Peter Straub, the American novelist, once said “Occasionally..what you have to do is go back to the beginning and see everything in a new way.” This quote was clearly felt while watching Doctor Sleep, the sequel to The Shinning. The movie is about an adult Danny Torrance going back to the Overlook Hotel. He must confront his past demons, all the while, protecting a girl with similar powers from a vampire-like cult that feeds off of people with “The Shining”, or psychic powers.
Now, what is meant by the quote at the beginning is that The Shining was the first horror movie I ever saw. Therefore, it holds an important place in my heart. It’s brilliance is why I’m so obsessed with horror movies. The first haunted house I ever experienced was based on the movie as well, so it is has strong connection to a lot of first horror experiences for me. This film is filled with tons of callbacks to the original Stanley Kubrick film from the little references to the iconic scenes such as the return of the ghosts (excluding that bizarre bear/dog creature) and the blood elevator. Prepare to squeal in excitement, Shining fans!
We actually don’t get to the Overlook until the final act. However, the wait is totally worth it since you get so invested in the characters and how well they are being played. This is unlike most horror movies where the characters are jerks and you ironically want the killer to prevail. Ewan McGregor is excellent as Danny, but Kyliegh Curran as Abra is really the star of the show. That kid is hopefully going places and let’s wait and see if she gets many more projects since she was amazing. Both Carl Lumbly and Alex Essoe as Dick Halloran and Danny’s mother, Wendy, respectively did a great job at accurately portraying the roles done by Scatman Crothers and Shelley Duvall back in the first movie.
However, it’s a bit of a shame that Jack Nicholson couldn’t come back to play Jack Torrance as a ghost at the hotel, or in flashbacks. Henry Thomas, who played him, did a commendable job, even though he had MASSIVE shoes to fill. It doesn’t really feel the same without Nicholson, you know? The cult was absolutely terrifying and it’s interesting how similar they are to vampires since they feed off of “steam”, which is basically the souls of their victims instead of blood like a traditional vampire. It felt like a welcome change compared to the sparkly mess we got in the Twilight films, even if this cult wasn’t made up of actual vampires but those that acted like them instead.
It all feels like a love letter to Kubrick’s original film and I was like an adult re-watching the Harry Potter movies and looking at Hogwarts with the same awe we felt as kids when we FINALLY get to the Overlook. Also, not to give spoilers, but the fans of the original Shining book will like the callback to the ending. This film is also a great continuation of the first film, which is not something you see often in movies these days. Next to the two parts of the remake of IT and the first film, this movie is one of the best ever adaptations of a Stephen King book.
The movie used some of the same shots from the Kubrick film and had great camera direction in homage to the first movie. There were even no jump scares unlike the horror movies of today that rely on them constantly, which was a major relief. All upcoming films in the horror genre should take notes from Doctor Sleep and study it in labs to make a good movie. With some good writing, acting, directing, and so on, nightmares can come true if you don’t add in so many jump scares or go overboard with gore. It’s as simple as that and so many people forget about that all the time.
The theme of facing one’s demons is very important to Danny’s arc and it’s a very good arc since not many people wish to confront them. He was a bit afraid to do it at first before eventually coming to terms with them later in the film. Abra also learns this and how her powers work as the film goes on, connecting their arcs into one big story.
All in all, this is really an excellent movie for horror and Stephen King fans.