‘Doctor Sleep’ carves out its own identity


Illustration by Derrick “DJ” Reed.

This year appears to be the revival of the Stephen King adaptation.  The likes of “Pet Sematary” and “IT: Chapter Two” are now joined by “Doctor Sleep,” a sequel that mixes elements from Stephen King’s “The Shining” and the Stanley Kubrick adaptation.

Nearly 40 years have passed since the infamous incident at the Overlook Hotel, and young Danny Torrance has grown up to become an alcoholic drifter.  His life finds meaning when he encounters a teenage girl with psychic powers similar to his. The girl becomes the target of a mysterious cult who finds and kills those with the ability to shine.

“Doctor Sleep” might be a sequel to a horror classic, but it doesn’t bank heavily on people’s love for the book and the movie.  Instead, director Mike Flanagan chooses to expand upon the concept of shining, something which was lightly touched upon in Kubrick’s movie.

It explores ideas like life after death and how to handle mysterious gifts that have been unexpectedly granted to a person.  Abra’s shining powers are more powerful than what Danny has ever encountered, but by learning how to control them, she’s able to help Danny fight back against the cult who so badly wants to take her gift for theirs.

The cult, known as the True Knot, is a terrifying bunch.  Their thirst for power makes them a formidable foe for Danny and Abra, and since the group also has the ability to shine, it leads to a lot of psychological mind games.

At times it feels less like you’re watching “The Shining” sequel and instead “A Nightmare on Elm Street” flick.

The movie is bolstered by excellent production value.  The cinematography is beautiful and uses a lot of camera work found in “The Shining,” while employing a lot of modern filming techniques to strike a nice balance.

It doesn’t rely too much on callbacks to the movie, but when it does, it feels earned.  Without spoiling anything, the finale is ripe with nods guaranteed to make fans wriggle in their seats.

This may be based on a Stephen King book, but “Doctor Sleep” functions more like a continuation to the Stanley Kubrick adaptation.  It seems blasphemous to make a sequel to such an iconic movie, but Mike Flanagan makes it work.

It functions well as a stand-alone experience and the characters are what drive the picture.  Of the three big-budget Stephen King adaptations that have come out this year, “Doctor Sleep” is the best one.

“Doctor Sleep” is an engrossing, atmospheric experience, the type of horror movie we don’t see much of anymore. It pays respect to its source material when needed but stands on its own to deliver something unique and out there, but for all the right reasons.