Jack Bottomley, Media Correspondent

Review: Doctor Sleep

Since “Dies Irae” first rattled over cinematorium speakers in 1980, the sinister shadow of Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining has lingered across horror and cinema in general. Whether it is Jack Nicholson terrorising Shelly Duvall with an axe through the door or an icy maze of doom, this movie has imprinted on audiences since first being unleashed upon them. Likewise it has somewhat stuck with author Stephen King who wrote the novel the film was - loosely - based on and he has (in what is probably one of cinema trivial most reported facts) made clear his disdain for Kubrick’s movie incarnation.

With this said, who in the right mind would opt to face the unenviable task of in any way following such a legacy? Enter director Mike Flanagan (Oculus, Ouija: Origin of Evil, Netflix’s The Haunting of Hill House) with Doctor Sleep. Not only does Doctor Sleep choose to adapt King’s own 2013 Shining sequel novel of the same name for the big screen but ambitiously aspires to blend it with the big screen story and in turn provide a follow-up to Kubrick’s masterpiece as well. You really have to admire the bravery but does this fusion of two genius visions work? Remarkably it really does...

The film sees a now grown up Danny (Ewan McGregor) still haunted by the memories of surviving his ordeal at the Overlook Hotel with his mother and plagued by alcoholism. But as his life begins to change for the better, he comes to find that his ‘shining’ abilities may be key in saving amazing young girl from some horrifying dangers.

Doctor Sleep is potentially divisive but unafraid to be so, a marriage of Kubrick and King, while somehow still remaining impressively a product of its creator. The interpretations of the classic characters were loving yet distinct, brought to life less with modern tech like de-ageing or CGI and more with good old fashioned acting (Carl Lumbly, Alex Essoe and Henry Thomas filled their iconic parts beautifully), while the fresher aspects and characters largely took over the movie, as the devilish spectre of the Overlook Hotel lingers throughout, waiting to pounce in the film’s horror fan paradise of a finale.

Writer/director Flanagan prioritises character, story and themes, resulting in a narrative that is weird, wild and spiritually consoling in its message, with a chills-inducing Newton Brothers score that keeps the film immersively atmospheric, while the visuals often stun in their supernatural power. Admittedly Doctor Sleep is perhaps not as perplexingly sinister where the actual scares are concerned, and is more of a expansion thematically, with its fear stemming from being forced to revisit an evil past to defeat a most vicious present and protect a hopeful future.

Ewan McGregor is awesome as an adult Danny and a real piece of perfect casting, as he is a real core to the picture, who bridges the timelines of the plot. While young Kyliegh Curran is magnificent as Abra, as is Cliff Curtis as Danny’s supportive friend Billy, and both characters prove so important to Danny and indeed to us. However, Rebecca Ferguson's villain Rose the Hat absolutely swallows up the screen and is a spellbinding creation that deserves to be celebrated as a modern horror icon and surely will be. She stalks this film with every ounce of menace as a Freddy or Pennywise and it is literally impossible to tear your eyes away from her performance. She’s absolutely extraordinary.

Far from flat out replication, this is a meticulous horror film that takes its time developing its own story before sending us spiralling back into our worst nightmares. A real gem and a wicked accomplishment for one of horror’s most exciting creators.

Director: Mike Flanagan
Starring: Ewan McGregor, Rebecca Ferguson, Kyliegh Curran
Release Date: Out Now