‘Doctor Sleep’ offers something less scary, more fun


Sony Pictures

Ewan McGregor unlocks demons of the past in “Doctor Sleep.”

Lance Nelson, Staff member

Spawning from Stephen King’s 1977 novel “The Shining,” the ghostly residents of Overlook Hotel have haunted readers over the last 42 years. Further cementing these terrors into the minds of millions was director Stanley Kubrick’s 1980 adaptation. From the waves of blood to an unforgettable bathtub scene, “The Shining” found its way into the pantheon of horror masterpieces such as “The Exorcist” and “Psycho.” Creating a sequel that would even come close to the original is ambitious, to say the least. Director Mike Flanagan, best known for “Oculus” and “Ouji: Origins of Evil,” takes a lethal stab at this challenge with “Doctor Sleep.” Pulling from King’s 2013 literary follow-up, this extension unlocks demons of the past while successfully wreaking havoc on both new and returning audiences.

What makes the idea of a sequel even more interesting is King’s very public disappointment with Kubrick’s adaptation. The critique around how his creation was twisted for the director’s film did not go unheard. Feeling that the tortured family he created was drained of emotion, King later went on to address what happened to his beloved characters in the 2013 novel “Doctor Sleep.” 

Sharing familiar characters from the original novel, “Doctor Sleep” follows a now middle-aged Danny Torrance (Ewan McGregor) as he pieces his life together. Consumed by alcohol and promiscuous encounters, the boy that audiences met all those years ago has lost his way. Considering his possessed father attempted to kill him and his mother, a drinking problem is the least of his worries. More pressing is that the ghosts of Overlook aren’t quite done with him. Also lurking in the shadows is the True Knot, a cult of demonic superhumans who live eternally by draining those that “shine.” A term introduced in “The Shining,” to shine is to have a supernatural power. This soul-like energy source is what brings Torrance and magical newcomer Abra Stone (Kyliegh Curran) together in this newest extension. Possessing a set of abundantly powerful abilities, Stone finds herself as both a threat and target for the True Knot.

The sequel provides ample backstory and nostalgia to remind viewers of what happened in the first film. So much so that it isn’t completely necessary to have seen “The Shining.” Obviously, the takeaway is much more rewarding to those who understand the backstory. Expecting this new film to be the next-generation horror phenomenon will surely set one up for disappointment. While it does offer a few jumpy moments, it would be safer to say that this is more “The Craft” than “The Shining.” The ghosts of Overlook take a backseat as the stand-off between True Knot leader Rose the Hat (Rebecca Ferguson) and Stone warrants the most attention.

Taking on such a cherished ‘80s nightmare comes with the risk of harsh critique. Failed horror reboots like the 2009 “Friday the 13th” and the 2007 “Halloween” left audiences weary of these attempts. A benefit to “Doctor Sleep” is that it doesn’t try to use “The Shining” as a crutch. Rather, it offers a continuation that can easily stand on its own. At the same time, it pays homage to its predecessor in just the right areas without looking desperate. The results are sure to please fans of the original while indoctrinating new victims. Whether or not King feels the same is left to be seen.

“Doctor Sleep” is now in theaters.