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Home > Doctor Sleep (2022): A Review

Doctor Sleep (2022): A Review

Doctor Sleep

Prepare for a Restless Sleep

Doctor Sleep pays homage to The Shining as best as it can but stands alone as its own zany and disturbing horror too. It’s not just a sequel and that in itself benefits the new fans who didn’t grow up watching and reading Stephen King’s original story. Nevertheless, the 2019 movie still has its defects — primarily the sight of the True Knots inhaling dying souls, called their “steam.” 

In terms of its scare level, director Mike Flanagan’s film will keep you up at night. Seeing Abra’s (Kyliegh Curran) vision of “the baseball boy”(Jacob Tremblay) is only the beginning. It was that violent scene between the vampiric inhalers and the little kid that will stay with you. A child’s blood curdling scream is enough to sicken you and if you’re a parent to one, you probably won’t get through this without having to look away or wear ear plugs. Aside from his screams though, it’s the sight that really makes the viewer question, “Why am I watching this?” You’re looking at a bunch of villains tie up a child to the ground in order to kill him. It’s excruciatingly gruesome. 

The only thing that ruins the fear factor here, though, is the sight of the True Knots drinking in the dying person’s “steam.” To put it simply, it just looks odd. While the horror genre clearly needs that level of weirdness to thrive, this type of strangeness just doesn’t heighten its scare. It lowers it. When we see a vampire drinking blood or a zombie eating flesh, it’s visually disturbing through modern makeup and effects. But what really dents the fright in Doctor Sleep is the fact that the souls of those who “shine” are called “steam.” It’s not Stephen’s fault for this wording, but perhaps his 2013 novel and the 2019 film could have just used the term “life force” or anything else that didn’t sound like a hot cup of tea. Unfortunately, that word alone damages the story’s frightening essence. 

However, the sight of the weakened souls is refreshing to horror fans because they’ve seen blood and guts in other movies. Who wants to see that again and again anyway? Well, both King and Flanagan apparently kept that in mind. And so, the choice made the overall story unique. After all, gore doesn’t scare people anymore. We all know that it’s professional makeup, but watching a child’s soul leave them is unsettling and new for many audiences. 

As for the performances, the entire cast obviously deserves praise. Obi Wan Kenobi is in a horror film — how could you not be curious? As always, Ewan McGregor truly shines (no pun intended) in this role as an adult Dan ‘Danny” Torrence. His pained reactions to his struggle with alcoholism like his father Jack Torrence is relatable. Seeing how he tries to suppress his psychic abilities is also fascinating, as McGregor successfully conveys how difficult it is to keep his mental boxes locked up. All in all, we see a grown Danny have the same good heart that he had as a child in 1980. When he helps the dying cross over into the next life, we see a man who took on a role that he didn’t initially intend but did so anyway as a true doctor of sleep.

Doctor Sleep

Then, of course, there’s the talented Rebecca Ferguson, who portrays Rose The Hat skillfully. You won’t forget her conniving, snarling tone whenever she says, “Well, hi there” to an innocent child. Her playful yet wicked bug-like persona is entertaining to watch in addition to her nonchalant demeanor. And when she snaps into sheer anger against Abra, Ferguson easily scares the audience. 

The strongest part of the entire film is the Overlook Hotel showdown between Rose and Dan. Doctor Sleep definitely pays homage to The Shining in two ways, aside from just the “Redrum” chalkboard throwback and the bar scene between Jack and Danny: 1) Its incorporation of the original music; that eerie organ theme song plays as Dan and Abra drive up through the mountains toward the fateful hotel, and it’s absolutely perfect for horror fans. 2) The staircase where Wendy (Shelley Duvall) and Jack had their epic fight. 

As for the new staircase altercation, McGregor and Ferguson nailed the new dynamic of the gender-reversed roles. Instead of the male character as the attacker, it’s the woman — who even calls herself the “prettiest” — who’s coming for him. As she backs him up the steps, the intensity builds throughout their conversation as she tries to lure him into the True Knot life. But Ferguson’s Rose stands out again for her nonchalant personality, as she concludes the discussion by saying in an exasperated tone, “So, are we doing this or not?” before Dan swings the ax and all hell breaks loose. 

The only other downside of the film is when we see the Overlook ghosts (the bathtub lady, for example) and, of course, young Danny and his mom. They’re just not the same as the 1980 characters. It’s difficult, however, to recapture that same ghostly aura The Shining had with its English twin girls (“Come and play with us”) and through Shelley and Danny Lloyd’s original performances. But, we can’t always recreate the past and Flanagan did his best to bring back the old characters in his sequel film. If you keep that in mind, you will enjoy seeing the Overlook’s monsters close in on Dan and possess him. 

Overall, the film stays true to King’s sequel novel and it does a phenomenal job at both paying tribute to The Shining while standing as its own separate story. Despite the grievances some may have, Doctor Sleep accomplishes an impossible task in an age of pickier moviegoers: Its frightening nature will slowly creep up on you, and then disturb you all at once. In the end, good luck trying to sleep.

Doctor Sleep

Doctor Sleep (2019) Official Trailer

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Elisabeth joined Dead Talk News in 2022 and loves movies and TV! After working for various sites, including Screen Rant and Showbiz Cheat Sheet, Elisabeth joined DTN to critique and review various movies, from horror flicks to Disney live-actions.