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Doctor Sleep ***

Based on the Stephen King’s best-selling 2013 novel, it’s tense, exciting, and a fitting homage to the thrills of its predecessor.

Is it worth $10? Yes

If you’re wondering why they’d make a sequel to Stanley Kubrick’s horror classic “The Shining” (1980), you’re not alone. Why mess with the legacy of a movie that many (with the notable exception of author Stephen King) know and love?

When you watch “Doctor Sleep,” which King wrote as a novel in 2013, it all makes sense. This is a tense continuation of the story set many years later, while also being a thrilling homage to its predecessor. Take comfort in knowing, movie fans, that the film is everything a good sequel should be.

Set in the present, Danny Torrance (Ewan McGregor) is now a substance abuser and lost soul. As a reminder, the “shining” refers to telepathy that allows certain individuals to communicate using only their minds. In some cases, it allows them to see what happened in the past or will happen in the future. Those who can’t control it often see ghosts, as happens to Danny.

King, and subsequently writer/director Mike Flanagan, expand Danny’s world from the remote Overlook Hotel in Colorado to the suburbs of New Jersey, New Hampshire and Iowa. Danny still talks to Hallorann (Carl Lumbly, taking over for the late Scatman Crothers), but he’s otherwise a mess. Danny suppresses his abilities at all costs, though Hallorann prods him to help others. “Dark things like to eat what shines,” Hallorann tells him, “but you can turn what they came for against them.”

Hallorann is referring to a group led by Rose the Hat (Rebecca Ferguson) called “The True Knot,” whose members consume the essence of young shiners in order to preserve their strength and vitality. One girl, 12 year-old Abra (Kyliegh Curran), is particularly powerful and targeted by The True Knot; she also has regular chats with Danny, who feels compelled to help her.

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For as good a sequel as this is, the real revelation is the heretofore unknown Curran, who nearly steals the movie. She has terrific screen presence and doesn’t rely on the typical tropes to which child actors often resort. On the contrary, she’s measured and intense as needed, but never so vulnerable that you feel sorry for her just because she’s a kid.

Nods to “The Shining” are omnipresent, from young Danny riding his bike through the halls of the Overlook in the opening moments to adult Danny meeting with a doctor in an office that will look eerily familiar. Many more revelations abound, including the suggestion that Hallorann, who called Danny “Doc” in “The Shining,” foresaw the doctor-type role Danny would take on in “Doctor Sleep.” That’s darn cool stuff.

At 151 minutes “Doctor Sleep” is too long for its own good, especially given that it takes a while to get going. The destination, though, is well worth the journey.

Did you know?
Actor Danny Lloyd was five years old when he played Danny Torrance in “The Shining.” He made only one movie after that, and left the profession before he was a teenager, stating that he wasn’t interested in an acting career. He’s now a biology professor in Kentucky, and he said he was eager to see “Doctor Sleep.”

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