“Doctor Sleep” is based on the 2013 Stephen King sequel to his iconic novel, “The Shining”. Thankfully, I watched the 1980 Stanley Kubrick film, starring Jack Nicholson and Shelley Duvall, shortly before screening “DS”, to learn the backstory and appreciate all the connections and references. If you haven’t seen “The Shining” in a long time (or ever), this is the rare case where I insist you MUST watch the original before seeing the sequel.
Also a rarity in Hollywood these days: the same person wrote, directed and edited “Doctor Sleep”. And Mike Flanagan pulls-off the trifecta. This is an extravagant, reverent and satisfying thriller.
Ewan McGregor plays the older version of Danny Torrance, Nicholson’s young son in “The Shining”. Not surprisingly, Danny’s life has been a bit of a challenge since those fateful events at the Overlook Hotel. But he gives up drinking, learns to deal with his “gift” and gets his act together. Eventually, however, his past catches-up with him, and he revisit his demons to protect a powerful teenage girl against a wicked cult that preys on people with “the shining”.
Flanagan provides some legitimate surprises, while paying ultimate respect to “The Shining” in tone, set design and thematically. The final act is the juiciest in this regard for diehard fans, but there’s a nice mix of originality and homage throughout. A few of the re-enactments and re-creations do take you out of the moment, but only temporarily.
McGregor is one of the most underrated actors of our time. He and Rebecca Ferguson, who plays the leader of the villainous group, completely own their roles. 13-year-old Kyliegh Curran, in her second feature film, turns heads in more ways than one as young Abra. The supporting cast is equally effective, as are the effects. The amount and intensity of the horror visuals is just right for the material.
You may believe there’s no way “Doctor Sleep” can match Kubrick’s classic. But you’d be crazy to dismiss this follow-up. Nearly 40 years after “The Shining”, this second chapter delivers suspense, surprises and ultimate satisfaction. What more could you ask for, Doc?
On The Official LCJ Report Card, “Doctor Sleep” gets an A-.
Running Time: 151 min.