At the end of Stanley Kubrick’s “The Shining,” Jack Torrance, a struggling writer turned psychopath, freezes to death while chasing his wife and son. As Wendy and Danny Torrence escape the secluded Overlook Hotel, it too is consumed by a swirling blizzard. In Stephen King’s novel, Jack and the Overlook explode in a ball of fire. King frequently cites this as the reason he hates the film: In the movie the hotel freezes, and in the book it burns. 

This works as a comparison. The film version of “The Shining” is humanity at its coldest and most remote, and the novel is humanity at its most passionate and conflicted. Kubrick’s Jack Torrance is detached from the start, and his transformation into a violent sociopath is never surprising, however much ghosts have to do with it. King’s Torrance fights insanity for the sake of his family, most of which seems to come from The Overlook itself, not his own soul. 

This mischaracterization, as King sees it, has haunted him since “The Shining” was released. To him, Jack Torrance is more than just a character. The book was written while King was suffering from alcoholism, and struggled to see the light at the end of the tunnel. He used Jack to explore this battle, detailing how it strained his creative pursuits and relationships with his wife and children.

It’s no wonder King wanted the adaption to get it right. The problem is, “The Shining” as a movie is too good to be written off for one inaccuracy. The cinematography, production design and performances are all too wonderful to ignore. So, how does one reconcile the personal core of the novel with the cinematic gravitas of the film? Mike Flanagan’s “Doctor Sleep” is how. 

“Sleep” centers on Danny Torrence (Ewan Mcgregor, “Star Wars: The Phantom Menace”), a grown-up version of Jack’s son. Like Jack, he suffers from alcoholism. He also has what’s called “The Shining,” a psychic ability that allows him to read thoughts from the living and the dead. 

He drifts from dive bar to dive bar, sleeping under bridges and trying to forget the trauma he endured at the hands of The Overlook and his father. When he meets a young, powerful girl named Abra (Kyliegh Curran) who’s being hunted by a nefarious cult led by Rose the Hat (Rebecca Ferguson, “The Girl on The Train”), he has to face his demons to save her. 

Danny Torrence possesses the heart that was lacking in the original film, asking very human questions that come from King’s novel. How does one live on after horror? Does one try to escape it altogether, or meet it head on? Will it consume them regardless? Flanagan wrestles with addiction, trauma, and family dysfunction in a nuanced way that would make King proud. 

While Flanagan’s script suffers from some hyperbole and simplistic dialogue, the plot moves along well enough, with some great twists and horrifying punches sprinkled throughout. It is his directing that really shines, though. Flanagan’s cinematography is endlessly inventive, making every scene, from the mundane to the cosmic, intoxicating.

There are moments in “Doctor Sleep” that are searingly terrifying, that will haunt one when they lay alone in the dark, trying to sleep. Yet I still found it to be one of the most uplifting movies of the year, showing how people can band together and reach for something higher. “Doctor Sleep” has the scares of Kubrick, with the heart of King. 

“Doctor Sleep” is more than just a cash grab or nostalgia fest. It’s an artistic reconciliation, aesthetically blending the two respective horror masterpieces it comes from along with the psychological ideas that made them both so compelling. It is simultaneously dark and empathetic, terrifying and heartwarming. No horror fan should miss it.

However much it throws Kubrick’s canonical imagery at the viewer, engendering some of the powerful, but fleeting, feelings that nostalgic movies like “The Force Awakens” do, one difference is key: At the end of “Doctor Sleep,” finally, after decades, The Overlook can finally burn. It’s a sight to see.

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