HOLLYWOOD─Just because a sequel can be made to any movie, does not mean every movie deserves a sequel. Can you believe the Stanley Kubrick horror flick (I would actually call it a psychological thriller) first hit theaters nearly 40 years ago in 1980? Yeah, it’s been awhile since fans have heard the phrase “Here’s Johnny.” However, Jack Nicholson is not the face of the direct sequel to “The Shining,” it is Ewan McGregor who leads the narrative as Danny Torrance.
Do you need to see the predecessor to fully understand “Doctor Sleep?” Not quite, but I would highly recommend doing so if you want to connect the dots and not feel lost while watching the movie. This sequel follows Danny Torrance (Ewan McGregor) years after the events at the Overlook Hotel. As anyone who saw “The Shining” knows Danny had the ability to communicate with ghosts and see things that others could not see. He was well aware of the chaos that transpired inside the hotel that found a way to turn his sane father into a psychopath.
Danny is psychologically haunted by those events, but has learned how to lock away bad ghosts from taking over his psyche, particularly the woman in Room 237. Hoping for a fresh start, Danny moves to a new town where he works to combat his alcoholism and moves to New Hampshire. It is here that Danny has a chance encounter with Abra (Kyliegh Curran), whose shining ability is even stronger than Danny’s, specifically her ability to manipulate telepathy.
Danny and Abra’s presence leads to them becoming a threat by Rose the Hat (Rebecca Ferguson). Ferguson really delivers a solid performance as the villain of the tale. She presents mystery and fear in a way that hasn’t been seen often from a woman playing the antagonist. It was fun, exhilarating and a treat to watch. However, that is where “Doctor Sleep” loses me completely. Why? The narrative is not fully believable to me.
Rose is the lead of the True Knot, a cult that feeds on the psychic powers of kids. Yeah, it is quite weird, but makes Danny and Abra major threats, as Rose senses the organization near extinction. There are some interesting moments, but I would argue the flick never really ramps up until it reaches the third act, which takes the audience back to a familiar place if you’ve seen “The Shining.” Those touches of nostalgia really work, but as noted if you have NOT seen that movie you may not understand what is taking place or the subtle hints that are highlighted.
“Doctor Sleep” felt more like a drama than an actual horror film. I wouldn’t call moments that some consider horror, actual horror. I assume that was the only way to push the film in a direction to entice a particular audience that does not fully work for me. Solid performance by McGregor, Curran and Ferguson, but that is not enough to propel a lackluster narrative in my opinion. You’ll enter the theater thinking you’re seeing the next chapter of “The Shining,” but “Doctor Sleep” does not give fans of that classic what we want.