Despite flaws, Doctor Sleep is a fine follow-up

Courtesy of Warner Bros.
Director Mike Flanagan recreated several famous shots from The Shining (1980).

Neil Runge | Staff Writer

11/07/19

The Halloween spirit continues past its end with an early release showing of Stephen King’s newest novel adaptation Doctor Sleep. This past Wednesday, AMC Theater in the Waterfront held a special preview of this new horror movie, which will see a full theatrical release on Nov. 8.

Directed by Mike Flanagan, who’s best known as the creator of the show Haunting of Hill House, Doctor Sleep is a sequel to the 1980 Stanley Kubrick film The Shining. Based on the sequel novel of the same name, the movie follows Danny Torrance, now an adult, as he continues to struggle with the trauma he faced at the hands of his father, Jack, at the Overlook hotel. As he copes with the ghosts that haunt him, he helps a young girl named Abra Stone, who shares his abilities.

The plot is simple, but in the hands of Flanagan, who also wrote the screenplay, the book comes to life. However, Flanagan’s take on Doctor Sleep is something much more than the source material. It’s well known amongst horror fans that the adaptation of The Shining was poorly done at best. So when it came time to adapt the sequel, a careful balance of paying homage to Kubrick while still being accurate to the book that King took the time to write had to be kept. Flanagan’s writing and role as the director keep this balance steady.

The biggest part of the movie that was an obvious tribute to Kubrick were the recreated shots from his motion picture. Iconic scenes like Danny riding his tricycle were redone with impeccable attention to detail.

Paired with Flanagan’s stellar writing and talent behind the camera, are the stars in front of it.

Ewan McGregor took on the role of Dan Torrance; the image of a traumatized but recovering man was portrayed wonderfully by the actor. He was able to showcase the arc Dan goes through without making it feel like the character growth is rushed or disingenuous.

Kyliegh Curran plays Dan’s new partner, Abra. At only 13 years old, she is absolutely astounding as a child actor. This movie is only her second time acting in a credited role, and it is impressive how well she embodies the character given to her. Abra doesn’t go through as intense of an arc as Dan, but she grows nonetheless; she learns the consequences of her powers.

Doctor Sleep drops the ball in one major place though, and it’s the same place as its predecessor. Both this film and The Shining use the horrible trope of killing off people of color. In Kubrick’s film, the lone person of color, Dick Hallorann, is killed tragically after serving as nothing more than a vehicle for lore in Danny’s plot, all without having died in the book. In its sequel, the gore is increased and five people of color were murdered on screen.

The roles of those dead characters, heroes or villains, doesn’t really matter, because at the end of the day, it is the suffering of people who aren’t white being shown yet again on screen.

It becomes another example of a movie using an worn-out image in horror.

It redeems itself though; like the book, it has a young black girl as the most powerful character. Throughout the whole story, Abra is the one who’s the most controlled and the best trained when it comes to her powers. She is the one that makes the plans to save the day. To the villains, she is the biggest threat. The image of a young black girl with power and independence without being read as violent and aggressive is rarely seen in movies. It’s refreshing to see a girl be the mighty hero.

Doctor Sleep is a more-than-satisfying sequel to the horror classic The Shining; it has firmly cemented its place among King movie classics. It’s a must see for fans of the 80s film who are looking for more from the world of Dan Torrance.

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