'Doctor Sleep' is just a shadow of 'The Shining'

Ewan McGregor stars as Danny Torrance in "Doctor Sleep."

NEW YORK — Here, again, is Johnny.

Our glimpses of Jack Torrance are fleeting in Michael Flanagan's "The Shining" sequel, "Doctor Sleep," but Stanley Kubrick's colossal 1980 horror film is seldom out of mind, or out of frame. Even that ax is back.

Adapted from Stephen King's 2013 book, "Doctor Sleep" shifts the story to the tricycle-riding tyke of "The Shining," Danny Torrance (Ewan McGregor), now grown and dealing, understandably, with a few residual psychological issues from his childhood stay at the Overlook Hotel.

Yes, Hollywood's insatiable search for new iterations for old intellectual property has wound its way to the House of Kubrick. It's so overwhelmingly a misguided mission that you want to shout, "Don't go in there!" And yet "Doctor Sleep" careens right ahead, recreating Kubrick shots, casting lookalikes to replay his scenes, refilling the elevator with blood and vainly trying to recapture some of the eerie majesty of "The Shining."

I suspect even those who don't deeply appreciate Kubrick's movies will feel a little icky about such a classic being reengineered, its hallowed halls reanimated like a defunct amusement park.

"Doctor Sleep" posits the question everyone has been nursing since "The Shining" first greeted audiences: What if the story kept going, only we added psychic vampires in top hats?

The defense of "Doctor Sleep" is that it wasn't conjured out of thin air but adapted from King's novel. To be clear: King, who never cared much for Kubrick's adaptation of his 1977 novel, can do whatever he pleases. These are his books. In "Doctor Sleep," he delights in charting a very different post-"Shining" path.

The situation, though, is quite different for Flanagan et al, who are working in Kubrick's medium and doing everything they can to mimic him, right down to the dissolves. Flanagan also wrote the script, which adds a return to the Overlook Hotel not in the book.

Yet when "Doctor Sleep" stakes out its own ground, it's a far more palatable supernatural thriller. Danny's adult life is one of bar fights, cocaine and one night stands; he has been working hard to submerge his "shine" with alcohol. He gets clean, though, and finds his place working as night attendant at a hospital where patients, grateful for his ability to gently force slumber, give him the "Doctor Sleep" moniker.

Scenes early on establish the movie's wider mythology — "The Shining-verse" - includes others who, like Danny, shine. It's a small number of clairvoyant kids who shine brightest — fewer all the time because of cellphones and Netflix, we learn. Among them is 13-year-old Abra (the exceptional newcomer Kyliegh Curran), whose powers she, and her family, are only just beginning to realize.

But the downside to possessing the Shining is — psychic vampires. A gypsy-like band of them, led by Rose the Hat (Rebecca Ferguson), feast on their souls, sucking up their last breaths like a drug. The Shining is like food to them, and as one of them says, "the world is a hungry place."

Geographically separated from the start, "Doctor Sleep" draws these characters together, eventually leading them all the way to Room 237. It's patiently plotted, and Ferguson — despite the inherent ridiculousness to her part — is creepily compelling.

But none of this is remotely worthy of "The Shining."

DOCTOR SLEEP

Director: Mike Flanagan

Cast: Ewan McGregor, Rebecca Ferguson, Kyliegh Curran

Rating: R for disturbing and violent content, some bloody images, language, nudity and drug use

Running time: 2 hours, 31 minutes

Theaters: Aksarben, Alamo La Vista, Alamo Midtown, Bluffs 17, Majestic, Oakview, Regal, Twin Creek, Village Pointe, Westroads

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