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Stephen King’s “Doctor Sleep” is a YA film with a shining layer of paint

3 stars

“The Shining” is one of the most well-regarded pieces of media, both book and film, in the genre of horror and suspense. The tricky thing about the story is that it doesn’t open itself up to much sequel potential. The entire story takes place in one specific location and over one specific period. It leaves you with just enough that you can fill in your own holes and come to your own conclusions about what was really going on at that snowy hotel. But, now, 40 years later, a sequel has been made. 

“Doctor Sleep” is faced with the impossible task of following “The Shining” and being a successful adaptation of King’s own novel. Overall, the result, while better than it had any right to be, could have just as easily been left out in the cold.

“Doctor Sleep” takes place in the present-day following Danny from the original “The Shining” as an adult. He’s played by Ewan McGregor, who does an amazing job the entire movie. Whenever he’s on screen, the movie is worth watching. Still being haunted by the ghosts of the Overlook Hotel, his time growing up with the shining has taken a toll on him. He gets to be the focal point of many of the movie’s best scenes, regardless of how much they actually have to do with the plot at large.

Danny starts receiving messages on his chalkboard from a young girl who shares the same ability as he does, and the two build a rapport with one another for several years. As the two team up with a shared purpose, the movie starts to lose me. It falls into a bland template of “We have powers and the bad guys have powers and they want to get us.” It’s a bit uninspired and the antagonists of the film aren’t intimidating at all. Rose, the lead villain, wears a ridiculous hat the entire movie and gets talked up as a powerhouse, but hardly gets anything of any real consequence done in the film.

“Doctor Sleep” feels like two movies with different tones fused together. One is a dark, introspective character study of a great character played by a great actor, and the other is a young adult fantasy novel that you’ve seen a million times. The movie as a whole is not bad but there is a level of craft that is lacking, especially in comparison to the original. There are some truly awful transitions that took me out of the experience. 

All that being said, the movie’s golden moments shine through and result in callbacks and surprises for fans of the original that feel like they mean something. There is a good time to be had watching “Doctor Sleep” but I’m sure I won’t see it again.

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