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Ewan McGregor in Doctor Sleep.Warner Bros. Pictures

  • Doctor Sleep
  • Directed by: Mike Flanagan
  • Written by: Mike Flanagan, based on the novel by Stephen King
  • Starring: Ewan McGregor, Rebecca Ferguson and Kyliegh Curran
  • Classification: R; 151 minutes


2.5 out of 4 stars

Too many ghosts haunt the halls of Doctor Sleep, and not just the malevolent spectres hiding inside the Overlook Hotel. Director Mike Flanagan’s sequel to The Shining is possessed by the spirits of not one but two famously stubborn men: Stephen King, who wrote Doctor Sleep as a decades-later follow-up to one of his most enduring stories, and Stanley Kubrick, who turned King’s original book into a visually stunning work of surreal horror, which King himself happened to hate.

Flanagan, then, is tasked with honouring two artists opposed to one another, a terrifying endeavour that produces fewer scares the longer it stretches on. As Flanagan follows a new battle between a grown-up Danny Torrance and a spiritual vampire named, um, Rose the Hat (she just loves hats!), reconciliation between King and Kubrick’s clashing visions proves elusive, resulting in spoonfuls of originality and buckets of drippy homage.

Reviews of films opening this week: Martin Scorsese’s gift The Irishman, and the familiar and formulaic holiday tale Last Christmas

Ewan McGregor does a solid job as Danny, still shining (i.e. reading minds and performing other freaky feats of the head) after all these years, and Rebecca Ferguson is having a great deal of fun as his new nemesis, driving across the country sucking souls and finding new and inventive ways of wearing chapeaus.

Yet Flanagan’s film serves mostly as a reminder of just how potent Kubrick’s film was. Or Stephen King’s original novel. Or Rodney Ascher’s making-of-The-Shining documentary Room 237. Maybe even that ABC version of The Shining starring Steven Weber (wait, nah). Whichever route you prefer to take to the Overlook Hotel, there are better directions available than those prescribed by Doctor Sleep.

Doctor Sleep opens Nov. 8

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