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What The Critics Are Saying About Doctor Sleep

Doctor Sleep is apparently a cinematic awakening.

After attending an exclusive screening for the latest Stephen King adaptation ahead of its November release, critics have flooded Twitter with their thoughts on Doctor Sleep. So far, reactions are extraordinarily positive. 

A sequel to King's seminal novel The Shining, which was itself adapted into a 1980 film by Stanley Kubrick, director Mike Flanagan's Doctor Sleep follows an adult Danny Torrance (played by Ewan McGregor), who struggles with his childhood ability known as the "shine," which induces visions and other psychic happenings. Though he desperately wants to live a normal life and establish some sort of peace, Danny is still traumatized by what happened to him as a child at The Shining's haunted Overlook Hotel. Things only get more complicated when he meets children who share his special gift — namely Abra (Kyliegh Curran), who asks for Danny's protection against cult leader Rose the Hat (Rebecca Ferguson) and her underlings. His fears have never been greater, but Danny knows he must do everything in his power to protect Abra and other children with the "shine" from forces of evil.

Before we get to how the critics feel about Doctor Sleep, we should reveal what the most important reviewer has to say. Stephen King himself took to Twitter to share his unfiltered feelings toward Doctor Sleep — and thankfully, those emotions were totally positive. Praising the big-screen adaptation of his 2013 novel of the same name, King called Doctor Sleep "immersive" and commended director Flanagan for his storytelling skills. 

"DOCTOR SLEEP: Mike Flanagan is a talented director, but he's also an excellent storyteller. The movie is a good thing," tweeted King. "You'll like this if you liked THE SHINING, but you'll also like it if you liked SHAWSHANK. It's immersive."

King is no stranger to adaptations of his work, but this is high praise coming from the author, who famously disliked Kubrick's take on The Shining.

Critics are loving Doctor Sleep

Now, onto the critics who have no personal stake in the worlds of The Shining and its successor Doctor Sleep

The Daily Dead News' Heather Wixson had nothing but praise for Doctor Sleep, tweeting, "It's been a great [year] for Stephen King adaptations but I think #DoctorSleep is the best of the bunch. Thrilled me in ways I wasn't expecting, made me emotional at times & Rebecca Ferguson is ferocious. What a wonderful celebration of Kubrick, King & @flanaganfilm's career as well."

CinemaBlend's events editor and senior film critic Eric Eisenberg was all in on Doctor Sleep — which is saying something considering he's a self-proclaimed Shining fanatic, King diehard, and Mike Flanagan enthusiast. Eisenberg tweeted, "As a huge fan of Kubrick's The Shining, King's books & Mike Flanagan, I'm giddy that Doctor Sleep is seriously GREAT. It's an excellent & faithful adaptation that makes smart changes — especially melding the '80 film & the sequel book — and the casting/performances are phenomenal."

Jacob Hall, managing editor at Slashfilm, also adored the movie. He wrote in a tweet, "DOCTOR SLEEP: The boldest choice here is that Mike Flanagan doesn't even try to do Kubrick. He makes a Mike Flanagan movie: spooky, emotional, ultimately optimistic. Not only a sequel to THE SHINING, but a response to it, an attempt to reconcile King and Kubrick. Loved it."

Collider editor Haleigh Foutch was moved by Doctor Sleep, and was taken by Rebecca Ferguson's performance as the film's big bad Rose the Hat. "#DoctorSleep is another trauma-fuelled emotional horror from Flanagan that made me ugly cry in public. Understandably shakes up the book quite a bit, but keeps King's heart right where it needs to be," Foutch said in a tweet. "Where does one sign up for Rebecca Ferguson's cult? Asking for a friend."

Chris Evangelista of Slashfilm had similar praise for Ferguson, though he did note that Doctor Sleep "stumbles a bit" when it attempts to recreate elements from The Shining. He wrote in a series of tweets, "#DoctorSleep works best when it's sticking to Stephen King's novel. The moment it starts trying to recreate elements of Kubrick's SHINING, it stumbles a bit. Still, Flanagan nails the emotional elements (no surprise there). And Rebecca Ferguson owns the entire movie [...] The True Knot in the book is lame as hell. But Flanagan finds a way to make them genuinely scary, interesting villains. There's a lot more stuff I want to talk about, but it would all be considered very spoilery [...] Flanagan is one of the few filmmakers who really *gets* King. He understands that beneath all the horror, King is really a big old softie. And when DOCTOR SLEEP leans into those elements, it sings."

The performances in Doctor Sleep were mentioned pretty frequently by critics, including ComicBook.com's Brandon Davis. He tweeted, "Fans of #TheShining are really gonna love #DoctorSleep. It's at its best when its fueled by follow-up. Starts slowly and descends into madness, just like its predecessor. One specific scene is really horrifying, some solid scares, and good performances across the board."

Though the vast majority of critics can't say enough good things about Doctor Sleep, one didn't feel completely blown away by it. Yes, I Do Love Movies! creator John Duarte admitted in a tweet that he was a bit underwhelmed by the film: "#DoctorSleep is a good movie but didn't WOW me like writer/director Mike Flanagan's previous work."

Overall, it looks like fans of Stephen King's novel and Stanley Kubrick's The Shining need not worry: Flanagan, his cast, and his crew have apparently created a sequel that does justice to both its source material and its cinematic predecessor.

Doctor Sleep arrives in theaters on November 8.