By Bradley Lane
Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining is simultaneously one of the most horrifying films and one of, if not the most, iconic horror films ever put to celluloid. The idea of making a direct sequel to that film feels almost sacrilegious to a lot of Kubrick and horror fans. Making a sequel to The Shining also presents a unique challenge, in how embedded the imagery of that film is within modern popular culture. Even if you haven’t seen the original, you recognize the twins at the end of the hall, the tricycle ride, the elevator full of blood and Jack Nicholson’s iconic, “Here’s Johnny!” This is all to say director Mike Flannigan had his work cut out for him in adapting Stephen King’s follow-up to The Shining into a feature film. It forces Flannigan to attempt to balance adapting King’s source material while simultaneously creating a sequel to Kubrick’s The Shining, which is drastically different to King’s version.
Flannigan’s Doctor Sleep picks up on an adult Danny Torrance as he struggles to handle the psychological toll of the shining. It follows Danny struggling with his own psychic powers, in addition to being trust into a protective role for another person experiencing her developing powers. Even at her young age Abra Stone is immensely powerful and because of this, she attracts the attention of a group of hunters that feed on shine sensitive children.
In a word, Doctor Sleep is, hollow. Apart from the interesting direction Danny’s character takes in Doctor Sleep, the themes, messaging and tone of The Shining are abandoned by this sequel. By no means do I think the filmmakers should have tried to just recreate the original, but an action shoot-out in the woods is just so tonally at odds with the original, it makes you wonder why they even bothered making it a sequel to that film at all.
That question is later answered by the film’s third act, spent in its entirety at the Overlook Hotel. It is an almost deplorable sequence that again and again, visually references the iconic scares from The Shining while completely ignoring the context they existed in that makes that movie so disturbing. This is made even worse in flashback sequences where Flannigan goes so far as to re-shoot sequences from The Shinning using a look-a-like cast.
The film starts promisingly enough with a smart, if not contrived, character study of an adult Danny, and then slowly gets worse and worse until its third act becomes nearly unwatchable. Doctor Sleep is the worst kind of reboot/sequel/revival, the kind that exists to make money off the back of a much better film. -2/5 stars