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The 1980 movie The Shining, starring Jack Nicholson as writer Jack Torrance, is considered a classic. Who can forget the dark events that took place in the isolated Overlook Hotel? Jack, his wife and young son Danny stayed there alone as caretakers of the property. Only, there weren’t really alone. The strange happenings in the hotel slowly drove Jack to insanity and violence. Danny, gifted with “the shining”, uses his intuitive abilities to reach out for help, beyond the snow bound property.
If you’ve seen The Shining, you know it doesn’t end well for Jack.
Doctor Sleep is the long awaited sequel to the story that began in the Overlook Hotel. Danny…Dan…is grown. However the events from his childhood greatly impacted the adult he grew into.
Check out this Doctor Sleep movie review, for a look at the continuation of The Shining story. Mild spoilers included. The movie’s ending is not revealed.
Doctor Sleep Cast
This horror/thriller stars Ewan McGregor, Rebecca Ferguson, Kyliegh Curran, Zahn McClarnon, Zackary Momoh, Carl Lumbly, Alex Essoe and Jocelin Donahue. Mike Flanagan directed and wrote the screenplay, based on the novel Doctor Sleep, by Stephen King. Doctor Sleep carries a well deserved R rating, for violence, language, nudity and intense scenes, and has a run time of 2 hours and 32 minutes.
Overcoming a Difficult Childhood
Doctor Sleep opens with flashbacks to Danny’s traumatic winter at Overlook Hotel. Danny (McGregor) and his mother Wendy (Essoe) attempt to move on with their lives, settling in Florida where it never snows. Danny does not speak for months until he receives a visit, in spirit, from Dick Hallorann (Lumby). Hallorann offers Danny techniques for containing his fear. Dick, who befriended Danny at the Overlook and recognized his shining, tells the troubled boy to mentally build boxes to trap the ghosts who bother him.
Danny grows from troubled boy into troubled man. Alcoholism, and the tendency to drift from town to town in an attempt to shake the past, bring him to New Hampshire. In a small town there he finds people who encourage him, offer him work and help him enroll in Alcoholics Anonymous.
As he heals, Dan works nights in a hospice unit with the cat Azzie, who instinctively goes to the rooms of those about to die. Dan uses his intuitive gift to bring comfort and peace to the the dying in their final moments, earning him the nickname of Doctor Sleep.
During his years in New Hampshire, Dan connects with an unseen presence who leaves messages for him on his blackboard wall. Abra (Curran) is a young teen girl with powerful psychic abilities that she hides from her parents (played by Momoh and Donahue) . She reaches out with her mind to find Dan and alert him to group of people who are murdering children gifted with the shining.
Members of The Knot are energy vampires who have lived for centuries by feeding on the “steam” or shine of gifted youth. Led by Rose the Hat (Ferguson) and Crow Daddy (McClarnon) the group comes into Abra’s energetic awareness when they kidnap and kill a boy with the shining. Horrified, Abra locates Dan and meets with him in person. She asks for his help finding the baseball glove of the murdered boy so that she can use it to track The Knot and stop them from harming anyone else.
However, The Knot is aware of Abra too and they are drawn to her incredible gift.
The hunters become the hunted. And Dan finds he must return to where his horrors began as a child, if he is to save Abra and others like her.
My Thoughts on Doctor Sleep
I recently watched The Shining again, in preparation for this film. Other than seeing a couple of previews, I avoided learning anything about the sequel. From the brief movie trailers that I saw, I knew the story continued with Danny as a grown man.
It’s difficult to write a sequel to a classic. However, I feel that Mike Flanagan, well known for the recent remake of The Haunting of Hill House, created an excellent follow up film.
Rather than focusing on ghosts and jump scares, Flanagan examines the human element. He shows us how Danny is affected by post traumatic stress syndrome and dwells in the shadow of a problematic, albeit deceased, parent. In addition Flanagan reveals the difficulties caused by dulling pain with alcohol and carrying the burden of living with a unique gift.
Be warned, however. There are extremely intense scenes in this film. One in particular is excruciatingly painful to watch and impacts the viewer with an emotional punch to the gut.
The Message for Me
I like the ties to The Shining, which brings continuity to the story. And I appreciate the deeper message in Doctor Sleep, which it this: shine.
As an intuitive who hid my abilities for many years, I identify with Abra. Her gifts are more powerful than mine. However, I understand her desire to hide what she can do. I understand her hope that others think her normal.
It does me good to see Abra accept who she is in the film and embrace her gifts. That’s a journey I’ve taken as well. I accept who I am. And I embrace my gifts. When Dan tells Abra to shine, as herself, I take those words to heart too.
Isn’t that a message for all of us? Shine. Accept who you are. Embrace your gifts, whatever they are. How amazing to receive this encouragement in a Stephen King thriller. Then again, this King of Horror is a master storyteller…and a keen and thoughtful observer of humanity.
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