The Shining is a polarizing movie. Most people love the 1980 Stanly Kubrick adaption, but die-hard Stephen King fans feel differently. Much like King himself, they found that the movie didn’t stay true to the essence of the haunting horror thriller. Forty years later, Doctor Sleep is picking-up where The Shining left off, but horror fans are wondering how it lives up to the box office hit that precedes it, and the beloved and haunting novel it follows.
Doctor Sleep Will Keep You Awake
I’m going to be totally honest. I never read the original Shining novel or Doctor Sleep. Though I’ve read many Stephen King novels, those two never made it to my read list. That all changed after I watched Doctor Sleep last weekend.
Though I loved The Shining, it wasn’t exactly a movie that haunted me. For me, I knew that all I had to do to avoid elevators full of blood and creepy twins was not go to the Overlook hotel. This isn’t the case with Doctor Sleep. The villains in Doctor Sleep are a group known as the True Knot, a traveling band of human-looking creatures that search out children who possess the psychic ability known as the shining and drain them of their life force or “steam.” The True Knot are brutal and terrifying, but their leader Rose the Hat is who will haunt your nightmares.
Rose, Danny, and Abra
Rose has the ability to find children with the shining and one day comes across a girl with tremendous shining named Abra. Though Abra is young, she is cunning and is psychic pen pals with the survivor of the Overlook hotel, a grown-up Danny Torrence.
After first advising Abra to stifle her abilities, Danny realizes that simply hiding will not stop Rose and her vicious band of child killers. Finally, he decides he and Abra must use their shining to fight the True Knot and ghosts from the past that Danny thought he’d buried.
Doctor Sleep vs The Shining
I went into Doctor Sleep with low expectations. Not because I didn’t love its predecessor, but because I didn’t know how anyone could follow The Shining. The cultural impact of Stanly Kubrick’s adaption is undeniable. Even people who have never seen The Shining recognize the tidal wave of blood coming from the elevator and Jack Nicholson’s iconic “Heeeeres Johhny!”
But the great thing about Doctor Sleep was that it was able to stay true to King’s sequel while still honoring the cinematic brilliance of The Shining. We get references to many of the familiar scenes that made The Shining a classic, but there are moments in this movie that make it shine all on its own.
The Good, The Bad, and The Disturbing
The performances by Rebecca Ferguson, Ewan McGregor, and newcomer, Kyliegh Curran, are phenomenal. There are scenes in this movie that disturbed me, not exactly like how The Shining disturbed me, but in a different and more visceral way.
There is one scene in particular that I can’t stop thinking about. Because I want to keep this as spoiler-free as possible, I won’t get into any specifics, but it involves the torture of one of the True Knot’s victims.
I’m usually pretty good with violence, but something about the depravity of this scene, about how gleeful the True Knot was in torturing someone so helpless, was nearly too much for me. I had to close my eyes and that’s not something I usually have to do in even the most brutal horror movie. Don’t get me wrong, Doctor Sleep is by no means a torture-porn movie, but there was something especially wicked about the villains of this story that made the movie unique.
The true villain of the Shining is the evil of the hotel and its influence on Jack Torrence. In Doctor Sleep, these villains are driven by something more sinister than just pure evil; want and need to be evil. They feast on the innocent and revel in the wickedness of their acts. It’s unnerving to watch and something that will definitely keep anyone with a heart awake at night.
Black Girl Magic in Doctor Sleep
This wouldn’t be Black Girl’s Guide to Horror if I didn’t talk about the best part of Doctor Sleep, Abra Stone. Because I have a huge problem with the amount of information and plot points that movies have been putting in their trailers, I didn’t watch any of the trailers for Doctor Sleep.
I watched a short teaser that announced the movie but nothing else, so imagine my surprise when I saw that the co-star of the movie was a black girl.
I’m telling you, this is why representation matters. I can’t describe to you the joy I felt when I realized that the main innocent that needed protecting, the relatable and savvy child we were supposed to root for was a girl who looked like me when I was her age. I kept imagining what it would have been like to see this movie when I was younger.
To know that the person who looked like me wasn’t just going to be a sidekick, but a full-fledged character with her own story. Abra is relatable yet extraordinary.
She is both cunning and vulnerable and a character that isn’t overshadowed in her scenes with the formidable Rose the Hat. I think that of all the things I love about Doctor Sleep, and there’s a lot, she is my favorite.
Support This Movie
It was a huge shock for me to learn that Doctor Sleep didn’t perform as well in its opening box office weekend as expected. This movie is terrifying, original, moving, and pays homage to its larger than life predecessor. If you have time this weekend and are a horror fan, go see Doctor Sleep. And if you’re lucky enough to be a black girl and a horror fan, see it for some on-screen black girl magic.
Check out the trailer for Doctor Sleep below and don’t forget to like, comment and subscribe!