BY: LAW ZHENG YUAN
Almost 40 years since Stanley Kubrick’s horror masterpiece The Shining first appeared on the big screens, its sequel returns to haunt audiences again, expanding upon Stephen King’s sobering world.
As the successor to the critically acclaimed 1980 classic The Shining, Doctor Sleep lightens its hold on psychological horror, instead exploring more violent themes of trauma, revenge, and redemption. As a result, Doctor Sleep comes off somewhat isolated and detached from The Shining.
Having left the theatre after watching the movie, the disparity between the trailers and the movie becomes glaringly clear. Those going in bracing themselves for a truly hair-raising experience will leave dissatisfied at the end credits – although fresh eyes may find it exhilarating, only lacking in the first half where the story is still building up.
As with most book-to-film adaptation, drastic changes were made to compress the entire Doctor Sleep novel into 120 minutes of screen-time.
Despite the absence of conventional jump- scares from horror contemporaries like the popular Conjuring Universe, director Mike Flanagan still manages to deliver sparing moments of jolting scares and almost beautiful otherworldly imagery with bizarre and idiosyncratic camera techniques. Perhaps no other director could have envisioned and delivered the source material to the big screens better than him, who Stephen King himself has even praised. Notably so, as King was known for his harsh criticisms on the original film adaptation of The Shining.
It is hence unfortunate that the trailers leave you with the impression that viewers will be white-knuckled throughout the entire sitting. And this may be the fault of the trailer house alone.
Decades since the events of The Shining, Dan Torrance (Ewan McGregor) finds himself embroiled in yet another encounter with those of the ‘Shine’. This time, they are a cult of what can only be described as vampires – living off the ‘steam’ of human that possess the ‘Shine’. He is forced to fight off the voracious cult, who call themselves the True Knot, while protecting Abra (Kyliegh Curran), a girl with exceptional ‘Shine’, from capture.
The movie starts with the same Warner Bros.’ logo introduction screen as its predecessor did 39 years ago, the first of many throwbacks that the film is more than happy to toss at audiences. REDRUM, the iconic word that first appeared in The Shining, makes its reappearance in Doctor Sleep.
We are also treated to a full sequence mirroring the opening scene of The Shining, and a sinister welcoming walkthrough of The Overlook Hotel again (and yes, room 237 and the elevator of blood receive considerable attention as well). There is certainly emphasis on the nostalgic elements, of places and ghouls that haunted the hotel – but the movie never reaches the point of mimicry thanks to not just King’s writing prowess but Mike Flanagan’s take on these throwbacks.
The sequel is a competent adaptation of the book, but is hampered, if only slightly, by the source material’s not-so horror-like plot. Some minor twists lend to the thrill factor, but the movie’s plot can stand on its own plenty fine.
Star Wars fans might find it jarring to see Obi-Wan Kenobi, whom McGregor iconically played, forsake his Jedi ways, but it takes some time getting used to.
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