Criminally underappreciated, DOCTOR SLEEP is a terrific sequel to "The Shining" that's disturbing, fascinating and a thrill ride for fans of Kubrick's 1980 horror classic.
Writer/Director Mike Flanagan (last year's excellent THE HAUNTING OF HILL HOUSE series on Netflix) takes on a hell of a task, trying to straddle the middle ground between fans of Stephen King's book and the wildly different Kubrick film adaption. Flanagan somehow manages to honor both, along with King's book sequel.
The film opens with Wendy and Danny Torrence shortly after their escape from the Overlook. The spirits of the hotel are not quiet, nor is the benevolent Dick Halloran, arriving to provide Danny coping skills.
In the first of many brave moves, Flanagan portrays Wendy, Danny and Halloran with look alike actors for Shelly Duvall, Danny Lloyd and Scatman Crothers. It's unsettling but works to pull us back into the story.
Then the story propels forward in the first of several time shifts to decades later, with Danny now portrayed by Ewan McGregor. He's an alcoholic hitting bottom and looking for a way up, which comes in the form of a small town that offers him a fresh start and friendship in the form of Billy Freeman (Cliff Curtis).
Meanwhile, we've met a roving band of vampire-like eternals who feed on the "steam" of others, mostly children who have a gift of psychic ability.
When they feed on a young boy walking home from a baseball game, they awake a very powerful force in young Abra Stone, beautifully played by Kyliegh Curran.
The nearly immortal band, called The True Knot are led by the dangerous Rose The Hat, embodied incredibly well by Rebecca Ferguson (Mission Impossible: Fallout, The Greatest Showman). She's an excellent villain.
When Abra "shines" during the killing of young Bradley, (Jacob Tremblay from "Room"), Rose is blown back by the power from Abra AND Danny, who soon team up to battle the roving band of soul suckers.
Another brave choice by Flanagan is to depict the capture, torture and murder of young Bradley so graphically that its truly disturbing to watch. It's a key plot point, but its off putting on any level. What reads scary on the page is jaw dropping on screen.
I wont spoil anything about the last half hour, anyone whose seen a trailer knows that Danny returns to the sleeping Overlook Hotel for the final confrontation. Suffice to say, its fantastic.
I'm a huge fan of the Kubrick film and really enjoyed "Ready Player One"s sequence recreating the film, but this takes it to a whole new level.
Original blueprints of the Kubrick sets were used to recreate the hotel in all its menace. Watching it wake up is a blast for film fans.
The music, the photography, the staging are all direct and stylish tributes to Stanley Kubrick's vision and it all worked for me.
It's a long film, but never dragged.
McGregor is excellent portraying a very broken man trying to escape the spirit of his father, Jack Torrance. It's a thrill to see that battle take on a new reality at the Overlook.
Haunting and exciting, DOCTOR SLEEP delivers. Stephen King praised the film as one the best film adaptions of any of his novels. I have to agree.
Why audiences avoided this movie in droves is a surprise. It's loaded with Shining easter eggs, King twists and turns and emerging dread that gets under your skin.
Room 217 (not 237 KIng fans) still scares. DOCTOR SLEEP gets an A.