Decades after Jack Torrance showed that all that’s certain in life is death and axes, Danny (now Dan) Torrance (Ewan McGregor) is all grown up and drinking heavily to suppress his strange telepathic powers known as the shining. But when a child (Kyliegh Curran) is discovered with a shine even brighter than Dan’s, she becomes prey to Rose the Hat (Rebecca Ferguson) and The True Knot, a group of vampire-esque monsters who feed on the shining.
There are a few challenges when adapting Doctor Sleep, since it’s a sequel to Stephen King’s The Shining, but audiences mostly know Stanley Kubrick’s significantly altered film. Yet King’s sequel is also a radically different story, an exploration of the shining in a more complex and wide-roaming tale than the self-contained haunted hotel of the original.
The film opts for a largely accurate if abbreviated adaptation which wisely doesn’t stray too far from King’s work. In this it’s the polar opposite of Kubrick’s approach, who used the source material for inspiration but changed whatever he wanted to make his own film. But while it may get the story right, the tone doesn’t fit the dark fantasy of the novel. The attempted jump scares and absence of atmosphere feel like rote modern horror movie making which doesn’t do justice to a story which lends itself more to an Interview With the Vampire style creepy mythology.
Where it diverges from the book is the finale; an unnecessary retread of the The Shining‘s snowy footsteps. It seems obvious that getting the director of Ouija: Origin of Evil to rehash the horror masterpiece of the greatest perfectionist in cinematic history won’t result in favourable comparison, and the biggest insult is to bring back Jack Torrance with an actor who barely resembles Jack Nicholson (Henry Thomas – AKA Elliot in E.T.) and certainly doesn’t capture his performance.
The upshot of this longer ending is earlier opportunities for character development are overlooked, not helped by a flat performance from McGregor. It’s a shame that instead of making a great Doctor Sleep film it’s more concerned with giving us a second helping of The Shining. I would have preferred an entirely separate adaptation, but unfortunately Mike Flanagan didn’t think he could get away without redrum.