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article imageReview: ‘Doctor Sleep’ shines bright in a world of scary ghouls Special

By Sarah Gopaul     Nov 18, 2019 in Entertainment
‘Doctor Sleep’ is a purposeful follow-up to ‘The Shining’ in which a grown Danny must help an even more powerful teenager stand against a gang of soul-feeders.
While studios continue to remake decades-old classics, there is growing popularity in producing follow-up narratives that build on rather than retell the original. It certainly helps if the source writer saw fit to revisit the characters in a new novel. With the incentive of adapting another of Stephen King’s books for the screen and an interesting story to share with a wider audience, The Shining sequel hit theatres. Doctor Sleep is an extension of the first tale as it picks up a few decades in the future, i.e. our present.
Danny Torrance and his mother survived his father’s attacks, but the trauma left its mark. Moreover, even as the boy tried to forget what happened, the spirits of the Overlook Hotel continued to be drawn to his shine. As an adult, Danny (Ewan McGregor) is an alcoholic with poor moral judgement. He drinks to suppress his abilities and doesn’t have any lasting connections with people. When he’s drawn to a small town for a new start, he finds more than his sobriety. He opens a psychic link with Abra Stone (Kyliegh Curran), a young girl who shines even brighter than him. But there are other things that feed on that energy. Led by Rose the Hat (Rebecca Ferguson), a band of immortal travellers wander the country in search of special people so they can extract their “steam” and prolong their own lives.
This movie builds a brilliant new narrative around the shine that introduces greater power and more supernatural elements. Audiences already know Danny’s light is bright, but Abra eclipses him and all those she encounters. She accidentally stumbles on Rose, but is strong enough to escape any traps she might set. In fact, the two are so evenly matched — in spite of their vast difference in age and experience — that it’s not always clear who’s the cat and who’s the mouse in their chases. Rose is repeatedly flabbergasted by Abra’s abilities… which only makes her desire her more as the fiend cannot even foresee how long such power could sustain them.
“Ka” plays a significant role in this narrative and signs of it are sprinkled throughout. While the first film was about addiction, this movie begins there but comes full-circle to Danny’s recovery. In this state of sobriety, he can face his father’s demons as well as his own and try to overcome them. In addition, Danny can payback the universe for introducing him to Dick Hallorann by offering to help Abra with her shine and the predators who’ve targeted her light. The Overlook Hotel was at the centre of the first tale, but it still comes into focus multiple times throughout this story, once again bringing Danny back to the beginning.
The first half of the movie is a bit slower as Danny hits rock bottom and starts on the road to sobriety with the help of a man who sees the goodness hidden inside him. However, this is necessary to get Danny to a place where he is strong enough to help and support Abra. The film also uses this time to introduce audiences to the new characters with get-to-know-you demonstrations of their powers. Thus, when the first ritual murder is committed on-screen, its violence and bloodshed are jarring. This sets up the rest of the narrative, which includes a number of intense and sometimes grotesque sequences.
All of the performances are excellent as McGregor seems to fully understand Danny’s path, which began in Stanley Kubrick’s film. In the meantime, Curran is excellent as a young woman ready to embrace her power and fight back rather than hide and hope for the best. The actors selected to extend the performances of Shelley Duvall, Danny Lloyd, Jack Nicholson and the hotel’s many spectres are physically fit for the roles, though the voice impression of the man replacing Nicholson still needed a little work.
Writer/director Mike Flanagan does an excellent job aligning his picture with Kubrick’s and creating an eerie atmosphere outside of the inherently creepy hotel, while also adding a whole new chapter to the Shining saga. Moreover, King fans may find some catharsis with Flanagan’s ending as he recreates a scene many thought missing from the original film.
Director: Mike Flanagan
Starring: Ewan McGregor, Rebecca Ferguson and Kyliegh Curran
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