MOVIE REVIEW: Haunting return to horror classic

 

DOCTOR SLEEP

Three stars

Director: Mike Flanagan

Starring: Ewan McGregor, Rebecca Ferguson, Kyliegh Curran

Rating: MA15

Running time: 152 minutes

Verdict: Haunting second chapter serves two masters

 

THE Overlook Hotel and its malevolent guests make an eleventh-hour appearance in Doctor Sleep, which is being promoted as the next chapter in The Shining story.

And the film adaptation of Stephen King's creepy 2013 novel follows directly on from the events of the previous film - in the prologue, a still-traumatised Danny Torrance and his mother have relocated to Florida in a bid to put as much distance between themselves and their demons as possible.

Tonally and thematically, however, writer-director Mike Flanagan's creepy 152-minute "sequel" bears very little resemblance to its terrifying predecessor.

Ewan McGregor as Danny Torrance in Doctor Sleep.
Ewan McGregor as Danny Torrance in Doctor Sleep.

Stanley Kubrick took his audience to extreme places in his 1977 horror classic. Flanagan is a little more even-handed in his exploration of the afterlife.

Set about three decades after the events in The Shining, Doctor Sleep is primarily occupied by those precious few seconds between life and death.

Once the adult Torrance has successfully overcome his battle with alcoholism - with a helping hand from the always-reliable Cliff Curtis - he finds his calling as a hospice orderly.

Taking the term "graveyard shift" quite literally, Torrance sits with the elderly patients as they take their last breath, soothing them with his other-worldly knowledge.

The messages, written in chalk, that start appearing on the blackboard of his rented attic room almost as soon as he moves in initially amount to little more than cheery small talk.

But when dark supernatural forces begin to gather, they lead him to a feisty teenager named Abra (Kyliegh Curran) with an unusually powerful extrasensory gift or "shine".

Rebecca Ferguson as Rose the Hat in Doctor Sleep.
Rebecca Ferguson as Rose the Hat in Doctor Sleep.

The main villains in Doctor Sleep are not ghosts or ghouls per se, but almost-human creatures that feed on the shine of young children - when it's at its strongest - and which they further purify through pain and terror. The scenes in which these vampiric, quasi-mortals feed on the spirit-mist of innocent youngsters don't have to be particularly graphic to be disturbing.

When Abra psychically witnesses the ritual murder of a young boy (Room's Jacob Tremblay) by members of the True Knot, their merciless leader detects her presence.

Rose the Hat (Rebecca Ferguson) is a fearsome and charismatic adversary, but she underestimates the strength of her young opponent.

When Abra and Torrance lead Rose to The Shining's infamous hotel for the final showdown, the filmmakers have access to its vivid iconography.

Kyliegh Curran and Rebecca Ferguson in Doctor Sleep.
Kyliegh Curran and Rebecca Ferguson in Doctor Sleep.

King has always been very vocal about his disdain for Kubrick's acclaimed adaptation, which he once described as like "a big, beautiful Cadillac with no engine inside it." But Flanagan successfully pays homage to that film while also respecting the author's original vision - particularly in relation to the father-and-son addiction issues and King's clear, supernatural focus.

Doctor Sleep trades the full-on horror of its predecessor for something stranger and more haunting.

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