Image: Ewan McGregor as Danny Torrance in Doctor Sleep © Property of Warner Bros. [Source: IMDB]
Following the events of “The Shining” – Danny Torrance (Ewan McGregor) now all grown up deals with the struggle of his PTSD as well as his inherent ability to ‘Shine’. But he soon discovers he is not alone. A rogue group of semi-immortal shine hunters who feed off the ability however small in humans track down an immensely powerful young girl, who happens to be psychic pen pals with Doc. The pair work together to save her but must venture to the darkest depths of their troubles to overcome their adversaries.
Director: Mike Flanagan. Starring: Ewan McGregor, Rebecca Ferguson, Kyliegh Curran, Zahn McClarnon 
It’s well documented that Stephen King pretty much hates Kubrick’s The Shining. Purely down for its (what I’m told) large deviations from the book. So going into Doctor Sleep I wondered how much was this film going to leave a bad taste in my mouth. Is this going to be King’s revenge, to hide the first film with a sequel that returned everything to the book? And then how do you even follow a film with the gravitas of The Shining! A film that has become monumental in pop culture and horror cinema.
Thankfully Flanagan has not just pandered to King’s books at what I would only guess to be his behest. But he has instead done his best (again from what I’m told) to merge the two. Now as a lover of The Shining film this poses some issues as a follow up to such a titan of film, and I will be talking about the film from that context – rather than as someone with any knowledge of the books. Right out the gate, the film has a pungent B-Movie aesthetic, the cinematography over-saturated to give a darker hue and grainer feel. Perhaps to capture that 70s magic – but instead, it looks like discount store horror.
I’m also not one for wanting tried and true actors in every possible role, preferring the unknowns to give characters more life outside of their actors. But the casting here also feels awkward, the ragtag crew of the Knot cult looks like something out of budget horror films with over costumed characters to mask the poor acting talent and awkward camera presence (this is why screen tests exist). But the ragtag crew isn’t all bad, outside of the ham-fisted flamboyancy of the main antagonist introduction. Rebecca Furgeson takes to the role nicely and gives quite the commanding performance. Equally great is older Danny Torrance, Ewan McGregor driving much of the on-screen attention – not to be confused with the flakey recast young Danny, as well as his mother and father and just about any part of the first movie recreated.
It all feels artificial and not in a horror, uneasy feeling – intended kind of way. It comes across as robotic like a haunted house at a child theme park, the film even goes so far to remove one of the most psychologically subtle nauseating things about the original. The fact that the structure of the hotel made no sense. This being the most paramount issue with the film, its over-reliance on the original movie and what made it great. That is not to say I didn’t like that the story ended up there, in fact, I loved that the narrative was stellar, it was a heart of darkness journey for Danny Torrance. The plot orchestrated superbly and when things get going you can really pick up on the subtext of the film and all the things the original Shining may have been about (no not the fake apollo moon landing).
So while the story and narrative are told wonderfully and is what grips you throughout the picture. Aside from the frankly over baked plotline of a cult of shining eating immortal bad guys. Which is where the film falters heavily, in its goofy B-movie style cinematography, casting, acting, performances and scene structures. A moment or two of shots not cutaway soon enough to skip awkwardly acted scenes that look like they belong more on the stage. Doctor Sleep does do very well in following The Shining when it comes to its narrative but sadly still pales in comparison and feels very much like an afterthought (not trying to cast shade on Stephen King here but if the shoe fits).