Movie review: 'The Shining' sequel radiates terror and nostalgia

Fred Hawson

Posted at Nov 10 2019 11:01 AM

Ewan McGregor stars in his first-ever horror/suspense film, 'Stephen King’s Doctor Sleep.' Handout

"The Shining" (1980) was a classic horror film by Stanley Kubrick based on a 1977 novel by Stephen King. This was filled with so many creepy images which remain indelible from the memories of those who watched it all those years ago. 

In 2013, Stephen King revisited his own novel and wrote a sequel. This year, this new film comes out based on the sequel, as well as a sequel to the film version. "Doctor Sleep" is the fourth film based on a Stephen King book in 2019 alone, after "Pet Sematary," "It Chapter 2" and "In the Tall Grass."

The film starts slowly, going back and forth in time, to introduce each of the main characters. In 1980, we meet Rose the Hat (Rebecca Ferguson), a mysterious woman who led a shady cult who fed on the essences from gifted individuals. Then we rekindle our acquaintance with 6-year-old Danny Torrance (now played by Roger Dayle Floyd), Jack Torrance's son, as he was riding his plastic go-kart in the carpeted halls of Overlook Hotel and we are reminded of his gift of "shining" (an extra-sensory ability, to detect spirits in his case). 

Then the scene shifts to 2011 in New Jersey, where we meet an adult Danny (Ewan McGregor) as he was dealing with his alcoholism to drown out his "shining." He began receiving messages from Abra Stone (Kyleigh Curran), a young girl with extraordinary "shining" powers from New Hampshire. Fast forward to 2018, a teenage Abra had a violent dream of the True Knot murdering a child to obtain his life essence. She sought out Danny in person to recruit him to help her fight the cult. 

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While some sequels can stand alone, I think this one will be best appreciated only if you have already seen "The Shining." There was an overwhelming sense of nostalgia which can be experienced when seeing all those scenes and characters all over again, a testament to how strong Kubrick's brand of eerie imagery has stuck to our consciousness over time. We reencounter Danny's mom Wendy (now played by Alex Essoe), the chef Mr. Halloran (now played by Carl Lumbly), the bartender Lloyd (now played by Henry Thomas, yes, the boy from "E.T."), the Grady twins, the elevator gushing blood, the hedge maze in the garden, "redrum" on the mirror, and of course, the naked old lady in the bathtub in Room 237. 

Director Mike Flannagan, who wrote, directed and edited all his previous horror films like "Oculus" (2013) and "Ouija: Origin of Evil" (2016), as well as the acclaimed Netflix series "The Haunting of Hill House" (2018) did all three vital duties for this film as well. The build-up of horror was perfectly paced, with startling imagery of his own. 

That harrowing scene of Rose with the baseball kid is truly one of the most intensely terrifying horror scenes in recent history. The manner how Flanagan integrated the iconic elements from "The Shining" into his own adaptation reflected his absolute reverence for the Kubrick original.

This review was originally published in the author's blog, "Fred Said."