THE SHINING is one of the most popular, respected, and loved horror films in all of cinema; even 39 years later, iconic scenes, imagery, and even music from the film can be recalled by audiences of all ages. And this past weekend, a milestone for 2019 horror finally landed in theaters. Doctor Sleep - the sequel based on the 2013 novel by Stephen King - is set several decades after the horrific events that overtook the Overlook Hotel in The Shining, and it briefly tells the story of what Danny Torrence has been up to before leading into his main journey in the film, which is to help a teenage girl who also shines to put an end to a cult whose members essentially use their ability to shine as godlike powers. While vastly different from the basis for original film, it's definitely an interesting direction to take the storylines of both Torrence and those who shine. Directed by Mike Flanagan, Doctor Sleep features Ewan McGregor as the middle age Danny as he struggles with his dreadful childhood past while also being called upon to help shine for good reasons. Using clips from the original film, as well as a soundtrack that will bring you right back to the hotel lobby itself, Doctor Sleep does an excellent job at feeling like a Shining sequel while also feeling like it a standalone film that doesn't necessarily need a Shining backstory. It's two and a half hour runtime starts off slow, but once it picks up, there's no stopping the story as it snowballs into the insanity we grew to love in the classic 1980 film.
Warning: possible spoilers ahead - readers beware!
To sum up it's incredibly involved and in depth story, Doctor Sleep seeks to reconcile the years between the events of The Shining and now, sharing that after that fateful winter, Danny and his mother Wendy took off to Florida to get as far away from snow as possible. Danny ends up becoming an alcoholic - much like his father Jack - but it's time for him to clean up his act and get his life together. Just as he begins to get his life back on track with a new apartment, a new job, and new friends, a young girl walks into his life - well, writes into his life. Abra - played by Kyliegh Curran - uses her telepathic powers (her shine) to write on Danny's walls and communicate with him before begging for his help to solve the disappearance of another boy who shines. Abra doesn't know the boy personally, but her powers are so strong, she's able to see fragmented details of what happened to him, which is why she asks Danny to help her find his body and bring justice to the ones who hurt him. That's where the True Knot come into the story.
The True Knot are a cult of people who shine, but are vampiric in their ways of living. Led by the lovely Rose the Hat (played by Rebecca Ferguson), the True Knot discovered that by hurting and then killing children who also shine, they can absorb their steam - which is essentially a lifeforce for them. So the group travels the country using their abilities to track down children who shine, kill them, feed off their steam and grow stronger and live longer. The True Knot don't know what they've gotten themselves into this time messing with Abra: her ability to shine is so incredibly powerful, even as a young teen, she's more powerful than any other adult who shines in the cult. But the group see this as a challenge to take her down, assuming her steam would give them the feeding of a lifetime. It's up to Danny and Abra to take down the cult, and what's a better place to harness raw, relentless energy to do so than the Overlook Hotel.
If you're hoping for a clone of the classic Shining film, look elsewhere: while Doctor Sleep is based on that novel/book and is a direct sequel, it's also got its own vastly different storyline going on that essentially breaks down the whole shine ability and how it is used in the world beyond the Overlook. But if you are going into this hoping to see a movie like The Shining, I feel like you'd be a bit disappointed, to be honest. It takes you down such a different path - one that almost feels like a vampire movie like Underworld or even Twilight, and I'll explain why: it tells the story of two clashing "clans" of people, the True Knot cult and the good guys, Danny and his crew of peacekeepers. That's not to say it's bad at all, by the way - just different from what we were expecting from a sequel to the iconic classic film. Overall, it's a great film filled with some pretty epically haunting scenes, great acting, and a handful of throwback scenes that will bring you right back to the Overlook. It feels like a long two and a half hours, but it doesn't really feel like any time is wasted or that there was any extra "fluff" added to the movie; everything you see is definitely placed there for a reason, and the overall experience is pretty bad ass. For those who were worried this was going to kill the legacy of The Shining, I don't think you have anything to worry about. It's worth the time and money to see it in theaters; however, I honestly don't think I'll be going for a rewatch anytime soon, I'd rather just rent The Shining again, at the end of the day.