Doctor Sleep (3 stars)

Doctor Sleep

Horror specialist Mike Flanagan delivers a faithful and epic adaptation of Stephen King's sequel to The Shining

It's unlikely that cinephiles will be poring over the intricacy of each frame of Mike Flanagan's sequel to The Shining in decades to come in quite the same way that they do over Stanley Kubrick's 1980 masterpiece. Still, there is ample beauty and terror in this faithful and epic adaptation of Stephen King's 2013 follow-up that eventually returns us to the Overlook Hotel, so that the son of Jack Torrance (unforgettably brought to life by Jack Nicholson in the original film) can confront the demons that have been haunting him for years.

Ewan McGregor turns in an affecting performance as Danny Torrance, who is introduced at rock-bottom, lying in a den of filth following a drunken one-night stand. Bruised and battered, he sneaks his way out of a single mother's apartment, but not before pocketing the cash from her purse. After making his way to a new town, he battles alcoholism and begins a new life as a hospital orderly, where he comforts elderly patients in their final hours.

Over the years, he strikes up a friendship with the young Abra Stone (confident newcomer Kyliegh Curran) – the pair communicating psychically via chalkboard messages, despite being miles apart. Closer to home, his confidante Billy Freeman (Cliff Curtis) offers him more tangible support. When Abra is targeted by an evil, magical cult – headed up by Rebecca Ferguson's Rose the Hat – who gobble up the souls of children, it's up to Danny to save the day.

The film switches between Abra, Rose and Danny's journeys, effectively building tension before the grand finale. Ferguson plays Rose like a demented Stevie Nicks – it's a deeply sinister performance, as she wields her power via fearmongering and false promises. Curran, too, is impressive, shifting between innocent, distressed and formidable. At points, when Danny possesses her body, Curran's facial expressions and mannerisms are uncanny.

Flanagan is adept at assembling characters that are easy to care about. Knotty family bonds, addiction and trauma are recurring subjects that he has painstakingly explored throughout his career – in Netflix series The Haunting of Hill House and films like Oculus and Absentia. With Doctor Sleep, he once again handles these themes in a thoughtful and earnest way but, as the film reaches its conclusion, it is marred by jarring imagery and laboured references to The Shining that entirely break the spell.

General release from Thu 31 Oct.

Doctor Sleep

  • 3 stars
  • 2019
  • US
  • 2h 33min
  • 15
  • Directed by: Mike Flanagan
  • Cast: Ewan McGregor, Rebecca Ferguson, Kyliegh Curran, Cliff Curtis
  • UK release: 31 October 2019

Danny (McGregor) is still recovering from the events at the Overlook Hotel, when his young friend Abra (Curran) is targeted by an evil cult led by Rose the Hat (Ferguson). McGregor is affecting, Curran is impressive and Ferguson is deeply sinister, but jarring imagery and laboured references to The Shining break the spell.

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