★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
If you were expecting a remake of “The Shining” from its sequel, think again. “Doctor Sleep” tries to be what so many money-machine sequels can’t nowadays: original. At least, as original as an adaptation of a book can get.
Danny Torrance (Ewan McGregor), the cute little boy you all know and love on his long tricycle rides through the Overlook Hotel, grew up to be a drunk whose moral compass points wherever his own needs take him. After a brief prologue explaining how Torrance learned to cope with the trauma he experienced as a child, chance and a bus bring him to a small town in New Hampshire where Billy Freeman (Cliff Curtis) helps him get back on his feet just in time for Torrance to gain a telepathic pen pal.
McGregor compellingly portrays a man raised up under the shadow of the alcoholic — and murderous — father we all know and fear. McGregor’s soft-spoken Danny is determined to change the Torrance legacy. Rose the Hat (Rebecca Ferguson) is the embodiment of the sexy female villain stereotype, out to live as long — and as young — as she can. Unfortunately for the kick-ass actress, she’s stuck in a shallow and somewhat disappointing role with little depth but plenty of sinister vibes. Abra Stone (Kyliegh Curran) — cough cough — shines in this movie as a teenage girl who can communicate telepathically, just like Torrance. She holds her own beside the Golden Globe-winning and nominated actor and actress.
It isn’t until the third act that the score returns to the familiar, methodical beat and melody famously played in “The Shining.” The movie gives us a bit of fan service, from contextual references to the previous movie in the beginning, to scenes near the end that are set in some very familiar places.
Mike Flanagan, director of “The Haunting of Hill House,” brings another character-driven concept in a spooky and supernatural setting without the cliched jump scares and gore that so many thriller movies have used in the past. On the slight downside, this fantasy thriller often leans a little closer to an action movie than the slow burn of “The Shining,” and many fans of the previous movie are unlikely to enjoy the contrasting style of its sequel. A handful of intense moments and just a dash of murder keeps this movie in its genre.
Overall, the plot of “Doctor Sleeps” is busier than its predecessors, and suspense is mostly built through the musical score and the cast’s acting abilities. The biggest upside is that it isn’t an exact remake of “The Shining.” Originality and intensity in the story and structure of the movie freshen the narrative of the franchise and help “Doctor Sleep” stand alone. It is definitely a movie worth seeing in theaters.