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Movie Review: ‘Doctor Sleep’ more than just a sequel

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Emily J. Sullivan
Staff Writer

“Doctor Sleep” premiered Nov. 8 and “Danny Boy” is back, but this time he is all grown up and yes, he still has his shine. 

Stephen King’s 2013 novel “Doctor Sleep” was adapted into a screenplay and imagined by director Mike Flanagan, responsible for Netflix’s “The Haunting of Hill House” and “Gerald’s Game.”

While technically a sequel to both King’s 1977 novel “The Shining” and Stanley Kubrick’s 1980 film by the same name, Doctor Sleep’s narrative stands on its own while also aiming to satiate fans of “The Shining” with nods to the famed horror film. 

King was vocal about his dislike of Kubrick’s take on his third novel because of Jack Torrance’s portrayal as inherently bad rather than initially good and poisoned by the evil of the Overlook Hotel. 

King, however, gave “Doctor Sleep” his stamp of approval and I am sure Flanagan’s finesse in merging humanity with horror has something to do with it. 

The young boy with psychic gifts seen pedaling through the haunted halls of the Overlook Hotel grows up to become Dan Torrance, a traumatized alcoholic who drinks to numb the indelible horrors that he weathered as a child in the original story “The Shining.”

He goes through the motions of alcoholism and addiction, finding himself in atrocious situations, neglecting his personal hygiene and making questionable choices until he meets a kind stranger that takes him to an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting, helps him find work and vouches for him with his landlord. 

Torrance gets sober and is able to use his shine for good, working in hospice care and easing frightened dying patients into their final slumbers, hence the nickname Doctor Sleep.

Rebecca Ferguson, most well known for her roles in “Mission Impossible 6” and “The Greatest Showman,” stars as the film’s intriguing, insidious and just plain evil antagonist Rose the Hat.

She leads the “true knot,” a cult-like family of soul-sucking vampires that feed on the “steam” of young children, which is the shine that escapes them as they die. 

“Live long, eat well,” is their tagline and to eat well they sweeten the steam of children using pain and fear, which these menacing hippies consume to attain something just short of immortality. 

The film depicts some truly horrifying and sadistic steam consuming sessions, one of which Ferguson admitted she cried during because it felt so evil and overwhelming to act out.

Rose the Hat’s main foe in the film is Abra Stone, portrayed by newcomer Kyliegh Curran. 

Abra is a young girl with a powerful shine, so powerful that she becomes privy to what the true knot is actively carrying out. Abra and Dan find each other and team up to take on the true knot in a series of battles using mental acrobatics and mind crashing. 

The storyline picks up where “The Shining” left off, and works within a 30-year timeline after the fact, but takes on a full story of it’s own, really only playing major homage to Kubrick’s film toward the end of “Doctor Sleep’s” two and a half hour run-time when they revisit the ominous Overlook Hotel and by default revisit old demons.

The Overlook Hotel’s visuals are stunning and the ghosts are fun to revisit but it’s the new characters that are perfectly cast and performed that makes this film a gem on it’s own. 

“Doctor Sleep” came in second at the box office it’s debut weekend, only raking in $14.1 million, which is nearly half the number that was expected.

Reviews for the sequel to a prominent horror cult classic like “The Shining” are mixed, but as for this review, Doctor Sleep gets two very enthusiastic thumbs up. 

Emily J. Sullivan can be reached at emily.sullivan@laverne.edu. 

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