When I first heard about the planned sequel to The Shining, my response was, “Why?”
Why risk smearing the legacy of Kubrick’s horror classic. What could a sequel add that would justify its existence?
Since The Shining’s release in 1980, author Stephen King has long criticized the film for its coldness and alterations made to Jack Torrance as a character. The novel presents Torrance as a tragic figure of sorts while Kubrick’s film made him appear unhinged from the get-go. In doing so, the film lost most of the emotional and psychological depth present in King’s book…
And that is where Dr. Sleep justifies its existence.
It should first be said that this is a Mike Flanagan movie– not Mike Flanagan trying to be Stanley Kubrick as I’d feared. There are shots that mirror the original and a few identically-recreated sequences, but this film is undeniably its own thing. Flanagan clearly revels in the opportunity to play in Stanley’s sandbox, but he doesn’t do so to the point where it becomes a poor man’s imitation. Flanagan is primarily known for directing lower-budget horror films such as Oculus, Hush, and more recently, the Netflix series The Haunting of Hillhouse. One major connecting thread in almost all his work is the prevalent theme of trauma and how events from our past can continue to haunt our present selves. This certainly carries over to Dr. Sleep and its protagonist Danny Torrance played masterfully by Ewan McGregor.
Dr. Sleep finds the warmth and heart of King’s text that its predecessor lacked. If you’re a fan of Kubrick’s original film, you’re sure to enjoy the callbacks and reenactments present in this installment. If you’re a fan of King’s work, you’ll appreciate the added attention to character and family. And if you’re a fan of Mike Flanagan, all his calling-cards are here too.
This film is a better sequel than I could’ve ever hoped for and may well be one of the best horror pictures of 2019.