Barely soporific: Doctor Sleep

Nov 20, 2019

A fine sequel to The Shining without the enduring classical vibe.

Doctor Sleep

Grade: B

Director: Mike Flanagan (Gerald’s Game)

Screenplay: Flanagan

Cast: Ewan McGregor (Moulin Rouge), Rebecca Ferguson (Men in Black: International)

Rating: R

Runtime: 2h 32m

By: John DeSando

“You need to listen to me. The world's a hungry place. A dark place. I've only met two or three people like us. They died. When I was a kid, I bumped into these things. I don't know about magic. I, I always called it "the shining." Danny Torrance (Ewan McGregor)

In the 39 years since Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining, the film and director have grown in stature, and only now has a sequel dared to emerge. Doctor Sleep is better than it should be as a sequel.

The action at the Overlook Hotel, without bastardizing the original, is sometimes taut and enervating without the glamour of the original. Yes, toward the end, the infamous bathtub crone is as ominous as ever, the blood gushes in the hall the ax seems bigger than ever, and the maze is more imprisoning than ever.

Tricyclist Danny has grown up with memories and the legacy of dad Jack (Jack Nicholson) retaining his special “shining” power that puts him in constant contact with weird stuff. That means dealing with a species of Zombie-like antagonists out to get shiners like him.

That Zombie motif can be figurative for the forces of evil and intimations of death, be it elevator blood to devilish Grady twins. Whereas his dad suffered from writer’s block, Dan expands that affliction to a fear of just about anything that has a limited life. For True Knot cultist Rose the Hat (Rebecca Ferguson), tracking down the young generation represented by Abra (Kyliegh Curran) is her calling. In a moment of honesty, Rose discloses even her kind has a terminal shelf life despite their usual long time.

McGregor underplays Dan to good effect: He is reluctant to use his powers but gets along by running an amusement park train for kids. He is in effect, guarding the coming generation, embodied in Abra, and inadequately effacing her psychic and paranormal dangers.

Although the limited figurative properties of Doctor Sleep satisfy on a low level, the original Shining shows with real demons a real psycho, Jack the phantasms follow him through his maze of hang-ups while the bad stuff in Doctor Sleep too often seems to exist for the need to compete with the original.

Doctor Sleep works better as a standalone without the re-creation of the patterns in its origin story. The Newton brothers score does a serviceable job promoting mood; Michael Fimognari uses his cinematography with powerful dark-blue effect.

Missing are the Kubrick-King chilling vibes. Present are re-creation scenes with new actors, a reminiscence that accentuates the missing charisma of its creative originators.

John DeSando, a Los Angeles Press Club first-place winner for National Entertainment Journalism, hosts WCBE’s It’s Movie Time and co-hosts Cinema Classics. Contact him at