Mike Flanagan offers a spirited rendition of Stephen King’s follow-up novel
Rebecca Ferguson in Doctor Sleep.
Rebecca Ferguson as the ‘seductive, fearsome’ Rose the Hat in Doctor Sleep. Photograph: Landmark Media/Alamy
Adapting Stephen King is one thing, writing a spiritual sequel to a Stanley Kubrick movie quite another. Director Mike Flanagan takes on King’s 2013 follow-up novel to The Shining, but adjusts some details to ensure continuity with Kubrick’s cult 1980 adaptation of the original book. Flanagan hopes vainly that there is still magic and terror to be wrung from the memory of Kubrick’s film, and sends a grown-up Danny Torrance back to the Overlook hotel, which he escaped with his mother, to “wake it up”.
The new material is fresher and considerably more fun. A cult who call themselves the True Knot are hunting children with powers, keeping the ghosts of the little boys and girls they catch in silver canisters. Led by Rebecca Ferguson’s seductive, fearsome Rose the Hat, they eat screams and drink pain in exchange for a longer (if not necessarily eternal) life. In a striking, terrifically creepy image, Rose astral-projects herself into a victim’s bedroom. She flies vertically to her destination, the camera swooping underneath to show her gliding face-down, like a bird.
The film moves between the cult, the adult Danny, now going by Dan (Ewan McGregor, behind a bushy beard), and a young girl with telepathic powers called Abra (as in cadabra), played with steely resolve by Kyliegh Curran. It takes a little while for their stories to intersect. Dan is an alcoholic like his father, Jack, and McGregor imbues him with little-boy-lost energy, suggesting that trauma is inherited and can’t be outrun. Nor can the memory of Jack Nicholson or Shelley Duvall; the fan service Flanagan pays to the Kubrick cinematic universe ends up being a ghostly imitation.