For filmmakers, making a sequel is difficult—you have to live up to the greatness of the first film, not disappoint the fans and create a plot that adds to the story. Making a sequel to arguably the greatest and most iconic horror film in history is extra difficult.
“Doctor Sleep,” the sequel to Stanley Kubrick’s 1980 film “The Shining” was released this month, adding another movie to the Stephen King universe, and a good sequel to our universe.
As a sequel, “Doctor Sleep” does well. It contains exciting nods to the original film, including music, scenery shots and even a visit to the Overlook Hotel to show off the same psychedelic carpet.
You see Danny Torrance (Ewan McGregor) all grown up and going by Dan, struggling with alcoholism and poverty. He is still haunted by the demonic ghosts (i.e., creepy naked bath lady, creepy little British girls, creepy guy with ax wound to the head) from his past stay at the Overlook Hotel and has no family left to support him.
He takes a bus to a small, friendly town in New Hampshire, looking to run away from himself. As soon as he steps off the bus, his life changes with the help of a new friend, Billy.
Billy helps Dan find a place to live, work and takes him to AA meetings. Eight years pass, and in 2019, Dan is cleaned up, sober and free from the ghosts of his past.
Dan works at a hospice to comfort dying patients using his psychic powers (these powers are referred to as the shining). His happy life doesn’t last long as he runs into another supernatural situation when he meets Abra Stone (up and comer Kyliegh Curran).
Abra is a young girl who can also shine, and is being hunted by the True Knot, an evil child-eating cult. The members have remained eternally young by finding children who shine, then murdering them to feed on the “steam” they produce while dying.
The cult is led by Rose the Hat (Rebecca Ferguson), who discovers Abra’s power and is intent on finding her. Abra and Dan realize they are capable of ending the True Knot, which is when the chase begins.
To add to the pressure of director Mike Flanagan creating a sequel to one of the most iconic horror films ever, Stephen King hated “The Shining” movie.
King wrote the book in 1977; “Doctor Sleep” was written as a sequel in 2013. King calls the film adaption of “The Shining” beautiful, but wasn’t a fan of how the characters in the film were interpreted, or how Kubrick changed details of the plot.
Having not read the book, I can’t speak to the accuracy of the story. But as a horror movie, “Doctor Sleep” hits the mark. The scares aren’t reliant on jump scares (though there are a few), but instead use horrifying imagery and creepy characters.
Since the True Knot kills children, there are a few scenes of child torture that are nearly impossible to watch (the more torture, the more steam produced). The torture was very unsettling, but showcases how truly evil the True Knot members are.
Rose the Hat is truly a disturbing villain, as she does all her grotesque acts with a smile on her face. The climax scene at the Overlook Hotel is a perfect way to tie the two films together and serves as a fulfilling ending to “Doctor Sleep.” The story moves quicker than “The Shining,” and keeps you engaged for the entire 150 minutes of the story as the scenes bounce back and forth from Dan to the True Knot.
For fans of Stephen King and especially “The Shining,” this sequel is fun to watch for the references to the original and the continuation of the story. It’s a good horror movie and story, and the few hours of sitting in the theater fly by. Four stars.