“Doctor Sleep” is a Slow Burn, but an Emotionally Satisfying Sequel

Another Stephen King adaptation makes its way to theaters with Warner Bros. release of “Doctor Sleep”

Joshua Letona, News Editor

Stephen King notoriously hated director Stanley Kubrick’s adaptation of “The Shining,” calling it “too cold” and saying there was “no sense of emotional investment in the family” in a 2006 interview with The Paris Review. Now, director Mike Flanagan hopes to bridge the visions of Kubrick and King in the almost 40-year later sequel “Doctor Sleep.”

Following the events of “The Shining,” Danny Torrance (Ewan McGregor) is all grown up, but is still dealing with the traumatic experience he had at the Overlook Hotel. When Danny begins to use his “shine” again, a telepathic power he’s had since childhood, he connects with a young girl named Abra (Kyliegh Curran) who possesses an incredibly powerful shine. They attract the attention of Rose the Hat (Rebecca Ferguson) and her followers who feed off the power Danny and Abra have. It’s up to Danny to protect Abra and face his past once again.

“Doctor Sleep” will be a film for die-hard fans of “The Shining.” The film builds on the larger mythos set up in the original by exploring what exactly it means to shine and what it can do. This becomes the crux of the film as it veers into very strange places regarding the larger universe King is known for in his books. This may steer some viewers away as the film is not a horror movie, but instead a slow-burn thriller with some sci-fi elements.

Like its predecessor, both films gladly take their time to build its characters and setting. Flanagan spends a lot of time developing Rose the Hat as a compelling villain, which is partly as good as it is thanks to Ferguson’s performance. She remains charming yet sadistic and you just can’t keep your eyes off her when she’s on screen.

Ewan McGregor also remains one of Hollywood’s greatest talents with a subtle performance. Making Danny Torrance an alcoholic and drug addict puts the character in line with his father in the original film, but as the film goes on, Flanagan explores the process of healing and dealing with trauma in a smart and convincing way. McGregor can appear vulnerable in his roles, making Danny another beautiful and moving performance.

Some of the points where the film slips are its handling of secondary characters. Either by not giving them enough development or failing to close their character arcs. However, Rose’s followers do come across as menacing and become a real threat for Danny and Abra.

While the film boasts solid performances, it’s the story that will test audiences. Flanagan has attempted to tell a more contemplative piece. The film bridges the ideas of Kubrick and King, growing to tell an emotionally satisfying story. There’s plenty of ties to “The Shining,” but the film isn’t as concerned with that as it carves out its own identity. “Doctor Sleep” is absolutely a sequel, but is perfectly fine on its own.

The film builds on its predecessor and comes into its own as another solid King adaptation, even if it may not be what audiences are expecting.