Cast: Ewan McGregor, Rebecca Furgeson, Kyliegh Curran, Cliff Curtis
Director: Mike Flanagan
Well, Mike Flanagan may have one of the hardest jobs of 2019, make a sequel to one of the best horror movies of all time. Stephen King may not agree with this, but The Shining is one of the most influential and important horror films ever made and it’s going to be nearly impossible to replicate that success. Fortunately, Flanagan has emerged as one of the best new horror directors of the decade and can handle this pressure with ease. An amazing ability to establish a fearful mood and great performances by McGregor and Curran make Doctor Sleep a strong contender for the best King adaptation of the year.
The film follows Danny Torrence (McGregor) about 30 years after the events of The Shining as he uses alcohol to cope with the pain of his childhood and manages to keep his powers in check. While his personal healing is going on, he’s reached out to by Abra Stone (Curran), another girl whose powers are far greater than Danny’s. When they discover a cult that feeds off children with these powers led by Rose the Hat (Furgeson), Danny and Abra must work together to stop this cult from killing any more kids. Even though it’s been 39 years since the original movie came out, the aura and circumstances surrounding the plot are fresher than ever with this new take. We can feel the struggles that Danny has been through in his life as well as the terror he’s facing now with a new cult coming after him and looking to consume his power. It’s not scary in the traditional sense like the original movie, but it accomplishes its goals and accurately shows us a world that King created on paper. This is aided by two strong performances from the protagonists who can both root for and empathize with. I expected a good performance out of McGregor based on his history, but for Curran to step up and do what she did in her first movie is far more impressive. If she brings the same level of urgency and energy to her future roles, she’s going to be on the fast-track to stardom in no time. The one crippling factor of this is the runtime which makes it feel a bit bloated at times. At 152 minutes, it’s far longer than most horror movies, but at the same time it’s far more complex than other movies in the genre. I know this movie takes some liberties with what it adapted, but this feels like the truest and most faithful adaptation from the source material. I haven’t read either book, but given King’s seal of approval of the final product, I don’t think I’m the only one who feels that way. It constantly amazes me how Flanagan takes on these difficult projects and manages to turn them into something impressive, but he’s done it once again with Doctor Sleep. We’ve been given a gift of a King movie that manages to respect the film that came before it and still adds strong performances and a feeling of dread through most of the film.
Overall, I wasn’t expecting anything close to the quality of The Shining, but Doctor Sleep is more than respectable in its own right. Sure some of this movie could’ve been cut down, but as an experience you have to give credit to those involved for making a sequel that feels genuine and not manufactured. With talks of more movies or a series coming out of this film, I hope the quality remains and other audiences will be exposed to the wonder of King’s universe and how these powers work.
Overall Score: 7/10