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What Horror Fans Really Thought About Doctor Sleep

Doctor Sleep blew all expectations out of the water. As one r/horror fan said, "I went into this expecting to hate it – sequels usually stink, especially sequels to classic movies, especially sequels made decades later." Many other fans of the essential horror classic The Shining said the same thing before seeing the 2019 sequel. Director Mike Flanagan had a tall order: Tie in Stanley Kubrick's 1980 original movie, navigate the different endings between Stephen King's The Shining and Doctor Sleep novels, and respectfully portray the storylines of the complex characters. 

In the film, Dan Torrance (Ewan McGregor) is a grown man, struggling with the same alcoholism as his father. While he battles his own demons, Dan meets young Abra (Kyliegh Curran) who also has the shine, the telekinetic powers Dan had been suppressing for years. Their powers are put to the test when the True Knot, a psychic vampire group led by Rose The Hat (Rebecca Ferguson), discovers the girl's powers, a meal too enticing to ignore.

Audiences had strong opinions of Doctor Sleep when comparing it to Kubrick's The Shining and Flanagan's adaptation of the book for the silver screen. Here's a look at what horror fans really thought about Doctor Sleep.

Doctor Sleep wasn't just a recycled take on The Shining

One of the main problems many sequels have is relying too much on source material. Doctor Sleep could have easily turned into an Amityville-esque franchise, planting a new, unsuspecting family in the Overlook Hotel. Thankfully, the film did anything but that. Instead, Doctor Sleep continued the story of the shine itself. While Dan Torrance is a main character, this movie also brought in others who also possessed the shine, and presented new hunters for the supernatural powers. Turns out it isn't just the evil hotel that found the shine enticing. 

Importantly, Dan is not the true hero of the story, shifting the focus to Abra, whom fans found to be a "really badass superhero" — a badge once held by little Danny Torrance. It isn't until the latter half of the movie when the setting returns to the Overlook for the characters' final showdown. Reddit user u/TroyMMclure1970 found the hotel scenes "soo much better than The Shining." While that may be a stretch for some, many can agree with u/ifhysm that Flanagan put in considerable effort to recreate the look of the legendary hotel.

Doctor Sleep held its own in the book/film universe

Redditor u/Fwithananchor found the True Knot to be "compelling villains." Rose and her fellow vampires in the True Knot don't view their actions as evil. Taking life for them is a means of survival, and someone with Abra's power could ensure their survival for a long time. Anyone with loved ones to protect could see their reasoning while also rooting for Abra and Dan to defeat the bad guys.

Dan, in return, wasn't just a shell of his former self due to previous events in The Shining. He struggled but eventually overcame the horrors of his tortured past. We see Dan as a man who's found a way to use his powers for good, helping the sick and elderly pass on to the other side. u/Fwithananchor said that those scenes "make [them] cry every time," as they resonate with viewers on a deeply human level regarding mortality. User u/ihadallmine agreed, adding that "The themes of addiction, recovering and healing from trauma, and facing your past are all explored beautifully."

Even the original author liked it. King told Time magazine he thought that "[Flanagan] took my story [...] and basically did a seamless weld to Stanley Kubrick's film [...] I always felt that the Kubrick film was rather cold, and director Mike Flanagan warmed it up." By all accounts, horror fans approve of Doctor Sleep, adding to the original and carving out a spot for itself among other great sequels in the genre.