DOCTOR SLEEP gets 5.5/10 Shining sequel

Directed by Mike Flanagan

Starring Ewan McGregor, Rebecca Ferguson, Cliff Curtis, Kyliegh Curran


When watching a sequel, there’s usually going to be comparisons to the original running through your mind, especially if there’s been decades between the two films. Doctor Sleep, coming out 39 years after its predecessor The Shining, certainly holds no candle to the beloved original, but it works as a different beast. It contains a much larger world than the claustrophobia and cabin fever of The Shining, and it has more characters that sprawl over a larger story. Through a much different kind of filmmaking and a different kind of story, Doctor Sleep works as an enjoyable sequel and sometimes truly horrific horror film – at least for the first half, until it turns into a self-obsessed Shining fan-fic.

The film initially works fairly well as it simply looks at this grown-up Danny (Ewan McGregor) and what issues and traumas have resulted from his childhood ordeal. He has become a lonely alcoholic who drifts from one town to another, trying to drink away the horrifying moments of “shining” that sometimes flicker in his mind.

But his life changes when he is befriended by the charitable Billy (Cliff Curtis), who sets him up with a job, an apartment, and gets him into a rehabilitation programme. After eight years of the straight and narrow, the tranquillity of his life is interrupted by Abra (Kyliegh Curran), a teenage girl with a powerful shine. She uses her telepathy to alert Danny about a cult of “shiners” who torture and kill other shiners and feed off their “steam” (psychic essence) so they can continue to stay young over the centuries.

There is evidently little brevity in expanding out the lore of the shining powers, and though it unfortunately just gets too convoluted in its own dreamlike logic, these characters and the psychic link between them offers up some entertaining (and sometimes rather horrifying) moments that keep you second-guessing reality.

But this original and involving piece of storytelling gradually deteriorates into a mere Shining reboot, with a barrage of “remember these characters?” and “remember these scenes?” references flooding in. Although the film begins by taking its characters and their supernatural woes seriously, the last act is just a shallow attempt to ape the original, feeling like some bad fan fiction written by the world’s greatest Stanley Kubrick fan.

It’s unfortunate that a sequel to a classic in this genre shows so much potential, yet so much of that gets undone in a second half where Doctor Sleep makes nothing but cynical attempts to connect itself to its predecessor. The first half is good enough to warrant the ticket price, but the second half is bad enough to warrant you leaving the movie at the midway point.


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