The notion of making a sequel to The Shining, one of the most important horror movies ever made, would strike many as foolhardy, to say the least. Doctor Sleep, Mike Flanagan’s 2019 attempt to do exactly that, has to serve so many different masters that it seems like it would be doomed to failure. It’s an adaptation of Stephen King‘s sequel to The Shining, but it also has to honor Stanley Kubrick’s film, which has almost nothing to do with the book it’s based on. Somehow, though, Flanagan managed to make a movie that doesn’t just work but is downright great as well.
Following Danny Torrance as an adult struggling to understand the trauma of his childhood, the movie is now streaming on Hulu, and it’s the perfect scary movie to check out this October. Here are three reasons why:
Perhaps Doctor Sleep‘s greatest virtue is that this movie never attempts to terrify the way that The Shining did. Instead, it’s an ideal mixture of tense action, smart explorations of trauma, and genuine frights.
Because it’s more closely adapted from King’s source material, Doctor Sleep spends a lot more time on the idea of “the shining,” explaining the concept and introducing a group of people who feed on other people’s shine to extend their lives. It’s much less metaphorical than The Shining, but still gripping in its own way.
Ewan McGregor gives an electric performance as Danny Torrance, but the real standout in Doctor Sleep is Rebecca Ferguson’s Rose the Hat. Ferguson creates a villain so charming and compelling that you miss her every time she’s not on screen. Thankfully, she gets plenty of time, and she makes a meal of all of it.
On top of McGregor and Ferguson, the movie also features great work from Kyliegh Curran and Zahn McClarnon in supporting roles, creating one of the best ensembles to appear in any recent horror movie.
Doctor Sleep understands that part of what everyone wanted from a Shining sequel was a return to The Overlook Hotel which is the setting for almost all of the original movie, but it waits to play that card until the very end. When we finally do get to go back for a final showdown, the movie makes the most of every moment it spends in this iconic set.
It’s not trying to imitate The Shining, though, but uses the same setting to tell its own story. Doctor Sleep may run well over two hours, but as soon as you get to The Overlook, time feels like it’s flying by.
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