Four decades after Stanley Kubrick's The Shining, this new film checks in with Danny Torrance, the young imperilled child from that iconic 1980 horror film, now going by "Dan" and played by Ewan McGregor.
A life of alcoholism has suppressed Dan's "shine" (i.e. psychic powers), but once he gets those demons squared away (with a little help from Cliff Curtis), Dan re-embraces his abilities, which he uses to help hospice residents peacefully venture into the afterlife.
Elsewhere, a ruthless gang led by Rose the Hat (a luminously malevolent Rebecca Ferguson) seeks out those who possess the shine in order to consume them and prolong their own lives. When they target a gifted young girl named Abra (Kyliegh Curran), with whom Dan has been psychically communicating, he tries to help.
It's a big ask to follow in Kubrick's footsteps, but Mike Flanagan (Gerald's Game) is up to the job. His deliberately-composed film honours its obligations as a Shining sequel (mostly in the third act), but it is principally interested in telling its own story. Abra is a dynamic young protagonist, and the True Knot gang makes for some particularly sinister villains.
When it specifically revisits characters as they existed in The Shining, via Dan's flashbacks, Flanagan wisely chooses lookalike actors as opposed to CGI abominations. It reflects an overall respect shown for the film this exists in the shadow of.
Ultimately, Doctor Sleep is more creepy than scary, except for one super-disturbing scene that I still can't quite believe they included. There's also an amazing astral projection flying sequence involving Ferguson, who emerges as the star player here.
Although this does enough on its own to warrant interest, it will also satisfy those hankering to return to the Overlook Hotel.
Director: Mike Flanagan
Cast: Ewan McGregor, Rebecca Ferguson, Jacob Tremblay
Running time: 152 mins
Verdict: A worthy successor to The Shining that treads its own path