The Overlook Hotel doesn’t feel quite the same without Jack Nicholson hamming it up and hacking down doors, but then again, that isn’t really the point: Rather than trying to be a slavish follow-up to Stanley Kubrick’s inimitable The Shining, Mike Flanagan’s Doctor Sleep is a looser, goofier trip that just so happens to wander some of the same territory that Stephen King first explored four decades ago.
Decades after The Shining, Doctor Sleep finds Danny Torrance (Ewan McGregor) all grown up, still appreciating a good, cozy sweater, and drinking away the ghosts—both figurative and literal—that’ve haunted him since childhood. But when 15-year-old Abra (Kyliegh Curran) reaches out—revealing that she shares Danny’s paranormal abilities—the two stumble onto a rambling road that eventually leads to the ruined, long-abandoned Overlook. For reasons that are best not examined too closely, Doctor Sleep also invovles a roving band of annoying, no-good hippies who are also child-killing, soul-sucking vampires, who also wear very stupid hats; they are led by Rose the Hat, who is played by Rebecca Ferguson in a very stupid hat.
Film snobs will sneer whenever Doctor Sleep dares trespass upon the sanctified ground of The Shining, but they shouldn’t: Sure, Flanagan’s no Kubrick, but he does pull off the too-rare trick of capturing the sprawling, earnest, weird vibe of a decent King novel, where the grotesque usually walks hand-in-hand with silliness. Those who haven't previously visited the Overlook—and who will neither notice nor care about all Flanagan’s nods to Kubrick, whether screamed out or snuck in with impressive subtlety— will likely wonder why anyone cares about any of this. But for those of us who’ve spent more than a few nights in Room 237, Doctor Sleep is a surprisingly enjoyable trip back to the Overlook’s blood-soaked halls.