Directed by: Mike Flanagan
Written by: Mike Flanagan
Starring: Ewan McGregor, Rebecca Ferguson, Jacob Tremblay, Zahn McClarnon & Bruce Greenwood
Rating: R (for disturbing and violent content, some bloody images, language, nudity and drug use)
Runtime: 151 minutes
Genre: Horror, Drama
Studio: Warner Bros.
If you’re like me, you’ve lost more hours of sleep than you’re comfortable admitting lying in bed pondering the simple question “What ever became of that little boy in The Shining?” Believe it or not, Stephen King actually gave us the answer in 2013’s Doctor Sleep, the official follow-up to his beloved novel.
Even if you’ve never seen Stanley Kubrick’s masterful 1980 adaptation of said novel, chances are you’re familiar with at least a few of the iconic images and/or lines that have been referenced in pop culture on an endless loop over the last four decades. In the current golden age of Stephen King movies, it was only a matter of time until Doctor Sleep got its time to shine on the silver screen. Trepidation inevitably possesses passionate moviegoers whenever Hollywood revisits a sleeping classic. Rest assured, nerds. Thanks to The Haunting of Hill House and Gerald’s Game director Mike Flanagan, this particular cinematic universe woke up on the right side of the bed.
Like Kubrick’s film before it, Doctor Sleep clocks in at nearly two-and-a-half hours. Unlike The Shining, however, Sleep boasts a much denser narrative with a lot more characters and Flanagan takes his sweet time building up all of it; we go at least an hour without the inciting incident. While this would raise eyebrows during most movies, Doctor Sleep always kept me invested with fascinating worldbuilding, striking imagery, genuinely emotional moments throughout and a phenomenal cast despite delivering a shorthanded final act.
After a brief prologue set shortly after the events of that fateful winter, Doctor Sleep skips ahead decades where we catch back up with a now middle-aged Danny Torrence (Ewan McGregor) who’s adopted the life of a omni-sloshed vagrant in hopes of culling his so-called “shine” and outrunning the nightmarish parade of restless spirits that it attracts.
Eventually the one-time resident of the now-defunct Overlook Hotel sobers up and lands a steady gig as an orderly at a hospice house. He quickly earns the nickname “Dr. Sleep” among the dying residence, whom he comforts during their passage from this life to the next. These are the quietest scenes in the film, but they are also some of the most memorable thanks largely to McGregor’s restrained but powerful performance. You can tell Danny cares about people and making the world a better place. Doctor Sleep is a sneakily sentimental film, maybe even more than it is scary, and McGregor is the strong heart through which all of that endearing sentimentality flows.
Flanagan has always demonstrated a sharp eye for young talent and Doctor Sleep is no exception. Thirteen-year-old newcomer Kyliegh Curran is a revelation as Abra, a young girl with an unparalleled Shine who Danny takes under his wing.
As if insatiable spirits and psychic kids weren’t weird enough, Doctor Sleep introduces an ancient race of vampiric hippies who refer to themselves as the True Knot. Under the guidance of their fearless leader Rose the Hat (Rebecca Ferguson), the Knot travel across the country, feeding off the life energy of those who possess the Shine. Inevitably, the Knot learn of Abra’s Shine and quickly make her their next target.
As with his heroes, Flanagan puts a premium on his villains. We learn about some of the members of the Knot as well as the group’s history and motivation while being kept at just enough of a distance for them that they still come across as unsettling and mysterious threat. Swedish actor Rebecca Ferguson gives us some of her best work yet as Rose the Hat, despite a handful of noticeable slip-up’s in her American accent. Like Danny and Abra, Rose feels like a fleshed out character and through her performance, Ferguson gives us glimpses at the shards of humanity and vulnerability hiding beneath an otherwise proud persona.
When it comes to Doctor Sleep, it’s all about the journey Flanagan takes you on with these characters and not so much the ultimate destination. When the film finally arrives at the final showdown, it’s tough not to be excited by the prospect of a supernatural slobber-knocker set inside the abandoned Overlook Hotel. It was to my disappointment then that Flanagan virtually skips over his own conflict for the sake of dully recreating some of the most iconic moments from Kubrick’s The Shining. Fortunately, everything up to that point is nothing short of mesmerizing.
⭐️⭐️⭐️1/2 (out of five)
Have you had a chance yet to check out Doctor Sleep? If so, what did you think? Did you enjoy yourself? Float down to the comments section below and share your impressions! I want to hear from you!