The 1980 horror film The Shining is one of the iconic films in the history of cinema. From the mind of the late legendary director Stanley Kubrick, The Shining is a film that remains memorable and quotable nearly 40 years later. If you hadn’t been paying attention to the promotion for the film Doctor Sleep, you probably wouldn’t have known that it is a direct sequel to that film. If you did, you probably would have complained about why they were making a sequel to that film in the first place.
In 2013, Stephen King wrote his sequel to his 1977 novel entitled Doctor Sleep and it didn’t take long for Hollywood to pounce on the idea of making a sequel to the 1980 film but there was only one problem. The film was a success due to the visionary direction of Stanley Kubrick, who has been dead for over 20 years. So who is the guy in charge of writing and directing part 2? Horror director Mike Flanagan, known for such film as Ouija: Origin of Evil and Oculus…you see the warning signs of a disconnect approaching.
Doctor Sleep takes place shortly after the events of the first film. A woman by the name Rose the Hat leads a supernatural cult who kills people with the shining ability and feeds off their dying steam to survive. 40 years pass and Danny Torrance, the son of Wendy and Jack, is a drunken mess trying to suppress his abilities sending his life in a downward spiral. Danny moves to a small New Hampshire town and slowly gets his life in order after befriending a former alcoholic who takes him in. It is there Danny meets a young girl named Abra, who uses her powers to contact him and they are even greater than his, contacts him after Rose’s cult murders a boy in cold blood. Danny and Abra must team up and use their wits to stop a murderous pack of fiends from coming for them in their desperate need to feed.
Doctor Sleep feels more like a Stephen King film than a Stanley Kubrick one. The 1st act is hard to follow even if you knew this is a sequel to The Shining beforehand due to its lack of focus in the story. The pacing is pretty slow due to the filler you have to go through to get to the meat and potatoes of the story. There is no real refresher course to reestablish what you already know and explain what you don’t. You have a traveling group of child murderers who go after kids with the shining ability, but don’t expect this film to explain what that means because you are expected to know. After the film thins out all of its red herrings and callbacks we get the introduction to the character of Abra (Kyleigh Curran) whose shining abilities are far superior to everyone else so she does come off as a Mary Sue. The 2nd act finally gels together with great individual performances by Rebecca Ferguson and Ewan McGregor. When the plotlines finally come together we get a couple of great set pieces and some really nice visual storytelling from Flanagan. The final act gets lost again in the process of fanservice of the original film and much like most Stephen King films, the ending is a bit underwhelming.
Doctor Sleep is a creatively frustrating movie. The fact that they tried to do the impossible and provide a competent sequel to a classic was hard enough. While there are without question, signs of brilliance here, the 2 1/2 hour runtime and lack of cohesion makes The Shining 2.0 ultimately nothing more than a mediocre attempt of providing a second chapter to a story that was good enough with the first.