Doctor Sleep is the latest in a long list of Stephen King adaptations. This one, however, works as both an adaptation of a novel, as well as being a model sequel to Stanley Kubrick’s genre-defining movie.
Doctor Sleep follows the life of Dan Torrance (played by Ewan McGregor,) who is now an adult and is desperately trying to forget the traumas of his childhood.
Viewers first meet him as a child, where Dick Hallorann (played by Carl Lumbly, who is taking over from Scatman Crothers in The Shining) teaches him to lock away the demons in lockboxes in his mind.
However, while this helps at first, it clearly does not take away the pain and Dan slips into alcoholism and rage – hallmarks of his father’s behaviour.
He decides to try to find pastures new and moves to New Hampshire, gets into Alcoholics Anonymous and gets a job at a hospice, where his psychic abilities start to reemerge.
As this occurs, he starts a psychic friendship with the young Abra Stone (Kyliegh Curran,) a child whose powers are far stronger than his.
Meanwhile, a frightening group of near-immortal killers called The True Knot are hunting children to drink their ‘steam,’ which is the psychic ability Dan knows as ‘shining.’
The group become aware of Abra and soon, led by Rose the Hat (Rebecca Ferguson) they try to hunt her down to have a limited supply of steam to keep their long lives.
Eventually, Dan and Abra realise the only way to beat Rose is to take her to the place which makes them terrified – The Overlook Hotel.
Naturally, with Doctor Sleep being a sequel to The Shining, The Overlook Hotel is the part cinephiles are waiting for.
Despite the fact the hotel does not actually feature in the novel, the filmmakers have gone through painstaking amounts of work to get it up and running – with everything from recreating light fixtures to finding the perfect colour for the typewriter.
However, the arrival at the hotel comes very far into the film, before which there is a lot of background, build up and characterisation.
While much of this is needed, some certainly is not. Eventually even the biggest Stephen King fans may find themselves checking their watch and worrying about whether they can make it to the Overlook without a loo break.
Ewan McGregor, having previously opened up about his own experiences with alcohol, brings a real gravitas to the role of recovering alcoholic Dan Torrance, with his every decision plagued by fear and concern for those around him.
The villain of the piece, Rebecca Ferguson’s Rose The Hat, is fantastically cruel and alluring at the same time, desperately trying to keep her family together while remaining control all the time.
She is dangerous and makes the long length before the hotel much easier to deal with, despite the difficulty in being able to take a villain who wears a top hat seriously.
The young Abra Stone, played by Kyliegh Curran, is full of energy and light, perfectly shining in the role as well as in her own ‘shine.’
There is tension, and there is build up, but the time at The Overlook Hotel is frustratingly short considering the time we spend waiting to get there, and few of the ghouls there have anywhere near the same menace as their predecessors.
Overall, Doctor Sleep is lovingly made with a great deal much reverence for the novel and the 1980 movie, but fails to create nearly as much fear and takes a very long time to get there.