The long awaited film adaptation of Stephen King’s “Doctor Sleep” (the sequel to the classic “The Shining“) is a really pretty solid flick for what it is. It should be expressed, however, that what this represents isn’t another horrific delving into a psychological breakdown, but rather a somewhat more adventure-based thriller with aspects of horror mixed in for flavor. If you remember how “Aliens” was a solid action film (with elements of horror) as the follow on to the haunted house in space of Alien, you’ll have an idea of what you’re going to be getting into this time around.
This is not a film to watch if you haven’t first seen 1980’s “The Shining“, as a huge amount of the backstory that you get from there is needed to be able to follow along with the conversations and the audio and visual cues that are spread throughout “Doctor Sleep”. You can rent it from Amazon Prime right now; unfortunately it’s not available on either Netflix or Hulu. So if you haven’t seen “The Shining,” tap out now because I’m going to be talking about spoilers for that film (but not for “Doctor Sleep”).
The story opens up shortly after the events at the Overlook hotel, with young Danny Torrance and his mother, Wendy trying to pick up their life and move on. Danny remains traumatized (who wouldn’t be), not only because of the happenings at the Hotel, but the old spirits don’t seem to want to let him go quite yet. It jumps forward to a fully grown Danny (played by Ewan McGregor), who has deep seated anger issues combined with alcoholism. He’s spent his life suppressing and hiding his “shine.” Enter a tribe of vampire-like creatures which rather than feeding on blood, they feed on the shine energy released when a human who has the ability dies in pain. Led by Rose the Hat (played by Rebecca Ferguson), the vampires scour the country hunting for the rare humans who have the power.
A young girl named Abra (played by newcomer Kyliegh Curran) has some of the most powerful shine that’s been encountered in a long time and she manages to telepathically communicate with Danny and they become psychic pen pals. Eventually Rose and her band discover the existence of Abra and goes on the hunt for her and Danny steps in to try to fight alongside her.
Ferguson and McGregor’s performances help elevate the film to a higher level than on the page. They swing for the fences and embody the driven souls that have carried them along thus far in their lives. It’s better than most coven-of-vampires films, and it is better paced, with long overhead shots that continue the feel of the original. If there’s anything that’s a bit off-kilter it’s the inclusion of scenes that include Danny’s parents, Jack and Wendy Torrance. The original actors (Jack Nicholson and Shelley Duvall) are so utterly iconic that it would have seemed to be the logical time to use a CGI skinjob. Instead, new actors are utilized and it’s more jarring to see someone else inhabiting those original roles that are only passible as look-alikes. It would have been easier to go either with someone that looks nothing like them, or use a skinjob, but to have them feel like cosplayers creates an entirely too-aware discordance. But that’s a nit-pick in an otherwise solid sequel to a classic film.
Do yourself a favor, rewatch “The Shining” first, then you’ll be ready to continue on into “Doctor Sleep“.
“Doctor Sleep” is Rated R and is in theaters everywhere now.
Rating: 4 Stars out of 5.