Doctor Sleep

  • 16 Nov - 22 Nov, 2019
  • Mag The Weekly
  • Reviews

Adapting Stephen King is one thing, writing a spiritual sequel to a Stanley Kubrick movie quite another. Director Mike Flanagan takes on King’s 2013 follow-up novel to The Shining, but adjusts some details to ensure continuity with Kubrick’s cult 1980 adaptation of the original book. Flanagan hopes vainly that there is still magic and terror to be wrung from the memory of Kubrick’s film, and sends a grown-up Danny Torrance back to the Overlook hotel, which he escaped with his mother, to “wake it up”.

The new material is fresher and considerably more fun. A cult who call themselves the True Knot are hunting children with powers, keeping the ghosts of the little boys and girls they catch in silver canisters. Led by Rebecca Ferguson’s seductive, fearsome Rose the Hat, they eat screams and drink pain in exchange for a longer (if not necessarily eternal) life. In a striking, terrifically creepy image, Rose astral-projects herself into a victim’s bedroom. She flies vertically to her destination, the camera swooping underneath to show her gliding face-down, like a bird.

Doctor Sleep improves when you realise that it is less of a horror film than a melancholy, horror-tinged superhero movie. The True Knot decides that its next meal will consist of Abra (the charismatic Kyliegh Curran), a 13-year-old girl who has been in telepathic contact with Dan who is an alcoholic like his father. And, as reluctant as he is to get involved, he accepts that he alone can take her off the Knot’s menu. At this stage, the plot comes down to the battle between two secret societies of code-named superhuman outsiders, so it has much in common with the X-Men franchise, 2017’s Logan in particular. The film moves between the cult, the adult Danny, now going by Dan (Ewan McGregor, behind a bushy beard), and Abra. It takes a little while for their stories to intersect.

If Doctor Sleep does well at the box office, it may lead to a spate of explicit sequels and spin-offs set in the ‘King-verse’. If they shine as brightly as this warm and well-constructed supernatural thriller, that wouldn’t be a bad thing.