Heeeeeeere’s Johnny…’s review of “Doctor Sleep.”
If you’ve ever sat up at night thinking, “What happened to Shelley Duvall and the creepy kid in ‘The Shining?’” your question is answered by the new screen sequel to Stephen King’s story. A pretty good one, at that.
Little Danny “Redrum” Torrance has grown into a turbulent adult (Ewan McGregor), as he continues to be plagued by the horrors he witnessed at Colorado’s Overlook Hotel. No therapist can wipe away the image of Jack Nicholson wielding a butcher’s knife.
But Dan finds the perfect job: as a receptionist at an old folks’ home where death is always on the menu. He’s also still got “the shine,” the supernatural power that’s a hybrid of telepathy and telekinesis. In an attempt to move on and be normal, he’s kept his extraordinary abilities on the back burner, and learned to trap his mind’s many demons.
This is when the film begins to depart from the epic, Kubrickian sensibility of “The Shining” and settles for a more “X-Files”-like style of follow-the-clues storytelling.
There is a strange, cultish group that travels the country looking for people who “shine” to kill them and feed off their energy. They’re led by Rose the Hat (Rebecca Ferguson), a dangerous woman who looks like Steve Nicks. We learn that she’s not on the edge of 17, however, but closer to 500, as the group has been alive for centuries.
The baddies have their sights on a little girl named Abra (Kyliegh Curran), the most powerful shine-er in the world. Dan needs to come out of mental hibernation to protect her.
The complex plot takes some time to get used to, especially if you’ve come to the theater expecting a story consistent with the simplicity of “The Shining.” If that was easy as pie, this is easy as Pi. But when it confidently hits its stride near the middle, “Doctor Sleep” is gripping.
McGregor is a good choice for big Dan, as he can simultaneously be lovable and tormented. He and a precocious little girl also make an amusing buddy-cop duo. This is the first major role for 13-year-old Curran, and she makes a big impression with her sneaky smiles and threatening strength. Bizarrely though, Jacob Tremblay, who’s now a legit star, makes only the tiniest of cameos.
But what everyone will be talking about after “Doctor Sleep” is the return to the Overlook. The movie skillfully builds to the tense final sequence, in which writer/director Mike Flanagan has re-created the hotel just as it was in the 1980 film. He even films it in Kubrick’s cavernous, blinding manner.
You’ll be reunited with some twins who want to play, and a naked zombie in a bathtub. But the best shot of this film, for King fans, will be a glass of Jack Daniels on a bar.