“Doctor Sleep” Review: Flanagan hits it out of the park, even with high expectations

By Jake Ditto

Ewan McGregor in 'Doctor Sleep.' Photo courtesy of Jessica Miglio.

After watching “Doctor Sleep,” I can confidently say that Mike Flanagan is the best horror director today.  

“Doctor Sleep” is the sequel to “The Shining” and shows an adult Danny Torrance who has become an alcoholic struggling to better himself. While this is happening a group of powerful people, known as True Knot, are killing and feasting on young children who can shine, like Torrance. Torrance finds himself needing to protect one young girl who is the next target of the True Knot. 

When I found out that Stephen King was wrote a sequel to “The Shining,” I was confused and didn’t know if it would be necessary. My skepticism only grew when it was announced that a film adaptation would be made of King’s sequel “Doctor Sleep.”  

But then I saw that Mike Flanagan was directing it. Flanagan is known for making the movies “Oculus, “Ouija: Origin of Evil” and “Geralds Game.” But his crowning achievement was creating and directing the Netflix show “The Haunting of Hill House,” which became my favorite show since “Breaking Bad.” So once I saw this, I became very excited for the film, even though I was still worried about it, considering “The Shining” is my all-time favorite horror movie.  

After seeing “Doctor Sleep” I cannot applaud Flanagan enough. What I found the most interesting about this film is how Flanagan gives an equal amount of respect to King and “The Shining” director Stanley Kubrick. The reason I say this is because it is widely known that when Kubrick made the “The Shining,” he almost entirely changed every aspect of the film, only keeping the bare bones story and characters, which made King furious. Flanagan takes the story King made and makes it feel like the sequel “The Shining” film deserved.   

I can see why people might not enjoy this film, though, and it mainly has to do with Flanagan’s directing style. When he is directing a movie, he does not rely on jump scares to create horror, but rather uses dark themes, suspense and disturbing imagery to create the horrific elements. A lot of audience members only consider jump scares scary, but when horror is made the way Flanagan makes it, it is far more rewarding. It is also far more challenging to do it this, because for a jump scare all you need to do is shock with a loud noise. While this film isn’t anywhere near the scariest film ever made, I love that Flanagan did not change his style for the biggest project of his career.  

The performances in the film are all great. Ewan Mcgregor portrays Donny Torrance and depicts convincingly damaged and vulnerable man. Rebecca Ferguson plays the main antagonist, Rose the Hat, who is now one of my favorite antagonists in a Stephen King story. The stuff the character does in this film was disturbing, and Ferguson added great energy to the role. But the most surprising performance came from Kyliegh Curran. She portrays the young girl Abra Stone who the True Knot is after. She gives the best child performance I have seen since Jacob Tremblay in “Room.” Curran was radiating with confidence and whit and was a joy to watch.  

The film is disturbing and very graphic. The thing that makes it so disturbing is that all the violence in the film revolves around children. And when I say that the violence towards children is disturbing, I mean that the way children are tortured in this film is something from a nightmare. It was very risky to do what was done here, but it really added to how merciless Rose the Hat and the rest of the True Knot was.  

When making a sequel to such a beloved film like “The Shining,” fan service is inevitable. A lot of sequels and remakes suffer from including too much fan service that slaps you in the face with blatancy. It can be lazy and not add much to the film, but the fan service in “Doctor Sleep” is so satisfying. The reason for this because of how little of it there is. Flanagan will recreate certain shots and play the score from “The Shining” over those shots. Seeing this brought a giant smile to my face, rather than making me cringe like in other movies.  

While I love this film, I do have one major issue. In the beginning, there is a lot of time dedicated to Emily Alyn Lind’s character Snakebite Andi. Andi is the newest member of the True Knot, and with the amount of time dedicated to her in the beginning, I thought she would be far more important to the story. She unfortunately falls through the cracks and ends up just being there. The same can be said for most of the True Knot, except for Rose the Hat.  

For Flanagan to try and make this film better than “The Shining” would have been impossible, considering Kubrick is the greatest film maker of all time. I don’t think there will ever be a horror film that will be able to top what Kubrick did. Flanagan came out and made something of his own, something that should be celebrated. Flanagan has consistently made great horror films and he does it again here. 

Grade: A- 

Story by Jake Ditto



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