Doctor Sleep Review
There are few directors as iconic as Stanley Kubrick. There are few Stanley Kubrick films as iconic as The Shining. Everyone knows it. Everyone except myself that is. But that hasn’t stopped me from getting hyped by the trailers and promos for Mike Flanagan’s 39 years in the waiting sequel Doctor Sleep. As a Stephen King fan, I was amazed at the success of the novel when it was released back in 2013 and I’m pleased to say that fans of the original will be equally as amazed by Flanagan’s mind-bending follow-up.
Dan Torrance (Ewan McGregor), finally moving on from the traumatic events that went down at the Overlook hotel several decades later but struggling with the same anger and alcohol issues as his father, has his semblance of peace broken after being found by powerful young ‘shiner’ Abra (Kyliegh Curran). As one of the most powerful ‘shiners’, she’s caught the interest of The True Knot, a group of wandering dark psychics led by the devilishly compelling Rose the Hat (Rebecca Ferguson). Just as The True Knot is intent on finding and devouring Abra she, too, is hell bent on stopping the groups murderous rein and she needs Dan’s help, more than she knows it.
After a shaky start that sees the film rushing back into the ghostly goings-on at the Overlook before speeding through several other times and spaces, the film kicks into gear as the main conflict comes into play. From this point on, Flanagan expertly balances each thread of the story. This is especially interesting in terms of Rose the Hat’s narrative; we are allowed to spend enough time with her and her group to the point that she becomes less of nemesis of Abra and Dan’s and more of an anti-hero. She is someone who will go to any length to safeguard her family and preserve their lifestyle (albeit one that is incredibly villainous to say the least).
Despite Dan being the guide for the audience, leading them from the Overlook to the small town of Frazier, the film is ultimately shared between Abra and Rose. Played by Kyliegh Curran and Rebecca Ferguson respectively, they give some incredibly compelling performances. Every scene featuring the two of them is the finest scene of the film; often some of the most psychedelic sequences of the film, it’s hard tear your eyes away from them even as the world flips upside down and violence gets gory. Though only her debut feature film, Curran is assured and subtle, not only matching but arguably out-shining both McGregor and Ferguson and is certainly one to keep your eye on.
Visually the film is riddled with nods to the Kubrickian style; frames are symmetrical but noticeably ever so slightly off the more you look at it and fluid tracking shots are found in plenty. But Flanagan, with cinematographer Michael Fimognari, brings a unique feel to the film. Specifically in the trippy shots where we get a better glimpse at the powers of the shining. Add to this the phenomenal original score by The Newton Brothers, that effortlessly pulls out every emotion from dread to relief, and you have a film that sets itself apart in the horror genre.
Flanagan rightly calls Doctor Sleep “a descendant not a sequel” to The Shining; thoroughly enjoyable to those new to the classic horror and undoubtedly more so to both casual and die-hard fans, it is a confident sequel that is full to the brim with strong visuals and satisfying callbacks to the original.
Doctor Sleep is released in UK cinemas on Thursday October 31st