Doctor Sleep15¦ 4K UHD, Blu-ray, DVD
In 1977, author Stephen King wrote his third book The Shining. Much like his first book Carrie, it was swiftly adapted for the big screen, and released in 1980, starring Jack Nicholson and Shelley Duvall, and directed by the legendary Stanley Kubrick.
Of course both book and film went on to become classics, and are prime examples of an author and a director at their best.
In 2013, King decided it was time to revisit the themes of his original, and more specifically, catch up on young Danny Torrance, to find out what kind of man he became. And so Doctor Sleep was born.
American director Mike Flanagan was certainly a brave soul in not only adapting a Stephen King book, but also following in the unfollowable footsteps of Kubrick, with his sequel to an all-round classic.
Many children have bad experiences growing up, but Dan Torrance’s were next level stuff. Strange, horrific things took place in the Overlook Hotel he lived in with his family, that have haunted him ever since.
Now an adult, living alone, Dan (Ewan McGregor) finds that he’s drinking himself into oblivion on a regular basis, just to numb his past.
To attempt a clean, fresh start, he moves to Frazier, a sleepy town in New Hampshire. Just as he begins finding his feet, Dan starts to experience telepathic messages from a young girl by the name of Abra (Kyliegh Curran).
He soon realises that she’s uniquely powerful, to the point where it now puts her in danger. She’s been seeing visions of the murder of young children in her head, as well as the perpetrators behind them. Unfortunately for her, this group, known as the True Knot, aren’t exactly human, feeding off the fear that comes from killing children as they do. And to make matters worse, their leader Rose the Hat (Rebecca Ferguson), is aware of Abra’s presence, and is keen on making her acquaintance.
Dan knows that not only will he have to tap into his psychic powers again if he has any hope of helping Abra, but he will also have to check-in to where all his nightmares began.
Considering the sheer size of the task at hand, director Flanagan has done impressively well, for this is no easy sequel job. Not only do you have the fact that many consider Kubrick’s original a classic, there’s also the small matter of Kubrick going with a different ending to King’s.
Somehow though, Flanagan does enough to satisfy both camps. And if King gives his seal of approval, which he most surely did, then he must have gotten something right.
Its mix of both worlds is most definitely the key. The narrative is fairly faithful to King’s follow-up, but Flanagan pays visual homage to Kubrick’s work, mostly in tasteful flashbacks, as we revisit the infamous Overlook Hotel and some of its memorable characters.
And although the film isn’t a heightened horror experience, particularly as the story has shifted to a pseudo vampyric theme - with Ferguson and her ‘steam’– stealing gang - there’s enough here to maintain a veritable chill throughout.
The cast do admirably too, considering the impact of the cast from the original, with newcomer Curran showing no fear at all with a performance that knocks it clear out of the park.
If it were an unofficial sequel, then there’s every chance it would have been a dud. But as it comes from the pages of the King of horror himself, it was clear that a cinematic sequel wouldn’t be far behind. And although you wouldn’t necessarily think Flanagan had the right pedigree for the job, with only a few B movie horror titles to his name, his passion for the project shines through.
Doctor Sleep is the perfect prescription for all those with a curiosity for what happened to poor little Dan Torrance. Does it hold a candle to Kubrick’s original? Perhaps not. But it’s clear that the filmmakers hold his vision in high reverence, with no intention to attempt to better it.
Considering how every aspect of this project must have been a challenge, Flanagan has produced a film that both acknowledges its exceptional roots, as well as show some bravery by putting its own stamp on proceedings with the sequel. In doing so, it makes it an exceptionally executed extension to the original, as written by King, and therefore the perfectly chilling companion piece.
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