Doctor Sleep Movie Review: A Worthy Sequel to The Shining

Doctor Sleep star Ewan McGregor
Ewan McGregor stars in ‘Doctor Sleep’ (Photo by Jessica Miglio © 2019 Warner Bros Entertainment)

“You’re magic like me,” says Abra (Kyliegh Curran). “I don’t know about magic…when I was a kid I always called it the Shining,” replies Danny Torrance (Ewan McGregor) in Doctor Sleep, the sequel to Stephen King’s novel and Stanley Kubrick’s film, The Shining.

It’s been 40 years since the horrifying events at the Overlook Hotel and the now-adult Danny Torrance is still haunted by the entities that inhabit the shutdown hotel. To keep them away, and to bury his own pain, Danny has spent most of his life drinking and making bad decisions.

He travels north to a New Hampshire town to try to get a fresh start and meets Billy Freeman (Cliff Curtis) who becomes not just a friend but his sponsor at AA while he struggles to stay sober. Danny gets a job taking care of the terminally ill at a nursing home where his Shining power provides some comfort to residents as they pass away. He’s able to slowly begin to build a nice quiet life for himself.

His peace is abruptly interrupted when a young girl named Abra Stone finds him. She locates him first telepathically and then travels to his hometown. Abra had a vision of a boy’s brutal murder by a cult called The True Knot led by Rose the Hat (Rebecca Ferguson). The cult feeds off the Shine of young children in their quest for immortality.

Danny reaches out to Billy to help him protect Abra from Rose and The True Knot. Unfortunately, Danny soon realizes their only hope of stopping the cult is to let them track them to the one place he fears the most…the haunted Overlook Hotel.

Creepy and disturbing, Doctor Sleep is a faithful adaptation of Stephen King’s best-selling novel and a strong sequel to both King’s novel and Kubrick’s film, The Shining. The film features terrific performances by the entire ensemble and is artfully directed by Mike Flanagan (The Haunting of Hill House, Gerald’s Game).

Ewan McGregor delivers an emotional and extremely effective performance as Danny Torrance who’s now a middle-aged man still struggling with the trauma of the horrors he went through at age five at the Overlook Hotel. McGregor plays Danny as a haunted but decent man who desperately wants to get control of his life and find a purpose with meaning. Some of McGregor’s best scenes in the film occur when Danny’s comforting the elderly patients in the nursing home as they pass away, relieving them of their doubts and fears of what awaits them after death.

Rebecca Ferguson’s truly chilling and mesmerizing as Rose the Hat, the leader of The True Knot cult. She plays her with subtle evil and menace as she searches for children who have the Shining her cult needs to feed on. Ferguson’s Rose the Hat is one of the best new villains to come to the screen in years. Ferguson also shows how Rose actually cares about the members of her cult and becomes upset and enraged when they – the hunters – become the hunted. It’s a truly memorable performance.

Mike Flanagan brings to the film both the vision of Stephen King’s novel and the look and feel of Kubrick’s film, especially in the third act when Danny and Abra head toward the Overlook Hotel. Flanagan effectively recreates the Overlook, now old and rotting, including the classic rooms where some of the most memorable scenes of the original film took place.

One of the problems with the film, however, is the long set-up and exposition of both Danny’s getting settled in New Hampshire and the time spent on the newest addition to The True Knot. Although necessary to the plot, too much time is spent on The True Knot and how they live and operate.

Another issue is the brutal and unsettling murder of a young boy who has the Shining. Although again necessary because it’s that act which telepathically makes Abra aware of The True Knot, the way the scene’s shot is sure to upset audiences.

Still, with powerful performances, great sets, and the outstanding direction of Flanagan, Doctor Sleep is a worthy sequel sure to entertain and creep-out horror fans.


MPAA Rating: R for disturbing and violent content, some bloody images, language, nudity and drug use

Running Time: 151 minutes

Release Date: November 8, 2019