Doctor Sleep movie poster

Doctor Sleep

In theaters November 8, 2019



151 minutes

Directed by:

Starring: , , ,

Mike Flanagan remembered what Stanley Kubrick forgot with his adaptation of Stephen King’s Doctor Sleep, skillfully weaving together the most nostalgic parts of Kubrick’s version of The Shining (1980), with Stephen King’s sequel, Doctor Sleep (Scribner, 2013).

It is 40 years after the events of the Overlook Hotel. Danny (Ewan McGregor) is a recovering alcoholic working as a hospice orderly and using his shine to ease the dying into a good death. With the help of his own Psychic Sherpa, Dick Halloran (Carl Lumbly) he has discovered a way to manage the Overlook’s revenants that continue to haunt him in an attempt to feed on his energy. He connects with a young but powerful psychokinetic, Abra (Kyliegh Curran), and they become each other’s imaginary pen pals. Abra psychically witnesses the murder of another young medium which puts her in the sites of Rose the Hat (Rebecca Ferguson), leader of a band of psychic vampires calling themselves the True Knot. They live off “steam,” the psychic release of very young, very tortured mediums and they’re running low. A medium like Abra could fuel them for a long time. Together, Danny and Abra hunt the Knot to stop them from killing any more kids – but especially Abra, and it brings them back to the one place Danny never wanted to return.

It’s no secret I actively hate Stanley Kubrick’s the Shining, so I was initially disappointed when director Mike Flanagan wanted to incorporate the Kubrick version instead of picking up where the book left off. My fears were unwarranted as Doctor Sleep is not only visually familiar but hauntingly nostalgic. He lovingly recreated the most iconic scenes from Kubrick’s version (and I would imagine without all of the actor trauma and abuse) and peppered them throughout Doctor Sleep. Alex Essoe embodies the horrifying terror and maternal protection of Wendy Torrance, without the constant screaming. She even nailed the voice. While I’ll never love the Kubrick version, I can fully appreciably the love crafted into those memorable scenes.

Special shout out to Emily Alyn Lind as Snakebite Andi, a pusher (think Andy McGee – Charlie’s dad in Firestarter), who maintains the eternal youthful corruption while embodying everything wrong with the seductive nature of all vampires, and Carel Strucken as Grampa Flick, the oldest of the True Knot and the most vulnerable. Even in the ancillary characters, Mike Flanagan gave us complete lives in brief words.  With a mythology as deep and rich as The Shining, it would have been simple to piggyback off the known and make this a clip show and Kubrick Lovefest, but we instead got a brief tribute, and true homage to Stephen King – because it’s his novel, after all.

The movie is peppered with Easter eggs, from a blink and you’ll miss it cameo from Danny Lloyd (the original Danny Torrance) and Molly C Quinn to the number 217 appearing on a hospice patient’s door – 217 was the original room number of Mrs. Massey, the old woman who terrorizes Danny and she climbs, rotting, from the bathtub at the Overlook. Dick Hallorann tells Danny that “Ka is a wheel” a familiar saying to any fan of The Dark Tower Series.

This is not a retread of a crazy man in a haunted house, but a well-paced drama about the traumas of childhood abuse, the remnants of the psychic energy all abuse holds. Mike Flanagan has an incredible eye for detail and every scene coaxes fully realized beings from the actors, and not screaming archetypes waiting to be murdered.  In his capable hands, Doctor Sleep brings the conclusion so many of us waited decades for on the big screen, and it is deeply satisfying.

Doctor Sleep is Rated R for child abductions, murders, stabbings, people getting shot, people getting “pushed”, people getting cut, and Mrs. Massey repeatedly getting out of her bathtub without a robe.

Doctor Sleep is streaming now on the following services:
Movie Reelist Contributor: MontiLee Stormer
MontiLee Stormer is a writer of horror, dark and urban fantasy. She’s also is a troublemaker, concocting acts of mayhem and despair for her own selfish pleasure. An avid movie watcher, she prefers horror but will see just about anything if you're buying. Poltergeist (1982) is her favorite movie and she actively hates The Shining (1980) due to its racism, misogyny, the butchering of the source material. She could host a TEDtalk on this single subject. Writing about herself in the third person is just a bonus.

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