DOCTOR SLEEP is based on the Stephen King’s 2013 novel, that follows what happens after THE SHINING, which was made into the Stanley Kubrick horror classic of the same name with Jack Nicholson, who declined to appear in this sequel. Flanagan is an American filmmaker. He is best known for his horror films, all of which he directed, wrote, and edited including Absentia (2011), Oculus (2013), Hush, Before I Wake, Ouija: Origin of Evil (all 2016), Gerald’s Game (2017), and Doctor Sleep (2019).
It is 2011, sometime after escaping the Overlook Hotel, Danny Torrance, (now all grown up into Ewan McGregor and now known as just Dan) and his mother Wendy live in Florida. He escapes his alcoholism though still scarred by his experiences at the hotel. Danny is taught by the ghost of Dick Hallorann to lock such ghosts in imaginary “boxes” in his mind. Meanwhile, a cult of quasi-immortals known as the True Knot, led by Rose the Hat, feed on “steam” produced by the dying moments of people with the Shining ability to slow their aging. She recruits a teenage girl called Snakebite Andi into the cult after observing her ability to telepathically control people.
In a small town, Dan befriends Billy Freeman, who gets him a job and becomes his AA sponsor. Dan uses his Shine abilities to comfort dying patients, who give him the nickname “Doctor Sleep” where the film title is derived from. The film’s main story which now moves to 2019 involves his dealing with Abra Stone, a young girl whose Shining is even more powerful than his and the destruction of The True Knot group.
For those who love THE SHINING, DOCTOR SLEEP pays enough homage to the original film while still keeping it fresh with new scary ideas. There are the familiar scenes of young Danny riding his tricycle in the hotel hallways, the huge gushing of blood from the double closed doors in the hotel and characters that look like the mad Nicholson and frantic Shelley Duvall. Yet, director Flanagan has enough ideas to keep his film original and fresh. The beginning sequence where Rose the Hat entices a little girl with flowers is the film’s scariest and creepiest scene. No other scene in the film tops this one. The film has a solid climatic showdown.
DOCTOR SLEEP lacks jump scares, which are basically cheap scares that often make no sense to the plot or story but annoyingly scares audiences out of their seats. I hate these. Lacking these, DOCTOR SLEEP rises itself over cheap horror flicks like THE CONJURING series. DOCTOR SLEEP works like an action horror film, that includes a big shootout showdown, western-style. The 45 million budget allows high production values that make the film look great. It runs a full 152 minutes or so, but director Flanagan knows how to build up suspense. It is better to watch suspenseful segments that watching segments with lots of jump scares. (Example IT2).
DOCTOR SLEEP should keep both SHINING fans and horror fans satisfied.