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Doctor Sleep Review: A Worthy Sequel to a Classic Film

During the third act, the momentum stalls, largely due to the film’s obsession with Kubrick’s visual design. But all in all, Doctor Sleep is a cinematic success, defined by rich characters and high powered emotion.

Doctor Sleep (2019)

4 / 5
5 / 5

Mike Flanagan’s Doctor Sleep (a continuation of The Shining universe) follows an array of characters, many of whom possess unique gifts. After leading a life of self-indulgence, Danny Torrance gets back on track, becoming an integral part of communal togetherness. Years down the line, a vicious group of super-powered beings navigate the earthly landscape, looking for other gifted humans. Eventually, the group comes across Abra, a sweet yet powerful girl unlike any other being they have encountered. As the group closes in on Abra, Danny must intervene. The end result is a battle of super-powered proportions, focused on the most fundamental elements of human existence.

Dan Torrance looking through a door with a hole in the center.
Ewan McGregor as Dan Torrance

Many people will go into this film expecting Danny Torrance to dominate the runtime. After all, Ewan McGregor (a British actor) is plastered all over the marketing material. But oddly enough, the film is full of diverse pieces. On a consistent basis, Flanagan focuses on the villains, who are lead by Rebecca Ferguson (a Swedish actress) and Zahn McClarnon (a Native American actor of half-Irish descent).

Even with their villainous turns, Ferguson and McClarnon make a humane impact upon the narrative, unleashing characters that posses twisted forms of communal sentimentality. Ferguson’s character is a master communicator, firmly embedded within the confines of interpersonal manipulation. McClarnon’s character is a formidable agent of strategy, able to map out successful scenarios. Through their cinematic leadership, we witness a disturbing worldview. With great power comes great irresponsibility.

Rose the Hat looks up with glowing eyes
Rebecca Ferguson as Rose the Hat

The best films put protagonists in the most vulnerable of positions. Doctor Sleep is not an exception. From the get-go, Flanagan’s utilization of villainy gives the film a dire identity, complete with corruption, madness, and innocent lost. These villainous beings are the worst of the worst, completely content with killing children, destroying families, and deceiving innocent beings. The early stages of the film set an overwhelming template, and very quickly, the fragility of our heroes is evident.

If you are looking for a film that ups the gore and jump scares, you will be disappointed. If you are searching for a flick that taps into realistic forms of terror, Doctor Sleep is your pick. Like Stephen King, Flanagan focuses on enriching forms of human existence, very much associated with the fears that plague moralistic citizens. A child being murdered; that’s real horror. A man battling personalized demons; that’s real horror. An elderly person going into the realm of death with great uncertainty; that’s real horror. Through these relatable elements, the characters feel even more real, and overall, the fantastical elements possess an enhanced sense of poignancy.

Clocking in at 151 minutes, Doctor Sleep is a hefty flick, overflowing with heart and substance. As the narrative slowly moves forward, it feels like we are in the midst of actual human interaction. Instead of being common forms of moviemaking, devoid of continuous emotion and patient craftsmanship, the characters feel wholly realized. While McGregor turns in a magnificent performance, the film’s biggest surprise is Kyliegh Curran, a young African American actress. As Abra, Curran expertly portrays a force of morality. She’s the most powerful being in the picture. And in this case, her enhanced gifts are matched only by her admirable morality. With great power comes great responsibility.

Dan Torrance lying on the ground with a hand covering his mouth.
Ewan McGregor as Dan Torrance

Other standouts include Cliff Curtis (a performer of Maori descent) and Carl Lumbly (an African American performer). In a supporting role that represents friendship, Curtis makes the most of his opportunity, executing believable traits of brotherly love. Lumbly expertly portrays a kind yet blunt character, whose wisdom pushes Danny in the most ethical of directions. Overall, it’s nice to see a film that values supporting pieces–and in a way that highlights inclusivity, especially given the overall lack of any real representation in The Shining. 

I have only one gripe with this picture. During the third act, the momentum stalls, largely due to the film’s obsession with Kubrick’s visual design. But all in all, Doctor Sleep is a cinematic success, defined by rich characters and high powered emotion.  I implore everyone to check it out!

Star rating for Doctor Sleep. 4 stars for inclusivity, 5 stars for movie score.

Originally published by Dillon McCarty for Incluvie on November 18, 2019.