could have been taken even further but her input is nonetheless a strong asset to the film. It is newcomer Kyliegh Curran who impresses most though. In what is a remarkable feature film debut Curran more than holds her own against the A-list industry professionals and rises to the challenge of her complex role in stunning fashion.
Ultimately ‘Doctor Sleep’ is a very clever film in that it will appeal to both fans and critics of its predecessor. It differs greatly in tone from ‘The Shining’ with a much more modern feel to it. Where a lot of ‘The Shining’ felt mysterious and ambiguous ‘Doctor Sleep’ takes its time to explain the more specific plot details of its narrative and elevates the story to a much larger scale. However, the film never forgets its roots and delivers a nostalgic filled finale that will have fans delight in its content. Whilst it’s not just as chilling or as tense as the original film ‘Doctor Sleep’ achieves much that ‘The Shining’ could only dream of, making it a worthy sequel to a classic horror film – a feat not achieved by many.
Written by Hamish Calvert
STAR RATING –★★★★
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Thanks to Movie House Cinemas for screening access