Review: 'Doctor Sleep' Shines as the Next Chapter in King's Saga

Gillian Anderson ’23 / Emertainment Monthly Movies Assistant Editor
Doctor Sleep is a sequel to The Shining that is based on Stephen King’s novel of the same name and is directed by Mike Flanagan. The movie is centered around an adult Dan Torrance (Ewan McGregor) and a teenage girl, Abra Stone (Kyliegh Curran), who also has powers, called the shining. Meanwhile, a group of people called The True Knot, led by Rose The Hat (Rebecca Ferguson), travel cross country hunting and feeding on other kids who shine. When The True Knot discovers Abra, she and Dan use their powers to stay alive and try and defeat The True Knot.
Doctor Sleep is a success in more ways than one. Most basically, it is a solid movie with great performances by a stellar cast. McGregor leads the cast with a well-acted and convincing performance as a grown-up Dan Torrance, who struggles to rise up from a low point in his life. Curran as 13-year-old Abra is especially prominent in the cast. Talented young actors can be hard to find, but Curran shows her potential throughout the movie and gives a performance that avoided corniness and ended up standing out between the adult actors. Ferguson is also phenomenal, giving the audience a performance that is very different from her roles in movies like The Greatest Showman and the Mission: Impossible franchise. Ferguson’s Rose The Hat is chilling and evil as she tries to hunt down Abra.

Kyliegh Curran and Rebecca Ferguson in Doctor Sleep. Photo credit: Warner Bros.
Along with great performances, Doctor Sleep is well-paced and has an adequate runtime for what it is tackling. The movie takes its time, in the beginning, to set up the story, without the cost of a rushed third act. Instead, it takes its time and tells the story thoroughly. The movie is never slow and lots of twists keep the movie very engaging for the audience. It is visually stunning as well. The recreation of the Overlook Hotel is more than impressive and the recreation of the scenes from Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining further adds to the story. Seeing other actors replace the originals might come off as cheesy at first but ends up being part of what makes Doctor Sleep special.
On another level, Doctor Sleep achieves its highly ambitious expectations of bringing together three entities: King’s novel of The Shining, Kubrick’s film adaptation, and King’s sequel, Doctor Sleep. Most importantly, this movie bridges the gap between King and Kubrick’s different visions of The Shining. Doctor Sleep addresses issues like the vast differences in plot between both versions. What Kubrick failed to address in his adaptation, Flanagan brings back into his version of Doctor Sleep and re-uses it in his own way. Although his adaptation of Doctor Sleep strays from the plot of the book, it does so for the greater good and in a way that is faithful to King’s own vision. Fans of both versions of The Shining should be pleased with Doctor Sleep, as it makes references to both throughout. It’s clear that Flanagan is passionate and has a deep understanding of each.
Kyliegh Curran and Ewan McGregor in Doctor Sleep. Photo credit: Warner Bros.
Overall, Doctor Sleep achieves what fans of The Shining, especially the novel, have been waiting for. Those skeptical of Flanagan’s ability to merge the two versions of The Shining together will be pleasantly surprised with his ability to create unity. Fans unfamiliar with the multitude of versions of The Shining might find less meaning in the film but should still be entertained by this intense its intensity and action. An impressive cast and well-developed story make Flanagan’s Doctor Sleep a success, even gaining the approval of Stephen King himself.
Overall Grade: A
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