[Caution: The following review contains spoilers for Doctor Sleep.]
A continuation of Stanley Kubrick’s classic horror movie, The Shining, Doctor Sleep takes place after the events that occurred at the Overlook Hotel and follows the now grown-up Danny Torrance (Ewan McGregor). Doing his best to live with the horror that transpired as a child, Danny is tired and beaten by life. Doing his best to forget his past, Danny drinks his problems away in an attempt to repress his ‘shining’. To Danny, his ability is nothing short of a curse, until he meets Abra, a young girl in trouble who also has the shining and is much more powerful than him. Abra needs help fighting a sinister group called “The True Knot”, a group of shining users that want to murder and leech off of others who possess the shining in order to stop their aging. Dan decides to work together with Abra to save and stop this group from continuing their centuries long murder spree.
For most of his life, Danny lives as a drifter, travelling city to city to get by. Constantly on the run from his personal issues including the traumatic events at the Overlook hotel, Danny has become a drunken selfish drifter that lives his life by drinking his problems away, sleeping with random woman and stealing from them. When he moves to a small town on the East coast, he finally finds a community, a job, a place to stay, and seems to have overcome his alcohol addiction. However, he still has not yet dealt with the pain of his own past. For example, in one particular scene, the film takes us travels into a mental representation of the Overlook hotel in Danny’s mind. Here, in a metaphor for Danny’s locking away and repression of his personal demons, we see dozens of boxes locked up with the ghosts of the hotel. Having repressed his powers for his whole life, when he meets up with Abra as she is looking for help to defeat the True Knot group, Danny tells her to hide and to stop using her powers altogether.
Eventually, Danny must visit the Overlook Hotel and face the source of his trauma and even confront the ghost of his father, Jack. In doing so, Danny finally has the opportunity to challenge his father, venting his years of anguish as a result of his father’s actions. Given that his alcohol addiction remains a big internal conflict for Danny, his confrontation with his father helps him realize that his addiction was a result of him trying to relate to Jack, the father he used to look up to. When Jack offers Danny a drink, calling it ‘medicine to get on with life’, Danny is forced to choose between his sobriety and submitting to his own demons.
Ironically, this scene is just one that parallels Jack’s story arc in the original movie. Like his son, Jack was also someone struggling with addiction, a tortured soul trying to survive. (In fact, at one point, Danny even becomes possessed by the same spirit of the hotel that possessed his father, attacking Abra with an axe and chasing her throughout the hotel.) However, unlike Jack, Danny is able to overcome the ghost, allowing him to finally move on from his father. Later, Danny even comes to realize that he was wrong about the shining and that it is a gift that should be used openly and embraced.
Doctor Sleep is a great sequel to The Shining. Picking up in modern times and giving science to the shining ability, Sleep becomes more of a thriller/superhero movie than the horror of the original. In fact, the film is a great redemption story to the broken Danny, who has become a grizzled old man who is broken and struggling with addiction. He’s also a great contrast with his partner Abra, an optimistic preppy young girl that looks forward to the journey they’re set on. Doctor Sleep also hits the nostalgia factor by referencing the iconic lines, locations and ghosts from the original movie. Overall, I recommend Doctor Sleep, the long-awaited sequel is an exciting thriller that does justice to the original movie.
Doctor Sleep scares its way into theatres on Friday, November 8th, 2019.