Doctor Sleep: The Shining Returns in a So-So Adaptation

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If you’re a fan of Stanley Kubrick’s 1980 adaptation of “The Shining”, you’re probably going to appreciate diving into the nostalgia interwoven into the new sequel “Doctor Sleep”. For those who’ve read “Doctor Sleep”, this film adaptation is a decent portrayal in relation to the novel, but the film just can’t escape “The Shining’s” legendary shadow. It is, of course, fascinating to see where Danny Torrence’s life leads him after the fateful events that took place at the Overlook Hotel, but there are some missing, lackluster pieces. 

Conflicting feelings likely arise from writer-director Mike Flanagan’s inability to make “Doctor Sleep” feel like a stand-alone film. The movie is clearly having a little bit of an identity crisis, as it wants to continue Danny’s story but also pays gratuitous homage to its predecessor. This is totally understandable, but it seems to be the reason that, despite the film’s honorable intentions, its execution missed some beats. Maybe it’s not frightening enough? Maybe it’s missing the edge that can only be provided by Kubrick himself? Maybe it can only be described with a ‘mixed’ review with mostly positive affirmations. 

The film begins with Danny (now Dan) Torrence at rock bottom, surely reminiscent of Stephen King’s own past demons, coping with the trauma of his past with heavy drinking. He still consults with the spirit of Dick Hollorann on how to mentally neutralize his Overlook post-traumatic stress disorder and begins to go down a path of healing, sobriety, and peace. Meanwhile, we’re introduced to the True Knot, a clan of psychic vampires who have to feed off the shine of innocents to sustain immortality. Dan comes into contact with a young girl named Abra, who shares the same powerful shine that he has, and who is, therefore, the perfect victim for the True Knot. Dan has to choose between continuing his quiet life or saving the life of his new, young friend. Chaos ensues, flashbacks occur, and we see a new side of the power of shining through strong new characters.

There are some really cool visual and conceptual things happening throughout the film, although we’re not given enough insight into Dan’s psychological healing process despite the obvious flashbacks to his childhood. The film flip flops classic flashbacks to The Overlook, Abra’s struggle with accepting her shine, and the True Knot’s murderous shenanigans. Everything is all over the place. Honestly, Flanagan seems to be trying too hard to be as good as Kubrick. It’s fun to see him redo some iconic scenes from “The Shining”, but for whatever reason, he can’t make them as scary as they originally were. In general, there isn’t much that is scary at all with the exception of a few brief moments. The scene that left the biggest impression was when Danny returns to The Overlook toward the end of the film for the final showdown and has to walk through the familiar hallways of horror.

You have to separate this completely from “The Shining”, especially if you’re a huge fan because it’s just not going to be the same. It is admittedly a little difficult to fully embrace this movie in an era where films frequently pander to nostalgia and franchises, rather than focusing on deeper character developments. It might have been nice to receive a more in-depth glimpse into Dan Torrence as an adult after, you know, nearly 40 years of fans mulling over what happened to him as a kid at that hotel. Just read the book first, watch “The Shining” if you haven’t already, and you decide if Dan’s future is acceptable. All in all, it is worth your time and worth being able to explore his shine once again.

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