Doctor Sleep Frightens Audiences


Dylan Hostetter, Reporter

Doctor Sleep is the newest book to film adaptation of renowned author Stephen King, it and may be one of the best adaptations yet. Written and directed by Mike Flanagan, known for his work on the hit Netflix show “The Haunting of Hill House,” the film stars Ewan McGregor, best known for starring as Obi-Wan Kenobi in Star Wars Episodes I-III; and Rebecca Ferguson, who starred in Mission Impossible-Fallout; as Dan Torrance and Rose the Hat respectively. 

Doctor Sleep serves as an adaptation of King’s 2013 novel, which was written as a sequel to his 1977 novel “The Shining.” The film also serves as a sequel to Stanley Kubrick’s “The Shining” (1980), a heavily provocative adaptation of King’s work. King has been very forward with his dislike of Kubrick’s treatment of his material, but has voiced his support for Flanagan and Doctor Sleep. Doctor Sleep is the fourth King adaptation of 2019, alongside “Pet Sematary,” “IT Chapter Two,” and “In the Tall Grass.”

The novel “The Shining” is about Jack Torrance, his wife Wendy, and their young son Danny. In the story, the family becomes the winter caretakers of a large Colorado hotel. Danny struggles to understand his psychic powers as his father goes insane with cabin fever. Kubrick’s film follows the same plot, with only subtle differences. His adaptation is still regarded as one of the best horror movies of all time.

The official synopsis of the film states, “Years following the events of ‘The Shining,’ a now-adult Dan Torrance meets a young girl with similar powers, as he tries to protect her from a cult known as ‘The True Knot’ who prey on children with powers to remain immortal.” 

Abra Stone, the girl in the synopsis, is played by Kyliegh Curran. Curran’s portrayal of a teen girl trying to understand her powers and at the same time protect herself and her loved ones from a bloodthirsty cult is fantastic. I was surprised at how well a young actor such as herself was able to perform some of the intense and emotional scenes in the film, such as the ones in where she uses her psychic powers.

 Another notable performance is Rebecca Ferguson’s “Rose the Hat”. Ferguson is exactly what one pictures when reading King’s novel and is perfect as the sinister leader of the True Knot cult. She brings a dramatic intensity to her performance and controls every scene she is in.

McGregor’s performance as an alcohol-gripped older version of the boy we saw in “The Shining” was equally great. In this film, Dan reluctantly transitions to the role of mentor, similar to Dick Hallorann in “The Shining.” At first, Dan wants only to stay out of Abra’s situation, but he soon realizes the imminent danger that she is in. McGregor presents a sympathetic and well rounded performance. The journey of Dan is the best in the film, and I was pleased with the treatment of his character and the directions they took with him as the film strayed from the source material.

The straying from the source material I speak of happens primarily in the third act. These differences are rooted in the differences of King’s and Kubrick’s works. In King’s “The Shining,” the Overlook Hotel, the primary setting of the story, is blown up in the climax of the novel, while in Kubrick’s “The Shining,” the Overlook remains in tact. Knowing this, Flanagan combined influences from King’s novels and Kubrick’s film to create an epic conclusion to the story of Dan Torrance.

Since this film was made 39 years after the first, Flanagan decided to recast the original characters. Most notably,  Alex Essoe replaces Shelley Duvall as Wendy Torrance, Dan’s mother, and does well in her limited role. Carl Lumbly replaces Scatman Crothers as Dick Hallorann and brings the same wise energy as Crothers did in the original. Roger Dale Floyd replaces Danny Lloyd as young Dan Torrance; although, Lloyd does make a cameo appearance in the film as a crowd member at a baseball game. Finally, Henry Thomas replaces Jack Nicholson as Jack Torrance in a pivotal scene for Dan. Many of the ghosts of the Overlook were recast as well, including the iconic Grady Twins.

Doctor Sleep pays homage to Kubrick’s masterpiece in several ways. Flanagan uses many of the camera movements that Kubrick used in his film, such as lengthy tracking shots and dissolves. Many of the original pieces of music from the soundtrack of  “The Shining” make an appearance in the film as well and meld with the aesthetic just as they did in the original. Flanagan’s reverence for “The Shining” is made clear, as in one scene he uses the exact footage from the opening of “The Shining,” with only minor changes.

Overall I believe Doctor Sleep is a worthy sequel to “The Shining” and a fantastic adaptation of King’s novel. It is clear that Flanagan has respect for both King’s and Kubrick’s works, as he beautifully mixes both influences to create a wildly entertaining film. The acting talent of McGregor, Ferguson, and Curran also greatly contributes to the drama and horror elements of the film. With a run time of two hours and 31 minutes, one would expect Doctor Sleep to drag on, yet it somehow keeps the viewer on the edge of their seat from scene to scene. Fans of ‘The Shining,” as well as casual moviegoers, will both be equally captivated by this latest King adaptation, as I believe it is the best one since 2017’s “IT”. Doctor Sleep was released on November 8th.