Rating – ★★★★
Upon hearing a sequel was in the works, for what is arguably one of the most influential horror movies of all time, it was met with immediate trepidation. The Shining still remains one of the most talked about films in cinema history. Its subjective themes have sparked many heated discussions, that even nearly 40 years after its release, continues to be dissected and researched by cinephiles, exploring every weird and wonderful element to its incredibly convoluted narrative. This was a cinematic achievement that many would deem to be left alone, especially given its controversial conclusion.
With that being said, there’s plenty to explore and a million questions to be answered. So, will it bring up theories of the past, or create its own path, maybe leaving us with more to debate over the next 40 years?
I’ll start by saying that Doctor Sleep takes some huge risks. Firstly, by following up a movie that has become so influential, it was more than likely to divide viewers opinions before filming even began. Regardless of how you feel about The Shining, there’s no denying the strong footprint it has left on the industry, so taking on the job of continuing this story is not a position many directors would favour.
The film also makes some questionable casting choices. No, I’m not talking about Ewan McGregor’s portrayal of an older Danny Torrance, or Rebecca Ferguson’s creepy on screen appearance as Rose The Hat, but there are some surprise appearances that I’ll avoid going into for the sake of spoilers. Lets just say it was a very ballsy move, that for me actually payed off very well.
Mike Flanagan is still a relatively small name within the film industry. His directing credits include Hush, Oculus and another Stephen King adaptation, Gerald’s Game. All of which were fairly well received, but is that enough to make him the right fit to take on this project? Well, apparently yes. Flanagan confidently showcases his clear talent for the horror genre. He manages to perfectly pay homage to Kubrick’s mesmerising techniques without tarnishing what came before it, whilst also creating something very unique. Doctor Sleep is a visual feast that strongly takes from Kubrick’s original, whilst managing to draw its own inspiration, and that is one of the greatest decisions this movie makes.
It’s widely recorded that Kubrick veered quite far off of the novel, which in many ways makes Flanagan’s job much more challenging. Does he stick with the direction in which Kubrick took the story, or remain more faithful to King’s sequel novel? As was expected, he attempts to do both.
This feels very different to the more thought provoking events played out in The Shining. By keeping more in theme with the book, we get to explore the mysteries that where previously left in the dark. Certainly in its build up (with the exception of some well shot flashbacks), you get the impression you’re watching an entirely different story unfold. Leading to its final act however, everything seems to come back to you with spine chilling nostalgia, in what becomes the movies most ambitious decision making.
Starring alongside Ewan McGregor and Rebecca Ferguson is newcomer Kyliegh Curran. The new kid on the block with the ability to ‘shine’, and that is exactly what she does with her performance of Abra Stone. Her performance becomes the most memorable and going forward, she would be someone to look out for.
Doctor Sleep unsurprisingly comes with an abundance of nods and references to The Shining, some of which are more subtle than others, but it’s a horror fans holy grail. It’s a movie that takes time with its development, but once the ball gets rolling, it draws you into every element with an hypnotic effect. It has to be said that the smartest thing you can do when approaching this next chapter, is to not expect another Shining. Approach it with a clear mind and let Flanagan’s interpretation take you down an unfamiliar road. But to be fully immersed in the experience of one of 2019’s best movies, a recent trip to The Overlook Hotel would be necessary.
Have you seen Doctor Sleep yet? What did you think? Is it a worthwhile follow up to arguably Kubrick’s best work, or was it best left with the pages in a book? Drop a comment below.