Doctor Sleep First Reviews: Rebecca Ferguson Shines in Faithful, Surprisingly Thoughtful Sequel

Critics say Mike Flanagan's follow-up to the Stephen King classic packs an unexpected emotional punch but has enough scares and callbacks to please fans.

by | October 30, 2019 | Comments

Despite opening to mixed reviews in 1980, Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining has become one of the landmark horror classics of all time. That’s why creating a legacy sequel almost 40 years later was seen as a daunting task. Fortunately, Mike Flanagan’s Doctor Sleep, a follow-up to both Stephen King’s novel of the same name and Kubrick’s adaptation of its predecessor, is receiving mostly positive reviews out of the gate. Not everyone considers the new installment worthy, but thanks to Flanagan’s unique talents and at least one must-see performance, the movie seems set to satisfy fans of both of its sources.

Here’s what critics are saying about Doctor Sleep:

Is it a worthy follow-up to The Shining?

“I still don’t know if The Shining needed a second act, but Doctor Sleep presents one that’s fresh and unsettling enough to justify its existence.” – Owen Gleiberman, Variety

Doctor Sleep may not be ‘necessary,’ per se, but it’s highly engaging and entertaining on almost every level, and that makes it absolutely worthwhile.” – Germain Lussier, io9

“[It’s] not only a satisfactory sequel, but one that refuses to use the original as a crutch while still integrating it appropriately.” – Deirdre Molumby,

“[It’s] both a magnificent movie in its own right and a worthy follow-up to one of the greatest films of all time.” – Eric Eisenberg, Cinema Blend

Doctor Sleep is somewhat entertaining and interesting but cannot, in any way, compare to its predecessor.” – Allison Rose, FlickDirect

“It’s a snooze-fest.” – Linda Marric, The Jewish Chronicle

So we should just avoid comparing it to Kubrick’s film?

“A completely different beast to The Shining…Flanagan and Doctor Sleep forge their own place in horror canon.” – Kyle Anderson, Nerdist

Doctor Sleep isn’t a typical sequel. It uses The Shining as a launching point but weaves an extremely different tale.” – William Bibbiani, Bloody Disgusting

“If we are going to get an endless string of sequels and reboots, then the best we can probably hope for is for talented artists to use those sequels and reboots to say the things they want to say about the stuff that matters to them.” – Matt Singer, ScreenCrush

Warner Bros. Pictures
(Photo by Warner Bros. Pictures)

Does it honor both the Kubrick movie and King’s novels?

Doctor Sleep works as both a sequel to the book and the movie of The Shining, bringing together the two universes seamlessly.” – Ian Sandwell, Digital Spy

“Flanagan weaves fluidly between the separate worlds of King and Kubrick in much the way that Dan mediates between the living and the dead.” – Anton Bitel, Little White Lies

“In a way that poignantly echoes the plight of young Danny himself, the new movie sometimes brings to mind a child caught between two quarreling parents, and attempting to stage a reconciliation.” – Justin Chang, Los Angeles Times

“It stays true to the source material but also satisfies fans of the film. It’s a delicate balance, to be sure, but one that absolutely works. Maybe too well.” – Germain Lussier, io9

“Pandering to dueling source material results in a jagged puzzle beneath both of their standards.” – Eric Kohn, IndieWire

Do you need to have seen or read The Shining?

“There’s absolutely an argument to be made that Flanagan relies a bit too much on Kubrick’s film.” – Germain Lussier, io9

“It’s a fascinating application of cultural memory in the service of storytelling, considering how much its central emotion mandates audience investment in the earlier events.” –  Eric Kohn, IndieWire

What’s it like to return to the Overlook Hotel?

“The loving recreation of The Shining’s Overlook Hotel production design is awe-inspiring.” – Eric Eisenberg, Cinema Blend

“As a fan of Kubrick’s movie, as Flanagan clearly is, it’s supremely satisfying to see the iconography of The Shining as a weapon against an even greater foe.” – Kyle Anderson, Nerdist

Doctor Sleep impeccably recreates scenes from Kubrick’s The Shining, but smartly reframes them as young Danny’s perspective on those shocking events.” – William Bibbiani, Bloody Disgusting

“While Flanagan manages to make them look almost identical, there’s an uncanny valley quality to what we’re seeing. Yes, it’s technically correct – but something seems off.” – Chris Evangelista, Slashfilm

“The time at The Overlook Hotel is frustratingly short considering the time we spend waiting to get there.” – Jenny Desborough, Daily Express

“Once the movie circles back to the Overlook Hotel for a prolonged half-hour climax, the whole endeavor collapses into cliché.” – Eric Kohn, IndieWire

“An extravagant act of fan service. It taps into the minutiae of Kubrick’s masterwork without fully teasing out its mystery.” – Justin Chang, Los Angeles Times

Warner Bros. Pictures
(Photo by Warner Bros. Pictures)

What will surprise us most about the film?

“At times, it’s a deeply emotional film.” – Matt Singer, ScreenCrush

“It’s a warmer film than Kubrick was perhaps ever capable of, and more interested in its characters.” – Chris Hewitt, Empire Magazine

“There are some heart-breaking scenes in there.” – Deirdre Molumby,

Doctor Sleep has the feel of a ‘mutants assemble’ film, recalling the X-Men franchise.” – Anton Bitel, Little White Lies

Doctor Sleep is one of the best-looking movies of 2019.” – Ian Sandwell, Digital Spy

“It’s also a complex work of thoughtful film criticism.” – William Bibbiani, Bloody Disgusting

Is it scary?

“Despite its warm heart, Doctor Sleep doesn’t skimp on the horror. The film packs in several nightmarish moments, many of them involving endangered children.” – Chris Evangelista, Slashfilm

“The True Knot remain a chilly and effective creation, cut from the same cloth as the ruthless family killers of The Devil’s Rejects but with more daunting powers.” – Eric Kohn, IndieWire

“After sitting through so many fright-films-of-the-week that bamboozle rather than terrify, I found myself lured into a movie that dares to depict evil as something that makes us suck in our breath.” – Owen Gleiberman, Variety

“There’s a moment involving a hand that will make you squirm.” – Ian Sandwell, Digital Spy

“While I generally didn’t find Doctor Sleep all that scary, there are a couple of excellent sequences that remind you why Flanagan is the important horror filmmaker he is.” – Kyle Anderson, Nerdist

“The whole thing plays more like a solid, psychological thriller than a horror movie. Which is fine, but perhaps different from Flanagan’s intention.” – Germain Lussier, io9

Warner Bros. Pictures
(Photo by Warner Bros. Pictures)

How is Ewan McGregor as a grown-up Danny Torrance?

“Ewan McGregor turns in an affecting performance as Danny Torrance.” – Katherine McLaughlin, The List

“McGregor gives one of his best performances in a long time.” – Matt Singer, ScreenCrush

“McGregor doesn’t always get props, but he’s a sneakily good actor, and he’s great portraying the ‘Shining’ trauma made real in Dan’s grownup existence.” – Brian Truitt, USA Today

Who else stands out in the cast?

“It’s fair to say that Doctor Sleep fully belongs to Rebecca Ferguson and her delightfully wicked performance.” – Chris Evangelista, Slashfilm

“When she’s around, she’s the whole show, threatening, cajoling, erotically boiling when prey is at hand. The actress, along with the character, looks to be having a jolly old time… she gives every moment she’s onscreen here a real kick.” – Todd McCarthy, Hollywood Reporter

“Camp and chilling in equal measure, Ferguson’s Rose the Hat is mesmerizing.” – Ian Sandwell, Digital Spy

“Truly the performance that everyone will be talking about… set to be remembered as one of the all-time great cinematic Stephen King villains.” – Eric Eisenberg, Cinema Blend

Is the length an issue?

“It doesn’t quite justify the length.” – Ian Sandwell, Digital Spy

“[It’s] a film that remains for too long on the low burner; it would be hard to argue that this really needed to run two-and-a-half hours.” – Todd McCarthy, Hollywood Reporter

“Even the biggest Stephen King fans may find themselves checking their watch.” – Jenny Desborough, Daily Express

Doctor Sleep, unlike the whack-a-demon It films, at least uses its length to sink into a mood of genuine contemplative dread.” –  Owen Gleiberman, Variety

Doctor Sleep is in theaters November 8. 


Doctor Sleep (2019)

Adjusted Score: 90.936%
Critics Consensus: Doctor Sleep forsakes the elemental terror of its predecessor for a more contemplative sequel that balances poignant themes against spine-tingling chills.
Synopsis: "Doctor Sleep" is the continuation of Danny Torrance's story 40 years after the terrifying events of Stephen King's The Shining.... [More]
Directed By: Mike Flanagan

Like this? Subscribe to our newsletter and get more features, news, and guides in your inbox every week.

Tag Cloud

animated harry potter The Purge Fall TV The CW The Witch children's TV CMT Trivia crime thriller comics 45 Toys Musicals IFC VH1 YouTube Red Writers Guild of America politics zero dark thirty TV ABC free movies Box Office RT History Year in Review halloween Western FOX christmas movies New York Comic Con natural history Mindy Kaling Showtime Music Sci-Fi Anna Paquin cops Super Bowl 2019 YouTube Premium Biopics Brie Larson war nature composers cats Spectrum Originals diversity Marathons supernatural robots true crime Mary Poppins Returns Teen Pet Sematary IFC Films comic Trophy Talk Holiday mockumentary Academy Awards Cannes sports ESPN cancelled television Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt Emmy Nominations BBC singing competition DC Universe ITV teaser toy story comiccon Endgame Hallmark Walt Disney Pictures reboot spinoff Heroines Crunchyroll Baby Yoda golden globes Nickelodeon Opinion Stephen King doctor who E3 dragons Reality Competition spanish language GLAAD Disney Plus OWN Universal Martial Arts blaxploitation facebook YA miniseries A24 spy thriller Columbia Pictures Rom-Com DGA Avengers screenings Peacock Country sag awards SDCC rotten movies we love dramedy Freeform Epix cancelled 20th Century Fox Tarantino President Discovery Channel Rocketman 007 Watching Series Rock Amazon Prime 71st Emmy Awards Trailer Sony Pictures First Look Bravo Arrowverse Marvel Studios TCA movie Warner Bros. BBC America based on movie crime Food Network Acorn TV Podcast directors social media RT21 ABC Family TV Land indie biography Awards A&E Premiere Dates TCA 2017 space talk show Mystery Interview Chilling Adventures of Sabrina Summer Nominations Dark Horse Comics cults Amazon Studios cartoon cancelled TV shows medical drama PBS Sundance Netflix Christmas movies Lifetime Christmas movies USA Network National Geographic Tubi Crackle Sneak Peek Mary Tyler Moore Quiz Spring TV adaptation Sundance TV zombie Star Trek period drama Lifetime hispanic Shudder Disney streaming service Hulu CW Seed TV renewals Amazon Prime Video Ovation Winners finale justice league Election streaming Pride Month 21st Century Fox TIFF CBS All Access Mary poppins sequel Tomatazos spain ghosts crossover E! Cartoon Network Pop docudrama San Diego Comic-Con The Walking Dead Infographic psycho X-Men Superheroes renewed TV shows Black Mirror Polls and Games Emmys Pixar quibi The Arrangement Turner Classic Movies TBS historical drama breaking bad anime TCM Logo Apple TV Plus Superheroe Horror Thanksgiving Family Star Wars game of thrones science fiction Video Games SundanceTV revenge Holidays what to watch Drama HBO Max Captain marvel Pirates CBS unscripted canceled TV shows Calendar Extras cooking AMC 2020 Character Guide 2015 WGN cars Schedule versus Christmas Elton John CNN GIFs joker Lucasfilm Kids & Family independent Certified Fresh series Comics on TV canceled LGBTQ Film crime drama Women's History Month Adult Swim GoT discovery Shondaland Ellie Kemper Comic Book Binge Guide binge south america travel dc 24 frames festivals vampires Set visit technology Creative Arts Emmys LGBT Winter TV Spike police drama boxoffice Apple NBC thriller WarnerMedia green book foreign Oscars serial killer Disney Channel TCA Winter 2020 cancelled TV series Countdown psychological thriller Disney name the review documentary TNT television YouTube See It Skip It Photos 2018 DC streaming service 2017 Paramount Network Best and Worst El Rey mutant richard e. Grant latino adventure theme song Turner Grammys slashers jamie lee curtis 2016 NYCC political drama Action Rocky APB Sundance Now Paramount VICE screen actors guild First Reviews stand-up comedy Red Carpet video Starz kids Animation TLC Marvel Television witnail ratings BET Awards Tour casting Film Festival aliens USA elevated horror Cosplay Amazon Netflix Marvel tv talk MCU Lionsgate Classic Film Song of Ice and Fire hist sitcom spider-man Fox News Ghostbusters DirecTV Tumblr Vudu TruTV disaster History PaleyFest strong female leads book anthology MTV Masterpiece FXX Comedy zombies Fantasy romance transformers American Society of Cinematographers game show Nat Geo Esquire Valentine's Day SXSW Hallmark Christmas movies OneApp Apple TV+ Britbox movies Reality DC Comics Chernobyl award winner MSNBC Mudbound Television Academy Musical dogs HBO romantic comedy batman Comedy Central cinemax Syfy Disney+ Disney Plus werewolf dceu blockbuster FX