So, you want to make a sequel to one of the most iconic movies of all time, 40 years after the fact, and you want it to feel fresh and original while still paying tribute to the original film?
Best of luck.
But that is exactly what writer/director Mike Flanagan was able to do with “Doctor Sleep,” a sequel to the horror masterpiece, “The Shining.”
Fortunately for Flanagan, author Stephen King had done all of the heavy lifting, penning the sequel to his acclaimed bestseller about now-adult Danny Torrance living with the weight of what happened to him as a little boy at the Overlook Hotel.
What makes “Doctor Sleep” work is it takes elements of “The Shining” and tells an entirely new story that is a continuation without being beholden to what came before.
Danny is played expertly by Ewan McGregor and is a man who is quite literally visited by ghosts of the past. Some are benevolent, like Dick Hallorann (Carl Lumbly), who helps Danny understand his psychic ability (which he calls “Shining”), while others are hangers-on from the Overlook looking to terrorize young Danny.
Danny, like his father, turns to alcohol to shut out his tormentors, but eventually finds his way to recovery and a quiet, comfortable life as an orderly who helps hospice patients peacefully pass into the great beyond.
Unlike “The Shining,” “Doctor Sleep” has a clear-cut villain in the form of Rose the Hat (Rebecca Ferguson). Rose is the leader of a clan that is able to achieve a form of immortality by feeding on the souls of children who are able to “Shine.”
Danny is eventually forced to confront Rose and her crew when Abra Stone (Kyliegh Curran), a young teen with a particularly powerful ability to “Shine,” reaches out to him for help after becoming the gang’s No. 1 target.
All paths eventually lead back to the abandoned Overlook Hotel for an epic showdown between the forces of good and evil.
Flannigan shows a lot of restraint of not cribbing from familiar imagery and beats from “The Shining” until the movie’s final act; and when he does go hog-wild, it feels well-earned and in service of the plot as opposed to just being obligatory pandering to fanboys.
While the creepy and downright disturbing proceedings take center stage in “Doctor Sleep,” Flannigan has made a movie that at its heart is about the horrors of addiction. Danny’s struggle with alcoholism is a struggle with his father’s legacy, while Rose and her followers are essentially junkies who go to depraved lengths to get their next fix.
“Doctor Sleep” somehow manages to find just enough space outside of the long shadow of “The Shining” to be worthy of your attention and not wind up as just another nostalgic, cinematic cash grab. Is it another masterpiece? No, but it’s pretty darn good, which means it’s safe to check back into the Overlook Hotel, if you dare.
“Doctor Sleep” is rated R for disturbing and violent content, some bloody images, language, nudity, and drug use.