It’s been nearly 40 years, but this weekend cinema-goers are heading back to the Overlook Hotel one last time.
Doctor Sleep is the exceptional cinematic sequel to both Stephen King’s novel The Shining and Stanley Kubrick’s drastically different 1980 film adaptation. As has become pop culture lore, King was no fan of Kubrick’s now-classic movie, mainly because of the extreme liberties it took with the source material. King’s novel is the story of a family that falls apart because of Jack Torrance’s demons over the course of their winter at the hotel. The film, as we all know, positions Jack as nearly insane when he and his family arrive at the Overlook, a decision that never played well with the author.
When King published Doctor Sleep in 2013, it served strictly as a sequel to the original novel and ignored everything about the film. Which would make adapting it to film a problematic endeavour, because of the discrepancies between the two mediums. Amazingly, writer/director Mike Flanagan found a way to marry King and Kubrick’s stories in a brilliant manner.
In Doctor Sleep, we meet an adult Dan Torrance, played lovingly by Ewen McGregor. After living a hard, aimless life of drugs and booze, Dan finds salvation and begins working as a hospice worker who helps residents pass over to the other side. He meets a young girl, Abra Stone (an excellent Kyleigh Curran) who has the shining herself, and who becomes the target of the True Knot, a wandering group of supernatural creatures who feed on steam (their name for the shining) led by Rose the Hat (a fantastic Rebecca Ferguson).
I absolutely adored Doctor Sleep, from the performances and the soundtrack to the cinematography and script. As someone who reveres Kubrick’s film, I was genuinely thrilled in awe in being back in that world what felt like such an honest and seamless way. As someone who has an undying love for King’s writings, I was impressed to see so many of the ideas from his book spring to life on the screen. All of this credit must go to Mike Flanagan, who found the right way in to serve two highly regarded masters.
While Doctor Sleep is not as memorably frightening as Kubrick’s original film, it may surpass it when it comes to emotion and genuine storytelling, both hallmarks of King’s writing. When I walked out of the theatre, I knew I wanted to see it again. And probably again after that.
It’s a concept that probably shouldn’t have worked, but Doctor Sleep is a worthy sequel to one of the greatest films of all time.