Doctor Sleep: True Horror Returns as Ewan McGregor Continues the Story of The Shining

All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.

This November, feel free to skip the usual late-fall chores — putting away the rakes and leaf blowers and dusting off your snowblower — and head down to the local cineplex instead and give Doctor Sleep your full attention.  This continuation of the Overlook Hotel survivor from The Shining follows Danny Torrance (Ewan McGregor), now middle-aged.  He finds himself caught once again in the struggle between good and evil, light and dark.  This time, he must protect his new young friend Abra Stone (Kyliegh Curran), also with the gift of ‘Shining,’ from the evil clutches of the True Knot, a gang of nomadic predators who have discovered a macabre way to achieve eternal life.  

The novel Doctor Sleep, written by Stephen King, is the absolute must-read sequel to The Shining, and was released in hardcover in 2013, almost thirty years after The Shining was published. Both are highly recommended reading.  

The Shining is a truly creepy novel (also made into canonized and triumphant cinematic achievement by Stanley Kubrick) that follows Jack Torrance’s descent into a dark and murderous psychotic rage, fueled by The Overlook Hotel, a storied and haunted place of lodging set deep in the Rocky Mountains in Sidewinder, Colorado.  Doctor Sleep continues the story of the family thirty years after The Overlook, and we follow Jack’s son, Danny, on his recovery from destructive alcoholism (much like his father) as he attempts to make his wasted life whole again by helping a young girl in serious trouble from the True Knot.  

The trailer shows us brief glimpses of a similar plot trajectory, with obvious parallels to the novel present in almost every scene we’re given.  We even are allowed a brief glimpse of what Danny has kept with him since his ordeal at The Overlook Hotel, but I’ll not provide any spoilers.

Doctor Sleep was adapted for the screen and directed by Mike Flanagan, who also found some reasonable success with another of King’s stories, Gerald’s Game (Netflix, 2017).  More importantly, I would like to draw your attention to a piece from Flanagan’s early career, titled Absentia (2011).  I have long lamented the current state of horror films. Jump scares, gore fests, predictable plots, zero originality…excuse me while I step down from this soapbox and make my point: Flanagan’s Absentia is an example of what good horror can achieve: creepy, slow burning, and often a mix of thriller, scares, and an ability to allow the viewer to use imagination to make things even more spine-chilling than anything could ever be on screen — the unknown horror is always more frightening than the one we can see and make tangible.

And, that, my friends, is exactly what Doctor Sleep is all about.  It doesn’t settle itself on one genre: it’s scary, it’s psychological, and it even leans a little on road literature.  Flanagan has the chops to follow that winding and unpredictable path King has laid out for him, while holding dear the evident success of Kubrick’s masterpiece of cinema adaptation of The Shining, to make Doctor Sleep a memorable movie experience.  

Doctor Sleep was written by written (a re-write of an earlier script by Akiva Goldsman) and directed by Mike Flanagan. Rebecca Ferguson, Carl Lumbly, Zahn McClarnon, Emily Alyn Lind and Bruce Greenwood also star.

It opens to theaters on November 8th.


Image courtesy of Warner Bros.

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