Film Review: Doctor Sleep

12:17 November 13, 2019
By: Fritz Esker

Doctor Sleep, the sequel to Stephen King's hit novel The Shining (which resulted in an iconic 1980 horror film by Stanley Kubrick), starts off strongly but fizzles at the end of its 151 minute running time.

Ewan McGregor plays an adult Danny Torrance. Unlike his father (played by Jack Nicholson in the original), he has successfully battled his alcoholism. When he moves to a small New Hampshire town, he develops a psychic connection with 13-year-old Abra (Kyliegh Curran). We're also introduced to a traveling band of psychic vampires (led by a memorably sinister Rebecca Ferguson), who prey on children who can "shine" like Danny and Abra.

For about 2/3 of the running time, the film (written and directed by Mike Flanagan) admirably follows its own path instead of just paying fan service to The Shining and repeating its plot beats. That's a common mistake in the recent trend of long-distance sequels: copying the basic story arc of the original decades later instead of doing something new (Blade Runner 2049 is the best example of a film that avoided this trap and felt like a real continuation of the story/universe). Unfortunately, when the film moves to the Overlook Hotel for its final act, it all fizzles and just feels like a warmed over version of stuff we've seen before.

Doctor Sleep is at its best when it has the confidence to be its own movie, but it sadly cannot maintain that confidence through its unsatisfying conclusion.

★★½ stars (out of four)

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