This is Mike Flanagan’s second movie based on a Stephen King book, having directed Gerald’s Game in 2017. Flanagan also brought us the series The Haunting of Hill House in 2018 about a haunted house that beckons people to add to its corps of ghosts. He is the perfect fit to make the movie of Stephen King’s Doctor Sleep.
Ewan McGregor is Doctor Sleep. He is convincingly tired and troubled as Danny Torrance, who survived The Shining. After a devastating childhood, Danny is now a haunted man who has finally found peace as an orderly at a nursing home. He is able to use his talents to become a de facto death doula, helping residents find ease in moving on.
Fate, however, has brought Danny a problem that shakes him out of his comfortable niche in life. Rose the Hat, played beautifully by Rebecca Ferguson, is the leader of The True Knott, a group of people who live extraordinarily long lives by feeding off of children who "shine." She is mesmerizing as she beguiles children to their doom. Rose the Hat becomes aware of Abra Stone, played by Kyliegh Curran, a young girl who shines even brighter than Danny did when he was young. Abra has befriended Danny. When she senses the danger of The True Knott, she is able to bring Danny out of his comfortable peace to fight against Rose the Hat and her followers.
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It is Danny’s understanding that “the darkest things are the hungriest, and they’ll eat what shines,” which causes him to decide that he and Abra should lead Rose the Hat back to The Overlook Hotel. His inevitable return is based on the logic that the evil of The Overlook is strong enough to devour Rose the Hat.
Those familiar with the different incarnations of The Shining (book, movie, mini-series) will recognize that Flanagan is staying close to Stanley Kubrick’s vision of the story. However, Doctor Sleep, with its well-developed characters and striking cinematography, stands on its own. While this is a horror movie, there are very few jump scares, and there is not an overwhelming amount of gore. There are eerie and frightening scenes, which provide a slow burn leading to a satisfying grand finale.