Doctor Sleep is the follow-up to Stanley Kubrick’s 1980 film The Shining, which is regarding as one of the best horror movies ever made. This film was directed by Mike Flanagan and stars Ewan McGregor, Rebecca Ferguson and newbie Kyliegh Curran.
I have heard mixed reactions from people that have seen Doctor Sleep and from what I have gathered, they were looking for a direct sequel to The Shining. They wanted the film to scare them and they wanted to see the parallels and callbacks to Kubrick’s work. If you were looking for “The Shining 2”, you are going to be left disappointing. Doctor Sleep is its own film, which is why I referred to it as a follow-up rather than a sequel.
The film follows Danny Torrance (McGregor) as we follow his road to recovery from the trauma he experienced in The Shining. With both his father and mother deceased, he desperately seeks comfort from anyone and anything. Early on in the film, he turns to alcohol, drugs and having sex with prostitutes. Soon, he meets Billy Freeman, played by Cliff Curtis, who brings to AA meetings and becomes a really good friend to Danny.
However, with Danny’s psychic powers, he discovers that there are people like him who are evil and teams up with a young girl with similar powers (Curran) as they try to defeat a cult led by Rose the Hat (Ferguson).
For me, the most enjoyable parts of this film are how each person who “shines” is connected and how they interact each other. It leads to some excellent dialogue and some fantastic, mind-bending shots. Ferguson is outstanding in her antagonistic role. While you don’t side with her at any point, you start to realize the fear she hides. She isn’t one-dimensional, cold-blooded villain. Yes, it’s a cult she leads but there are some strong emotional points within the group that make you feel bad for them, which is credited to some fantastic writing from Flanagan.
McGregor is great as always. Although, it is hard to not make Star Wars prequel jokes when you see him on-screen but the true star of this film is Curran as Abra. This is a major, major role to take on your big-screen debut and she kills it. She’s very mature, professional and you feel as though she can fight for herself rather than just relying on Danny.
Where people are going to get disappointed is the lack of scares. They are there but Flanagan sides with great storytelling and character development. I love the interpretations I picked up on the film. I feel as though Flanagan wants people who feel like outcasts to keep being themselves and don’t be afraid to “shine” or standout among others. There are references to the soul in “steam”, which Rose and her cult are trying to capture to live longer. You can compare them to technology and how we throw away our uniqueness and live out our lives enclosed rather than be open and free. If that’s not what you get out of it, it is completely understandable.
The biggest problem with this film is the third act, which is where we get all the callbacks to The Shining. It feels as though studio interference came into play and told Flanagan, “Hey, we need The Shining here”. It’s a vast tone shift from the first two acts of the film and feels as though Flanagan was told to “Kubrick” through the last 30 minutes and to me, it ended weak.
If you want to watch this film, I highly suggest going back and watching The Shining. Everything will make a lot more sense. If you want to jump in on Doctor Sleep, it is available on HBO Max.
It’s still a very enjoyable film if you love great characters and finding metaphors. We are all unique and Flanagan does a good job of relaying those messages. No matter how strange you may think you are, wear it on your sleeve, and don’t be afraid to shine.
5 down, 26 to go.