Doctor Sleep (2019) is a horror film, set up as the sequel to Stanley Kubrick's The Shining in 1980 whilst also remaining more truthful to Stephen King's book series of the same title. Directed by horror director Mike Flanagan (who recently did The Haunting of Hill House and Gerald's Game), this film stars Ewan McGregor, Rebecca Ferguson and a breakout performance from Kyliegh Curran. Set almost 40 years after the events of The Shining, Danny Torrence (McGregor) comes across Abra Stone (Curran), a young girl who possesses a much stronger shine than he does. It becomes his job to protect her from a cult lead by Rose the Hat (Ferguson) and try to end them for good.

Doctor Sleep (2019) - source: Warner Bros. Pictures

The performances here are superb from everyone. Not only did everyone make me believe them as fleshed out characters, but as characters who possessed the shining in them. Ewan McGregor felt sophisticated as Danny Torrence and manages to give a simple performance that also hides a lot of emotion within it. Rebecca Ferguson is fantastic portraying a villain here, with the right amount of mystery, pain and evil mixed into her character. My favourite performance though has got to be Kyliegh Curran who is scene-stealing in every shot that she is in. She manages to give so many emotions and layers to her performance, and is not only a good child actor but a great actress overall.

There are several layers to the story and the narrative is told from 1980 to the present, which could have felt rushed or lacking in detail. However, at a length of 150 minutes, there is enough time to build into the story and get an understanding of all of the characters and the situations that they are in. The film never feels rushed and it does not drag on, I did not feel the length of this film. I also found the story itself to be enthralling and well explained and explored throughout, leaving little out of the picture.

Mike Flanagan has made it clear through several projects in the past year alone that he knows how to direct a horror movie. This is not your typical horror film though that relies on cheap jump scares to frighten an audience, but rather show them all of the pain and torture on the screen to force the audience into a state of uneasiness. This film is unsettling from the first scene to the last, and for the first time in a while, I actually was creeped out by the supernatural aspects of the film. It takes a strong script and story for me to be uncomfortable about spirits and the unknown, but this had me feeling tense throughout.

Doctor Sleep (2019) - source: Warner Bros. Pictures

Technically, Doctor Sleep is excellently made. From the production design and recreating the iconic Overlook Hotel but in a worse state, to the costume design of Rose the Hat, this film looks stunning and creates a beautiful viewing experience that is also haunting matched with the themes and narrative of the film. I also enjoyed the moments that go beyond the reality and seeing into the characters shining moments because I found them to be excellently executed on a technical point.

This may end up being a controversial opinion, but this movie is best when it is not trying to be connected to the Kubrick original. As seen in the trailer, Danny goes back into the Overlook Hotel. This is the weakest part of the film, as a majority of this sequence feels disconnected from the rest of the film. To me, this sequence purely seemed to rely on nostalgia and giving the fans of The Shining what they would want to see. I can understand why some will love these moments, but to me, they just felt unimportant to the story and dragged the ending on longer than it needed to.

This film also sets up a cult surrounding Rose the Hat, but only one gets a real explanation of how they ended up joining and why they are there. They set up one great villain, but the rest of the characters seem to just blend into the background and only feel intimidating due to the amount of them there are. I wish we got a better understanding of these characters and truly understood what made them so special to Rose the Hat for her clan, rather than feeling like one-dimensional characters.

Doctor Sleep (2019) - source: Warner Bros. Pictures

Doctor Sleep finds a nice balance between the original source material and the Kubrick adaptation of The Shining to create not only a solid film but a truly horrifying experience. This film does not require jump scares and cheap tricks to make the audience feel unnerved because the story is already strong enough without that. Whilst I do think the film stands better when it is not heavily influenced by its previous film, this is a fantastic sequel and one that I would certainly love to revisit.

4/5

Have you had a chance to see Doctor Sleep yet? Are you someone that is a huge fan of The Shining, or do you believe the original was a bad adaptation of the novel? Let me know all of your thoughts on this duology in the comments section and let's have a discussion.

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