Doctor Sleep: A review

Distributed and owned by Warner Bros. Pictures (2019)

From Mike Flanagan, director of Hush, The Haunting of Hill House and Gerald’s Game, comes another Stephen King adaptation in the form of Doctor Sleep. The film is a sequel to Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining, a benchmark in both horror and auteur filmmaking… so it’s safe to say that the bar has been set as ludicrously high for my expectations as a horror/ Mike Flanagan fan.

Set 31 years after the events of the Overlook Hotel, the film follows Danny Torrance, now an alcoholic drifter, who suppresses his Shining powers. Danny tries to mend himself and leave the past behind him, however, when a powerful young girl becomes the target of a Shining hunter cult, Danny will have to face the demons from his past once and for all.

Doctor Sleep is nothing like The Shining, but that isn’t an outright bad thing. The film attempts to pay homage to Kubrick’s film and King’s books in a haunting and surreal horror film that perhaps should’ve delved deeper into its characters and extended upon its world more clearly (or at least for idiots in the audience such as myself). The film feels rather exclusive as it is very much made for Stephen King fans by Stephen King fans, so if you haven’t read the relevant books, or haven’t seen The Shining for a good while or ever, then this film will take a fair amount of time to adjust to, as it did for me. This being said, once I had adjusted to the film, I found that the characters are still somewhat underwritten as the film focuses primarily on the events that make up its narrative. Despite the somewhat underdeveloped nature of its characters, the film still boasts strong performances from its cast, especially from Ewan McGregor’s sensitive portrayal of a deeply troubled Danny Torrance, as well as, Rebecca Ferguson, who brings a scene-stealing theatrical flair to cult leader Rosie the Hat.

Perhaps best enjoyed as part of a double bill, Doctor Sleep is a decent companion piece to the Shining; however it unfortunately doesn’t work much beyond that. I look forward to rewatching Doctor Sleep having actually read the relevant book and having revisited The Shining also. Hopefully from this, I’ll see a lot more of what meticulous director Mike Flanagan has put into this adaptation of his idol’s work. Until then, I can enjoy Flanagan’s flawed yet admirable balance of Kubrickian horror and Stephen King storytelling. However, I highly recommend you do your research.