The Shining is arguably one of the greatest horror movies of all time, directed by one of the greatest filmmakers of all time, Stanley Kubrick. The book’s author, one of America’s greatest novelists, Stephen King, detested the movie. A King-pleasing sequel was always going to have to climb a mountain to rightfully place itself alongside a film that has so successfully established itself in popular culture. Unfortunately that sequel, Doctor Sleep, barely crawls out from beneath The Shining’s shadow.
In 2013, King released the sequel to his 1977 bestseller to positive reviews, as expected. Doctor Sleep felt like a natural progression in telling the story of a now adult Danny Torrance and his special ability as he helps a 12-year-old girl being pursued by a vampire-like cult.
The book thankfully, never imposed itself on its predecessor. Mike Flanagan, who previously adapted the King novel Gerald’s Game into a surprisingly good thriller, tackles Doctor Sleep with the same care and attention. He slowly and naturally builds each character’s story, an approach that would certainly appease King fans.
Unfortunately, that care and attention dissipates as the movie’s lengthy running time marches on. The film slowly burns into a clunky mess — it tries to incorporate too many plot elements from King’s novel, whilst attempting to stand boldly alongside its cinematic predecessor. There is an air of inevitability about the film, too, that is only quelled when the ominous presence of The Overlook Hotel is revealed. Once this unavoidable eventuality is delivered, the precision that went into developing the previous two hours feels wasted. The film ends up throwing away the strands of tension and character development it has so carefully crafted.
Rebecca Ferguson’s Rose The Hat is an interesting, enigmatic villain who at times is too likeable to fear. Ewan McGregor fills the shoes of an adult Danny Torrance well, providing the character who has suffered from a lifetime of addiction and anger with depth and authenticity. Kyleigh Curran as the young Abra Stone is entertaining too, but is never given the space to shine properly.
The Shining was a story of a descent into madness. Doctor Sleep is a story of atonement. However, because of its insistence on both pleasing King and paying homage to Kubrick’s original film, it never fully redeems itself enough to develop its own identity.
Disappointingly, Doctor Sleep will always be trapped beneath the behemoth presence of The Overlook Hotel.
Doctor Sleep is available in cinemas from 31st October 2019.