As with most sequels, Mike Flanagan’s “Doctor Sleep” could fall into the category of unnecessary follow-up films. But it doesn’t, in big part because Stephen King is the author of the novel the film is based on.
The sequel to Stanley Kubrick’s horror classic, “The Shining” (1980), is a surprisingly well done continuation of Danny Torrance’s story.
It’s 2011 and Dan (Ewan McGregor) is now all grown up, having dealt with the trauma of losing his father and dealing with his supernatural experiences with booze and cocaine. Over the years, Dan discovered that he can still shine, the ability to sense other people around him with extraordinary powers and speak to them telepathically. During the film, Dan finds an evil cult led by Rose the Hat (Rebecca Ferguson) and Crow Daddy (Zahn McClarnon) that feeds on kids who have the same special powers as him. But one adolescent girl named Abra (Kyliegh Curran) is the smartest and most powerful of all. Cliff Curtis, Emily Alyn Lind, and Bruce Greenwood also appear in supporting roles.
In several scenes, Flanagan recreates scenes from the original Kubrick film in an impressive and effective manner, though it does take a while to mentally accept the new actors playing Jack and Wendy, Dan’s parents.
Flanagan has gained a reputation for making decent-to-good films and TV series that read on paper like they should be total flops, as was the case with “Ouija: Origin of Evil” (2016) and “The Haunting of Hill House” (2018). Since the filmmaker’s first King adaptation, “Gerald’s Game” (2017), was pretty good, it’s no surprise that “Doctor Sleep” isn’t half bad. Flanagan wisely directs the update to the famous horror story to align with his own vision. It almost feels like “The Shining” elements weren’t needed. In one particularly eerie and hypnotizing sequence, Rose slowly flies around the world looking for Abra.
The weaknesses of the film are that it is a little glaring to go back-and-forth between Flanagan’s direction verses Kubrick’s. Ferguson, who is usually recognized as one of the best characters of the modern “Mission: Impossible” movies, is generally great as the villain — though he is unfortunately stuck with a slightly obnoxious, overused catchphrase.
As for the film under performing at the box-office, I have a couple of theories. First, the title, “Doctor Sleep,” doesn’t give off the impression that it takes place in the same universe as “The Shining.” Another reason for the poor box-office sales is that Warner Bros. decided to release the film a week after Halloween. Other than those reasons, the new horror movie just isn’t as brilliant as the classic original; however, it is a big step above the goofy TV mini-series of “The Shining” (1997).