Mild spoilers follow!
After almost 40 years, cinema-goers are returning to the Overlook Hotel and the world of The Shining. Considering it’s predecessor is often acknowledged as one of the greatest films ever made, Doctor Sleep had a lot to live up to. Not only did it need to be a faithful adaptation of Stephen King’s book, (King famously despises the adaptation of The Shining) it had to be a worthy and natural successor to the Kubrick film as well. No easy feat, so director Mike Flanagan had his work cut out for him, and I’m pleased to say that he succeeded.
Let’s make one thing clear, this isn’t as good as The Shining, but it was never going to be. What Doctor Sleep does so well is stand out on its own, delivering an engaging and gripping story that feels new and exciting, expanding on the mythology of the original film and taking it in a direction that people will not expect, unless of course you’ve read the book. There is an argument that actually, the weakest elements of this film are the sequences that heavily rely on nostalgia from The Shining, which is a testament to how well crafted this story is. I completely understand why the story had to go the way it did, and it is integrated extremely well, but there was that desire within me that wanted to see the film continue on this new, exciting path that is laid out.
In terms of horror, this is one of the best I’ve seen in a long time, Doctor Sleep doesn’t rely on cheap jump-scares, it creates fear through the atmosphere it creates, which continues to bubble throughout the film until it boils over in certain sequences that were genuinely terrifying and extremely unsettling. One moment in particular really disturbed me, it struck me as one of those scenes that will never get any easier to watch, regardless of how many times I watch it.
The cast are fantastic throughout, especially Rebecca Ferguson as the mysterious Rose the Hat, and Kyliegh Curran delivers the best performance I’ve seen from a young actor/actress for as long as I can remember, she’s definitely going to have a bright future! It was good to see Ewan McGregor back in a more “mainstream” film as well, and he’s great as the older, disturbed Dan Torrance.
Overall, Doctor Sleep is a worthy successor to The Shining that expands massively on the mythology while still being respectful to what came before. It’s not perfect, but as a horror, it’s likely the best of the year. It’s a bit of a slow burn at times, but it didn’t once feel boring. The story is engaging throughout and the moments of pure fan-service and nostalgia feel well-earned rather than forced. Don’t be deceived by the trailers if you think this is just going to be The Shining “Part Two”, that couldn’t be further from the truth. This a fresh, original story that can, and will, stand tall on its own.
I highly recommend this film, it may well be going straight into my Top 5 of 2019!
I give Doctor Sleep an 8.5/10.