Movie Review: Doctor Sleep (Flanagan, 2019)

Doctor Sleep
Image Source:

Movie: Doctor Sleep

Production Companies: Warner Bros. Pictures, Intrepid Pictures, Vertigo Entertainment

Director: Mike Flanagan

Producers: Trevor Macy, Jon Berg 

Scriptwriter: Mike Flanagan

Main Cast: Ewan McGregor, Rebecca Ferguson, Kyliegh Curran, Cliff Curtis

Release Date: November 8th 2019

Running Time: 152 minutes

Certificate: 15


Well, isn’t this timely? With Mike Flanagan’s new series, The Fall of the House of Usher, just dropping on Netflix, why not look back at his 2019 adaptation of Doctor Sleep? While it did struggle at the box office, the film is fantastic with plenty of great performances, particularly from McGregor and Ferguson, and does the difficult task of being a sequel to Kubrick’s Shining very well. Also, it’s just a fantastic adaptation of King’s novel as well because of course it is when Mike Flanagan’s involved.


Doctor Sleep follows an adult Danny Torrance (McGregor), who has now sunk into alcoholism in an attempt to get away from his traumatic past in the Overlook. However, all that changes when a young girl with the Shine, Abra (Curran), tracks him down desperate for help against the True Knot, led by the terrifying Rose the Hat (Ferguson). Together, Danny, Abra and Danny’s friend Billy (Curtis) have to fight back against the True Knot lest they drain both Abra and Danny of their ability to use the Shining. All this slowly builds towards a final battle at the place which has haunted Danny the most: The Overlook Hotel.


Ewan McGregor’s Performance in Doctor Sleep

I mean there’s no better place to start the analysis than with the performance of Ewan McGregor as Danny Torrance. Firstly, it’s such a good performance as McGregor really captures the guilt and trauma that Danny feels in his adult life after everything that happened in the Overlook. Just look at the scene where Abra first tracks Dan down only for him to walk away from the opportunity to help against the True Knot. Also, the use of the two shot and over the shoulder shot here really helps the audience feel for both characters as despite Abra being in danger Dan doesn’t want or is unable to revisit the trauma that was caused by his Shine.

In addition, the final scenes of Dan being consumed by the demons of the Overlook as he chases Abra is both wonderfully nostalgic and poetic as he tries to give her every chance to escape from the demons of the Overlook. Honestly, as much as I understand why Jack Nicholson didn’t come back for Doctor Sleep, it would have been incredible to see these two opposite each other.

Rebecca Ferguson’s Performance in Doctor Sleep

Well, I’ve touched on McGregor’s performance so I may as well touch on Rebecca Ferguson’s menacing performance as Rose the Hat. For evidence of how good the performance is, look at the scene where she astral projects in order to find Abra. Except Abra-cadabra senses her and sends her flying back into her body leaving her with a bloody nose. Just the look of almost admiration and evil really sells how despite Rose wanting to kill Abra there’s so mutual admiration.

Also, the scene where she and the True Knot convert Snakebit Andi is another example of Ferguson’s great performance. Here the constant revolving camera and low angle camera placement really emphasises Rose’s power while reinforcing the terror she puts into people who have the shine. Oh and anyone who stands against her and True Knot in general. Also her portrayal in the finale against Danny is brilliant as she slowly realises how powerful the Overlook’s demons are.

Nostalgia in Doctor Sleep

To conclude the analysis, I’m briefly going to touch on Flanagan’s use of nostalgia within the film as Doctor Sleep is exactly how you should use it. Basically rather than just using it as a crutch to lean on in order to keep the audience invested, Flanagan uses it to surface the story. I know it’s an adaptation but the point still stands. Anyway, look at the finale in the Overlook as this uses nostalgia for the Shining while weaving in the themes of addiction and loss that Danny has been struggling with throughout the film.

Now compare that clever use of nostalgia to David Gordon Green in the Exorcist: Believer where he has Chris appear, get her eyes stabbed out then reconcile with her daughter sheerly as fan service in a s**t film. The former actively advances the story and plays into themes throughout the film while the latter feels like it was done purely for nostalgia and tacked on in a desperate attempt to generate emotional investment.


To summarise Doctor Sleep, this is a solid and well acted sequel to the Shining, even if Stephen King would rather the Shining not exist. There’s plenty of highlights like McGregor and Ferguson as well as some of the cinematography which pays homage to The Shining. Overall, one of Flanagan’s better works.

Overall Rating: 7/10 – Respectable

Target Audience: 15+

Content Warning:
Mild Sex and Nudity, Strong Violence and Gore, Moderate Profanity, Moderate Alcohol, Drugs and Smoking, Severe Frightening and Intense Scenes.

Recommendation: Yes