Doctor Sleep is a slow-moving and but fantastic return to the world of The Shining that relies on a fantastic world-building and atmosphere instead of jump scares.
Director: Mike Flanagan
Summary: Years following the events of “The Shining,” a now-adult Dan Torrance meets a young girl with similar powers as he tries to protect her from a cult known as The True Knot who prey on children with powers to remain immortal.
The Shining is one of the greatest movies ever made and to make that amazing movie director Stanley Kubrick has to take the original novel by Stephen King and change a lot. So it stands to reason that when the sequel to that book got its movie adaptation once again a whole lot of things ended up getting changed. However, Doctor Sleep does very much feel like a sequel to The Shining in all of the ways that count. This time it’s being brought to life by Mike Flanagan and the slow burn is here.
That slow burn is likely going to be the thing that turns off a lot of people from Doctor Sleep. This is not a horror looking to make you jump out of your seat. This is about world-building and atmosphere. This movie wants dread to settle over you and hang there on your shoulders like whale blubber. It doesn’t want you afraid as it wants you uneasy and it stays that way throughout the entire production. It’s the sort of thing that might not appeal to some people but if you’re able to get on its wavelength it’s one hell of a ride.
That ride is anchored by a fantastic cast with the standout being Rebecca Ferguson as the villain Rosie the Hat. Ferguson is a fantastic talent that really came onto the map in Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation. Since then she’s been picking up interesting roles all over the place. In this movie, she takes over every single scene she is in. Ferguson chews on the scenery while also being completely terrifying. The reason Doctor Sleep works is because of the dynamite performance that Ferguson is putting in.
That’s not to say that the protagonists aren’t doing good work either. Ewan McGregor has always been a talented actor but he’s doing something really interesting as the very damaged adult Danny Torrence. We see Danny through multiple times in his life from not long after the events of The Shining to adulthood and how Danny chooses to deal with his trauma. Newcomer Kyliegh Curran is putting in a hell of a performance as Abra Stone. This is not an easy role to have and she plays it effortlessly. There are moments when she is terrifyingly powerful and others where you’re reminded that despite how powerful she is Abra is just a kid.
While the homages to The Shining are good the moments where it really shines, for lack of a better term, are when it focuses on its own world. There are interesting things going on here and while going back to the Overlook Hotel is fun the better moments are the little things like Dan and Abra becoming friends by leaving psychic notes for each other.
Doctor Sleep is not going to be a movie for everyone. It’s slow and for some, that isn’t going to be enough to keep their attention. However, if you’re able to get on its wavelength and understand what everyone is trying to do Doctor Sleep is a different type of horror movie than we usually get for the fall in the best possible way.
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