Review: Doctor Sleep @ Film Fear, HOME

Based on Stephen King’s 2013 novel and billed as ‘the next chapter in The Shining story’, Mike Flanagan’s Doctor Sleep meets the adult Danny Torrance (Ewan McGregor) almost 40 years after the events of the first film.

Still traumatized by the events at the Overlook Hotel, Danny joins forces with Abra (Kyliegh Curran), a young girl with similar abilities to himself, as they face villainous cult ‘The True Knot’.

It is doubtful whether The Shining required a sequel. The ending of Stanley Kubrick’s 1980 masterpiece leaves the viewer in a tantalising state of confusion. You question everything that happened in an attempt to work out what it all means.

Granted, seeing how the incidents at the Overlook affected Danny is intriguing set up for a sequel, but Kubrick’s film benefited from a lack of closure and didn’t cry out for any more development. Producing a follow-up feels a touch counterproductive.

Stephen King famously disapproved of the 1980 film – so much so that he wrote and produced his own television adaptation in 1997. He then wrote a second novel as he wanted to define what life Danny would lead as an adult and to reclaim ownership of his story.

With King acting as an executive producer for Doctor Sleep, Flanagan has had to balance the differences between the novel and Kubrick’s film to produce both an adaptation of the novel and a sequel to Kubrick’s film.

However, the film feels detached from Kubrick’s. Certain aspects, including the Overlook, the concept of ‘shining’ and a few familiar characters, remain but Doctor Sleep does not try to make sense of its predecessor or provide a straight continuation to it.

This is somewhat fortunate, as this sequel is a meandering, dull and overlong film that lacks intrigue, mystery and excitement. The distance and difference between Doctor Sleep and The Shining means that the legacy of Kubrick’s film isn’t sullied. However, it does fail to justify its own existence – it is not only an unnecessary sequel but a downright poor horror film.

The Shining is brimming with atmosphere, mystery and claustrophobic terror. Granted, it is the hallmark for horror films and any comparison feels slightly unfair, but Doctor Sleep fails to deliver on any of these fronts.

Flanagan’s film isn’t quite sure what it wants to be. The plot meanders, going from location to location without any purpose or direction. Each scene feels disparate from what comes before it, resulting in a lack of tension throughout.

Whereas The Shining took place almost entirely within the Overlook, allowing it to play with claustrophobia, Doctor Sleep’s widened scope dilutes any atmosphere or peril it may create.

The film peaks in its final act, which sees Danny return to the Overlook. It is an adequate return to the hotel’s haunting corridors and The Newton Brothers’ score captures its mood perfectly.

There aren’t as many scares as you would hope and the location isn’t used to its full potential, but the single location gives the film discipline that it was missing.

Unfortunately, by the time we arrive at the hotel, the film has used up any goodwill you may have towards it. What has come before has been so lacking in stakes or peril that the finale does not arrive shrouded in anticipation.

The running-time of two hours and 31 minutes is gratuitous – you have to battle through several weightless scenes and long spells of boredom before the excitement appears.

However, the cast perform admirably with limited material. Ewan McGregor is excellent as Danny and deserves to be in a much better film. He convinces as a man plagued by the trauma of his youth and brings much needed humanity to Danny.

Cliff Curtis provides ample support as Billy Freeman, Danny’s friend and co-worker while newcomer Kyliegh Curran is excellent as the stoic Abra.

Rebecca Ferguson’s performance as the underwritten villain ‘Rose the Hat’ is committed but the character is neither scary nor interesting enough to give the film any sense of peril. In an attempt to jazz things up, her character feels overpowered and almost superhero-esque at times, which becomes jarring and feels very out of place.

On its own terms, Doctor Sleep is an overlong and tedious horror film that fails to deliver excitement, fear or intrigue. As a sequel to The Shining it is redundant and pales in comparison to Kubrick’s work. Its greatest asset is not trying to offer a definitive explanation for the events of its predecessor.

Rating: 2 stars

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