There’s no doubt about it – The Shining is a tough egg to follow. An enormous task, not only to the legacy that is Kubrick and King’s kick-arse novel but to the endless numbers of fans one needs to please by taking on such a challenge. It’s with great pleasure that we can say Doctor Sleep is a thoroughly enjoyable trip down memory lane with the added bonus of a few new tricks. If you have ever wondered what happened to poor little Danny, here are the answers you have been waiting for.
As the title sequence emerges on screen a distinct sense of nostalgia and a healthy dose of uncertainly forces tingling goosebumps readying your body for what’s about to unfold. Familiar themes and tropes are at the forefront here as excitement and anxiety are conjured and tied into a neat little present, which never fully gets unwrapped in Mike Flanagan’s take on this sequel. Every kid wants to be special – Abra (Kyliegh Curran) our pretty special protagonist harbors an immense amount of ‘The Shine’, a powerful little psychic ‘magician’ who has caught the attention of ‘Rose The Hat’ and her soul eating cronies. It’s down to her sheer believe in herself and the help of Danny’s similar powers to avoid being hunted by The True Knot, not to mention the near unbearable suspense of where this inevitable show down is sure to take place.
McGregor’s grown up Danny, a troubled voice hearing, spirit seeing alcoholic who is desperately trying to bury exactly what happened all those years ago at the bottom of a bottle and who can blame him. His state is somewhat warranted after the happenings in 1980 and when contacted by Abra it takes him down a haunting road, opening up many a box he closed years ago. When stepping back into the Overlook Hotel we expect everything to be as it were – its creep, it’s scary and it is crafted so well. Familiar nightmarish imagery emerges and that tingling sensation takes gold and it’s just as if you are watching The Shining for the first time again.
Doctor Sleep paces itself with purpose and appears to know exactly where it’s going. The first hour is consumed with ridged tension matched with the unnerving constant boom of the heartbeat soundtrack that it’s easy to forget to breath; then all of a sudden it becomes a spin off episode of Buffy with children eating zombies. Not entirely a bad thing; but these cookie cutter bad guys are almost dropped into this world with next to no development when all you really want to know is who are they and where do they come from. We sweep across under developed characters and some rather odd stylistic choices (how do these VR living floaters get hold of those space age canisters to store the steam of dead children in?) to go back in time and witness these familiar settings of the iconic hotel which we have all been waiting for. This weird and wonderfully strange universe this group lives in deserves much more of an exploration – but hey, these guys having fun.
Ferguson is ferocious as the leader of this carnival punk troupe utterly stealing the show and fully embracing the power hungry hat wearing villainess. She finds her equilibrium between weird, sexy and menacing which is a feast for the eyes. McGregor holds his own as disheveled Danny overcoming his fears and taking that control back even when truly pushed to the limit by external forces. The supporting cast serve their purpose getting lost in the beautifully unsettling fairground tones and even more absent alongside the sure to be the next best thing Curran who truly shines here (no pun intended).
From old school jump cuts and cuts, Doctor Sleep presents a vibrant and colourful revisiting of a cult classic that certainly doesn’t put you to sleep! With a fluffy cat to keep you grounded throughout freaky hallucinogenic sequences this steampunk come horror does what it says on the tin and above all else a beautiful cinematic experience.
Doctor Sleep is out 31st of October