Having had that horrid, traumatic experience at the Overlook Hotel in his childhood, Danny Torrance (Ewan McGregor) is all grown up now and has managed to put the past behind him. That is until he meets a teenage girl with similar “shining” powers to him named Abra (Kyliegh Curran). Abra is being pursued by Rose the Hat (Rebecca Ferguson), the leader of a cult that feeds on children with special powers, and Danny is the only one who can save her.
Director Mike Flanagan is far from a stranger to horror. He is in fact one of the best directors working in the genre today. Flanagan previously directed ‘Oculus’, ‘Ouija: Origin of Evil’, ‘Hush’ and ‘Gerald’s Game’ (another Stephen King adaptation, interestingly). His most acclaimed work to date is the highly revered Netflix series ‘The Haunting of Hill House’. If anyone was going to be up to the task of following up Stanley Kubrick’s ‘The Shining’, it was going to be Flanagan, and the director-editor does an exquisite job at providing not only a satisfactory sequel, but one that refuses to use the original as a crutch while still integrating it appropriately.
Ewan McGregor makes for an amicable lead while Kyliegh Curran delivers an impressive debut. Arguably though, the film belongs to Rebecca Ferguson whose turn as Rose is fabulous, supplying one of the best horror movie villains of recent years (sorry Pennywise, but you really let us down in Chapter 2). The plot essentially divides into three trajectories following the main characters and while the antagonist’s storyline is typically the weakest, in this case the audience is consistently enthralled as we alter between the characters.
The look and feel of ‘Doctor Sleep’ is fascinating and there’s a penetrable depth of space created by the production design (Maher Ahmad – ‘Zombieland’) and cinematography by Michael Fimognari, who also did ‘Hill House’. As with Flanagan’s previous works, there’s a gradual build-up of dread with the horror coming suddenly and violently, but infrequently. It’s not a straight-up scare fest either for as with ‘Hill House’, there are some heart-breaking scenes in there too, such as one involving a cat and a hospital bed.
Pacing wise, it is a slow burner and is probably a little more dragged out and self-indulgent than necessary. The final battle gets a bit silly too but the ending feels fitting and poignant. For the majority, it’s a thrilling, riveting watch and an accomplishment given the task that was in it.