Over 30 years later, the world of The Shining was revisited, but this time it was through the eyes of Danny Torrance. To recall, the film was about aspiring writer Jack Torrance, a recovering alcoholic who accepts a position as the off-screen caretaker of the isolated Overlook Hotel with his wife and son. Danny does have a psychic gift known as “the shining”, which enables him to see into the hotel’s horrific past. Jack’s sanity slowly deteriorates because of supernatural forces that still linger in the hotel. Now, we all know what happened in the first film, Jack ended up dead and Danny and Wendy managed to escape. The Shining was a commercial success despite the fact that Stephen King absolutely hated the film because of how much it deviates from his original source material.
First, Stephen King made a sequel to his book The Shining in 2013. It follows Torrance as an adult and dives deeper into what “the shining” is. The film came out six years later and had a lukewarm reception that saw a lackluster return of $72 million worldwide. Doctor Sleep wasn’t met with the same praise as the first film and has quietly been buried into the thousands of horror films that came before it. Was a sequel to The Shining necessary? Here’s the thing, Doctor Sleep is a good film. Thankfully, Danny’s psychic ability is established in The Shining so it didn’t feel like some random cash grab banking off the cult status of its predecessor. There’s a very interesting story to tell based on the traumatic events following Danny’s horrific life experience. He’s a shell of his former self. Both parents are dead and he’s dealing with his gift in a way that he still doesn’t truly understand.
However, if Stephen King never made a sequel to The Shining then it would’ve been perfectly fine. The Stanley Kubrick vehicle was perfect the way it is. I can’t particularly speak about the novel itself because I haven’t read it. Perhaps King left a ton of easter eggs that would’ve better supported a sequel. Though Danny’s powers are present in the film, there’s never a feeling that the story needed to continue following The Shining. Trying to top the Jack Nicholson piece was always going to be an uphill battle. Choosing Mike Flanagan to direct the sequel was a great choice as the talented filmmaker did an excellent job weaving the material from page to screen. It does follow the more interesting narrative of Danny’s struggles as an adult and though it’s a slow burn type of horror movie (like The Shining), it pays off very well in the end. Is it better than The Shining? No. But it does a good job of expanding the world that could’ve resulted in more sequels. There was a risk of Doctor Sleep trying to capitalize of the superhero craze (like Scoob!), but the film stays on track and never feels that it was made sorely for the purpose of money. However, Doctor Sleep was never needed. I highly recommend the film if you’re never seen it, but as I previously stated, The Shining could’ve worked as a stand alone feature. There was never an uproar for a sequel to be made, even after Stephen King released the novel in 2013. It also didn’t help the fact that the feature just didn’t match or top the first film. Is The Shining perfect? No, as there are sequences that don’t particularly make sense for the context of the story Kubrick was trying to tell, but it’s still one hell of movie overall.
One fault that Doctor Sleep has is that it relies on the first film too much in the climax. It feels a bit unnecessary, though it’s not such a huge problem that ruins of the overall experience. I know it sounds extremely negative to say that Doctor Sleep doesn’t need to exist, but there are a lot of great films that didn’t need sequels. Did we really need a Scream sequel? Or Halloween? Even Aliens, The Matrix, Toy Story, and The Incredibles fall into that category. The determination on whether a film needs a sequel is not based on quality, but whether the predecessor feels like a complete entity. Dune needs a sequel because there’s scenes that don’t pay off in the first movie. Doctor Sleep is a great addition to The Shining canon, but at the end of the day, it’s not something you need to see in order to feel complete about the Stephen King novels.