Review: Doctor Sleep

Ebony Foster, Columnist

Mike Flanagan’s “Doctor Sleep” brilliantly combines the aesthetics of Stanley Kubrick’s “The Shining” with Flanagan’s signature style. The film adapts Steven King’s sinister sequel and balances King’s version with Kubrick’s 1980 story.   

The film’s story centers on an older, alcoholic Danny Torrence, expertly played by Ewan McGregor, who uses alcohol to cope with his traumatic experience at the Overlook Hotel and with his ability to “shine,” a rare psychic ability. 

Years later, when Torrence is getting his life together, he encounters a young girl named Abra, played by Kyliegh Curran, who is able to shine.

Rose the Hat, played by Rebecca Ferguson, notices Abra’s ability when witnesses Rose and others from True Knot, an ancient cult, brutally murdering someone. The cult feeds on the essence of children who shine to maintain immortality. This disturbing scene motivates Torrence and Abra to team up to take down the True Knot. 

All of the performances in “Doctor Sleep” were impressive, but the most notable were the children who used their innocence and fear during unforgettably visceral scenes. McGregor brilliantly portrays an older Danny while maintaining the soft vulnerability viewers saw in his younger counterpart. 

But any film’s heroes are only as effective as its villains, and thankfully, Ferguson and Zahn McClarnon deliver. Ferguson and McClarnon pull off an eerie kindness while flipping into the vampiric nature of the True Knot leaders with horrific ease. 

The film’s musical and visual elements delivered simple, yet effective additions that helped maintain the film’s tension. The film’s soundtrack pays homage to the “The Shining” original score, which establishes its presence during signature moments. The score brings feelings of nostalgia for fans while still having an undertone of the present within its composition.

 The sound of the heartbeat from the original film fulfills an alternative purpose in the context of the new film. In “The Shining,” the heartbeat signifies that the hotel itself is alive; whereas, in “Doctor Sleep,” the heartbeat signals the shining ability and the life it is tied to. However, similar to its predecessor, the heartbeat is still a signal to the audience that danger is near, adding to the film’s overall tension. 

“Doctor Sleep” is a well-crafted conclusion to “The Shining” and is dark and engaging, pulling off what most horror sequels have failed at — especially when it comes to King’s work — creating a satisfying ending. Flanagan brilliantly crafts a movie that does not shy away from disturbing viewers while successfully pulling off a seamless sequel to Kubrick’s film. Needless to say, this film is definitely recommended not only to fans of “The Shining” but also to thriller and horror fans everywhere who feed off the tension and fear that “Doctor Sleep” delivers.