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Mind Tricks: Nostalgia Plays a Terrifying Role in the Stephen King-Adapted Horror Sequel Doctor Sleep

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WARNER BROS.
  • Warner Bros.

The horror movie classic The Shining is given new life with the sequel Doctor Sleep, a nostalgia-heavy ghost story sure to conjure nightmares — especially for fans of the original.

Written and directed by Mike Flanagan (Gerald’s Game), Doctor Sleep reunites audiences with an adult Danny Torrance (Ewan McGregor), who has learned how to conceal his gifts of telepathy and clairvoyance (known as “the shining”). Since the original story, however, he’s become alcoholic like his demented dad. When Danny learns of a young girl (Kyliegh Curran) with powers greater than his, he decides he must protect her from a commune of immortal beings who feed off the psychic energy of children possessing supernatural abilities.

Unless you’re familiar with King’s Doctor Sleep novel, it might take some time to pin down the specific language used to form the world Flanagan recreated from the original text. At times, it seems like “the shining” is without limitations. The script seems to allow those who use to bend the rules to keep the narrative moving. But once the technical aspects of the story unravel, Doctor Sleep becomes thoughtful and fresh, even when it awakens familiar beasts.

Yes, the nostalgia factor is strong in the sequel, but none of the past characters or imagery evoked feels forced into the screenplay. In fact, revisiting some of the symbolism, style and sounds of the 1980 movie provides the most terrifying scenes during Doctor Sleep’s 151-minute runtime. Once a final showdown at the abandoned Overlook Hotel arrives in the third act, it’s impossible not to smile a mischievous smile when Danny peers his head through the same door his father shredded with an ax 40 years ago.

Doctor Sleep opens in theaters nationwide November 8.