by Kyle Arango
The Shining is considered to be one of, if not the greatest horror film of all time. Stanley Kubrick crafted a masterful film wrapped in dread and suspense that captured the public zeitgeist and has lived on until today. Ironically,Stephen King famously disliked the film. Now we are getting a sequel to the famous film titled Doctor Sleep based on King’s own novel. Can it live up to the lofty expectations its predecessor has bestowed upon it? Surprisingly enough it can, in fact, with a couple more viewings this might overtake The Shining in quality. That’s how much this film impressed me.
Doctor Sleep picks up around thirty-five years after the events of The Shining. The Overlook hotel has been left to rot and Danny Torrance (Ewan McGregor)is all grown up now and a recovering alcoholic. Meanwhile, a woman who goes by Rose (Rebecca Ferguson) has led her cult of beings seeking everlasting life by sucking the shine out of those who possess it. When a child whose shine is unlike any ever seen reaches out to Danny for help, Danny must decide whether to leave his past behind and let her fall prey to the cult or help her and face his locked up past once and for all. This film absolutely blew me away. The Shining is a full-blown classic film held in the highest regard due to its quality and directing from the great Stanley Kubrick. To even consider doing a sequel to this just comes across as outrageous. “Do not touch something that is already perfect. It will ruin the original”. Something like that is what most people say when the idea of revisiting a classic is brought up. Fair enough. There are gatekeepers for every classic film and those purists hold these films closely. One thing Doctor Sleep proves is that no film is untouchable.
Right off the bat, major props need to go to director Mike Flanagan. As stated before, this is a monumental task to try and accomplish and he shows no fear whatsoever. One of the things that works so well is how steady it moves. This film is expertly paced and coming in at 2:30 hours, that is a very difficult thing to accomplish, yet I couldn’t get enough. Flanagan gives us the time to fully learn everything about these characters while also building the plot one layer after another, eventually leading to an epic third act. That climax is going to be what either works for you or doesn’t. They rely heavily on nostalgia for the third act and while some may find that annoying, I feel it is executed perfectly. This film is all about Danny facing his demons head on that he locked away awhile ago and how can you do that without going back to the Overlook? What makes it work so well is the development of the story throughout which makes the ending feel necessary for the characters. It is earned and after all you go through in this film, it is incredibly satisfying.
This cast is also on another level, but Rebecca Ferguson steals the movie. I knew she was a presence on screen from her time in the Mission Impossible films, but she takes it in a completely different direction in Doctor Sleep. She is terrifying as Rose the Hat, a sinister being who is relentless in her pursuit to get the shine out of children. In many ways, she is better at murdering kids than Pennywise was in It: Chapter 2 this year. She is captivating when she speaks and she has to convince us she could lead a cult of others to follow what she preaches. This is a statement by her and it is something to behold. Ewan McGregor is also fantastic as Danny Torrance. He will not blow you away with powerful yelling or intensity, but his reserved and calm manner is very difficult to pull off. This is a side I was not expecting of McGregor, but the calm hero is a very welcome side that works. Kyliegh Curran also goes toe to toe with these actors and while sometimes she might falter, she knows her role and sticks to it. Special shout out to Jacob Tremblay as well who has a small but very memorable moment and he once again nails it.
Doctor Sleep is one of the most memorable experiences I’ve had in a theater this year. To be a fully worthy sequel to a classic film is a herculean task that Mike Flannigan succeeds at. It is a film that will satisfy fans of the book and film and is a film Stanly Kubrick would be proud of. This is destined to be a horror classic and if you are a fan of The Shining, you will love Doctor Sleep.
The Verdict 5/5 Stars