Flanagan has turned King’s novel into a feature in its own right
Calling Doctor Sleep a sequel to The Shining would be bitingly unfair. Inhabiting the same world, with just a minute number of the same characters, albeit in very different forms, the film is very much a story of its own, despite its occasional hark-back to Stanley Kubrick’s masterpiece of 1980. Both are of course based on Stephen King novels, but in both spirit and personality, the films are entirely different entities.
In 2011, Danny Torrance (Ewan McGregor) is trying to run away from himself, and his past. Struggling with alcohol addiction, a new friend Billy (Cliff Curtis) sets him up with accommodation, looking to get him back on his feet. As time moves on, Danny comes to terms with his special abilities he called ‘the shining’, something only a limited number of those in the same world are in tune with. However, a group, led by Rosie (Rebecca Ferguson) use their powers selfishly and violently, chasing down the young, unable to fully embrace their powers, taking advantage of their naivety. Searching the entirety of the United States, Danny and Rosie’s paths cross through the discovery of Abra (Kyliegh Curran), an impossibly powerful young girl, living on the East coast.
Setting out a clear path for Doctor Sleep, Director Mike Flanagan has made the piece his own; taking inspiration from Kubrick’s masterpiece, but nothing more, as the film becomes an entirely modern story with a love for new ideas, and fresh ways of looking at film making. Much less a horror than its predecessor, Doctor Sleep doesn’t use that as an excuse to shy away from the more vicious and harrowing moments, as, if anything, it makes them even more brutal. Flanagan has turned King’s novel into a feature in its own right, that opens up to the past when needed, rather than anything that could be dubbed ‘The Shining 2’.
Ewan McGregor and Rebecca Ferguson run the production in a wonderfully wicked and magical way, with a real love of social politics and exploring science fiction ideas. Doctor Sleep is often an adventure film, or a coming of age story more than it could be labelled a horror. It’s surprising nature is certainly refreshing, adding to the idea that this is a unique piece of film making.
The story would perhaps drift away were its Shining links not readily available, but Flanagan has created a great production with genuine value, and those links are there. It’s absorbing and thoughtful, with a fresh look at the Shining universe, Doctor Sleep becomes a fascinating piece that adds more to its predecessor than would perhaps have been first expected.
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