by CHARLIE PINGEL
When news dropped that there was going to be a sequel to “The Shining,” I laughed. I laughed because it sounded stupid, it sounded unnecessary, and it sounded like a cash grab. Even with the attachment of director Mike Flanagan, hope for a positive product felt naive. As the lights lowered and the trailers began, my pockets a little lighter, I had already come to terms with dollars lost; however, as the credits rolled on one of the most mature sequels of the decade, I sat content, realizing it was money well spent.
“Doctor Sleep,” the latest feature from Flanagan, who saw heightened success following last year’s acclaimed “Haunting of Hill House,” stars Ewan McGregor as Danny Torrence, the now aged child from the preceding film, and follows his quest to rectify a dark and troubled adolescence while also finding an outlet for his psychic abilities. Following the emergence of a little girl with similar and much stronger powers, and a cult dedicated to consuming her, Danny must race against time and the forces of evil to save her and find his own closure. Filled with unique horror style and deeply honest thematic explorations, it is an unsettling yet kind experience that is sure to remain in the mind of the viewer long after the screen goes dark.
With “Doctor Sleep,” the nature of the sequel, for the first time in awhile, feels transcended. Flanagan does not seek to retread just for recognition’s sake; it appears wholly necessary for the character and his closure. Midway through the movie, Danny has landed on his feet and is long in recovery from his alcoholism, something he inherited from his father. He encounters a dying old man, in the nursing home where he is employed, who delivers one of the film’s central points: “We’re all dying. The world’s just a hospice with fresh air.” The title of the film is the nickname given Danny by this eldery patient, who gives it to him for no reason other than he is there to guide him to eternal sleep with his special ability to hear what people are thinking. Meditation on death is very prominent in the film and one the very mature ways in which Flanagan ties his narrative back together.
By exploring this theme of passing and closure, the film leads the viewer back to the Overlook, where Danny’s original plight began. He is forced to confront the ghost of his father, the driving figure of his brutal past. Throughout the film, he struggles with alcoholism and anger, traits he inherited from his father, vehicles he himself says are his only outlets for truly knowing his father beyond the malicious maniac. His character is driven back to his past by those very genetic imprints, the sins of the father drawing him back to pay for them and forgive himself for his troubled development. Flanagan’s film is tender, mature, and kind, despite also being incredibly unsettling. It is not so much a vehicle for studio currency as it is a route to narrative completion, turning the page on one of the most disturbing chapters in cinema history. In order to move forward as viewers, as human beings, it is necessary to return with a beloved character to what was once such an awful and violent place and confront the transgressions of a forgotten time. It is only then that the sins of the past may be forgiven. A truly unique and patient return, “Doctor Sleep” is a triumph of proper and necessary nostalgia. It is cinematic healing. 8/10