Writer/Director/Editor Mike Flanagan has pretty much run the table on horror films the last few years. Between Oculus, Hush, Ouija: Origin of Evil, Gerald’s Game and The Haunting of Hill House, I’m not sure if there is anything this guy can’t pull off. The next logical step was, of course, for him to helm a major franchise. I don’t think anyone would have thought that would mean Doctor Sleep, a sequel to The Shining — especially this sequel that now exists and is a thing I’ve seen.
The story follows Dan Torrance (Ewan McGregor) and Abra Stone (Kyliegh Curran) after their psychic abilities bring them together into an unlikely friendship. They are soon hunted by Rose the Hat (Rebecca Ferguson) and her gang of similarly gifted killers who feed off the "steam" of psychic powers.
In spite of the child murders and spooky imagery, there isn’t that much horror presented in this film. The story, instead, focuses on the life of these people and the emotional toll their powers take on them. At two and a half hours, Flanagan allows his scenes to breathe as he builds up the atmosphere, which really grounds this paranormal story with a more believable tone. With a few key paranormal scenes where he pulls out some awesome special effects and camera work, the movie ultimately turns into something special.
Unfortunately, there are some elements holding the film back. I really respect the slow, methodical pace (especially considering this is a Hollywood film), but a lot of the space is pretty empty and doesn’t leave me with much of a desire for a second viewing. And, although we spend a lot of time with Dan and Abra, they aren’t the most well-defined characters; though, the fact that both characters still work just proves the excellence of both performances. And while just about every element succeeds, the final climax lacks suspense because nothing really quite establishes the parameters of each character’s powers — a common issue with movies that include magic.
Bring all of this together and Doctor Sleep cares much more about how you feel watching it rather than telling a concrete story. If you’re looking for a traditional horror film or something as iconic or shocking as The Shining, then you’re going to be disappointed. However, if you allow yourself to get drawn into the craft and atmosphere of the film, you will experience something special, which doesn’t come to theaters all that often.
Did you enjoy taking this journey with me into the world of The Shining? Or would you rather kill me and inhale my essence for sustenance? Leave your kind words and/or vague threats in the comments or on our twitter @VoxMag.