3.5 out of 5 stars (3.5 / 5)

For all of the fans who enjoy going back to the classic from Stanley Kubrick, Doctor Sleep is Stephen King’s sequel to The Shining. The iconic performance of Jack Nicholson, the unnerving visuals and the little boy riding through the halls on his tricycle are images that still manage to haunt the souls of viewers. After four decades, director Mike Flanagan (Ouija: Origin of Evil) will take King’s characters and see if they can still possess the hearts and minds of a new generation. 

Ewan McGregor (Christopher Robin) takes on the role of Danny Torrance, the 5-year-old son of Jack and Wendy who used to ride around the hotel as a child. As an adult, he must come to terms with a psychic ability referred to as the ‘shine’ that gives him the ability to deal with ghostly spirits. A skill that manifested itself during his confrontation with his father who turned into a crazed axe murderer during their stay in the Overlook Hotel in wintry Colorado. Struggling with the memories and trauma of his past, Danny has become an alcoholic and a tendency towards violence. With the help of an Alcoholics Anonymous course and his friend Billy (Cliff Curtis), he finds himself in a small town with a fresh start after going sober. This opens the door to a job as an orderly in the local hospice where he gains the nickname of ‘Doctor Sleep.’ This endearing label is due to his bedside manner for patients who are in the final minutes of their lives and as they pass away, he uses the ‘shine’ to comfort them as they enter sleep for the last time. 

The peacefulness of Danny’s new stage of life is disrupted by the threat of a group of individuals who call themselves ‘The True Knot. ’ This cult travels across the country searching for young children who are gifted with ‘shine’ abilities. Rose the Hat (Rebecca Ferguson) leads this creepy troupe who all possess the psychic ability and prey like vampires on these children to prolong their own lives. One of the targets for the group is Abra (Kyliegh Curran), a 13-year-old girl who exhibits a powerful shine and who becomes aware of what Rose and her followers are doing. She manages to psychically connect to Danny and they work together to devise a plan to end the threat of this devious cult. The pair find themselves confronting Rose’s mob in the infamous, but abandoned Overlook Hotel. Danny’s past connection with the spirits that still inhabit the building give him hope that he and Abra can put the actions of The True Knot to an end. 

For fans of classic cinema, The Shining should be on every adult must-see list. A Kubrick masterpiece and a story that still impacts filmmakers around the world. For all who are concerned about the need to have read King’s classic books or that there is a need to see The Shining, there is no need for worry. Flanagan manages to provide enough background content to get audiences up to speed on this terrifying adventure. Even adding in additional content Danny’s past as a young child that will make the ride worthwhile. This extensive story development does lead to a run time of 151 minutes, but this does not detract from the overall experience. Doctor Sleep is billed as a horror film, but the majority of the scariest elements only take place within the final act at the haunted Overlook Hotel. Knowing that Danny has gone back to the home of his nightmares, the audience is kept in suspense as the final part of the film unfolds.

Doctor Sleep is an entertaining film to watch with exceptional special effects, but it does include disturbing scenes, mainly when Rose and her followers are shown attacking some of their young victims. True fans of Stephen King’s writings should appreciate this film and how it has captured the essence of the novel. While the avid horror film supporters may question the true nature of this movie, but should be able to gain a resolution to the open-ended components introduced in 1980.

REEL DIALOGUE: What happens when we fall asleep for the last time?

In one of the hospice scenes, a resident who is about to enter his final rest asks Danny about what happens after death to which Danny replies, “We go on.” In Danny’s experience, he knows that death is not final and that there is life beyond, as evidenced by the fact that he can still communicate with dead people. Is this also the case in real life?

We might not have the ‘shine’ and the ability to communicate with spirits but the Bible tells us death is not the end and that eternal life is possible through the acceptance of Jesus’ death on the cross for our sins. Find out more about Jesus had to say about this by reading one of the Gospel accounts.

Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18