Doctor Sleep is no The Shining, but it’s still the perfect Stephen King creepfest

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**This contains spoilers of Doctor Sleep**

Doctor Sleep is no The Shining. But it’s not trying to be.

Based on the Stephen King sequel, written 36 years after the original story of the haunted Overlook Hotel in The Shining, Doctor Sleep catches up with young Danny Torrance as an adult (played by the brilliant Ewan McGregor).

Managing not so well to keep what he calls his ‘shine’ in check and doing a rubbish job of dealing with what he saw in the Overlook back in 1980, we follow his childhood and messy life as a forty-something addict.

From the out it’s clear that while Stanley Kubrick’s original film is heavily influencing the cinematography of Doctor Sleep, Mike Flanagan’s script isn’t trying to be to the new Shining.

Sure the jump scares are in abundance, high strings pierce the soundtrack, fading shots merge scenes into one another and you’ve got serious Kubrick vibes coming out all holes – but it’s more of an homage.

Doctor Sleep stands alone, strong in its continuation of Danny’s story, but even stronger in bringing us a fresh tale to whet the nightmarish whistle. If you’ve never seen The Shining, consider it supplementary viewing to this modern take, but not compulsory.

Ewan McGregor plays a grown Danny Torrance (Picture: Warner Bros)

Director and screenwriter Flanagan and producer Trevor Macy have perfectly reimaged (and borrowed from Kubrick’s playlist, to some extent) the bleeding walls, zombie twins and decomposing grandma of the original so vividly you’re partying like it’s 1980.

Lucky for old school fans, there is the same lingering feeling of dread for the two-and-a-half hours you’re held captivated by Danny’s challenging relationship with this ‘shine’. He’s unable to escape Redrum and now he’s being chased by the forces he’s been trying so hard to shun for near-40 years.

While you know his reunion with the Overlook is coming, somehow, you all-too-soon become enamoured with the struggles of Danny in the years after he fled the terror of Jack Torrance (played by Jack Nicholson in the 1980 film) with his mother Wendy (perfectly personified by Alex Essoe this time around). He may have left the Overlook, but the Overlook hasn’t left him.

Especially when precocious Abra (Kyleigh Curran) starts using her shine to write all over his walls.

Imaginative moments that take us into the subconscious of the shining’s powers are pinpricked with uncomfortable and violent scenes that help construct the plot. It’s garish and some may say unnecessarily bloody – but that’s a King story, right?

Danny can’t escape his past (Picture: Warner Bros)

The special effects are so visceral you don’t know which was is up as Abra vaults herself through the dimensions in a powerplay with Rose The Hat (Rebecca Ferguson) and her hungry team, the True Knot.

Ferguson is spellbinding as Rose, drawing you in with every eyebrow raise and feline-like movement, while Curran shines (pardon the pun) as the talented and brave hero, not afraid of the powers she holds and her ability to right the world’s wrongs.

Abra is who we should all be, while Danny may be who we actually are.

The nostalgia of Kubrick’s direction hits hard, but it’s never gratuitous. Everything is there for a reason to tell a new side of the Overlook’s past.

Flanagan is clearly attempting to tip his hat to Kubrick without trying to, as he said, ‘out Kubrick Kubrick’, but there is a trove of references that take us back – from the axe holes still in the doors (without going so far to yell ‘here’s Johnny!’ to get the point across) to the typewriter and Danny’s own moment with another axe.

This nostalgic tension culminates in a breathtakingly emotional scene at the hotel bar that is executed with wistful sensitivity – that is, if you can look past the ‘new’ Jack Torrance.

Because no one ever truly leaves the Overlook, if you’re picking up what we’re putting down…

While there’s no doubt people who love the Shining may question why Doctor Sleep exists, it’s there to tell the story of Danny while executing a tale of childhood trauma, PTSD and how we aren’t beholden to our past – or the past of our parents.

Nudged along by King’s brilliant ideas and Flanagan and Macy’s clever production, Doctor Sleep has created a whole new iconic layer to supplement our memories of the Overlook.

Return to room 237 if you dare.

Doctor Sleep is in cinemas tomorrow. 

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