Doctor Sleep is the direct sequel to Stephen King's novel and Stanley Kubrick's film of The Shining. Most people that have seen/read The Shining would know that King and Kubrick had some significant differences of opinion regarding the film adaptation. King wrote the book as a cathartic exploration of his protagonist Jack Torrance - teacher-writer and family man that takes on an assignment of being a winter caretaker for the Hotel Overlook - dealing with the demons of alcoholism. His struggle is actively exploited by the evil that lurks within the hotel and lots of bad shit happens. Kubrick's film adaptation covers similar ground, but places more emphasis on the protagonist's writer's block and acceleration of his mental breakdown in the secluded and remote location. In his version the hotel is a looming but more passive presence and a lot of the stuff that happens can be attributed to the hallucinations of the protagonist and his young telepath son Danny. The film also removes a climactic scene from the book where the hotel goes down in flames. Having both read the book and seen the film, I'd say each has specific strengths and weaknesses, but I prefer the way Kubrick handled the supernatural elements.
In Dr. Sleep, Danny Torrance (Ewan MacGregor) is an older man, and at the film's
beginning an alcoholic like his father was. He gets help from a kind
quarter and sorts out his life as an orderly at a geriatric nursing home
where his extrasensory gifts help him to spiritually ease the journey
of people that are about to pass away. Danny is reminded of the past
when he gets a mental communication from a fellow 'shiner' Abra (Kyleigh Curran), a
schoolgirl with marvelous telepathic abilities. There's also a band of
itinerant psychic vampires led by the alluring Rose (Rebecca
Ferguson), who feed on the
essence of shiners; Abra represents a fount of vitality to them.
Danny must protect Abra and fight Rose and her gang, and this struggle
involves a return to the Hotel Overlook.
The sequel is by Mike Flanagan, one of the interesting modern horror directors. Not having read King's sequel I don't know how faithful Flanagan's film is. It is certainly a different sort of experience than The Shining. In that one the place was an imperturbable entity that loomed heavy over the characters, whose best hope lay in survival. This one is a more straightforward good vs evil struggle where Danny and the girl take on the psychic vampires. Like in video-games and Christopher Nolan movies, there are rules and counter-rules and Macguffins. I think by putting aside my memories of The Shining, I was able to enjoy Dr. Sleep as its own unassuming entertainer. The one scene where it really made a connect with the previous story was when Danny is addressing an AA meeting and talks about his alcoholism as a connect with his father. Otherwise, it's a more generic though not unpleasant adventure.
One problem is that the stakes never feel high enough for our protagonists - in fact I felt more sorry for Rose, who seems to have blundered into immensely over-powered foes. The scenes in the Overlook are either empty reference or unintentionally funny (like when you have the Jack Nicholson stand-in). They're also nonsensical - how is it that the hotel appears to have been abandoned entirely (no caretaker, no repairs to the door smashed in by Jack Torrance's axe all those many years ago), but the electricity and everything still works. Ewan MacGregor and Kyleigh Curran have good chemistry (even if Abra's preternaturally mature attitude further reduces any anxiety we are supposed to feel for them) while Rebecca Ferguson seems to be having fun as a humorous Manson wannabe.
So I was reasonably entertained sitting through this with a couple of whisky shots (no more, I promise), but I wouldn't describe it as memorable. Make of that what you will.
P.S. Just to clarify, Netflix was streaming the theatrical version, running ~2.5hrs. There's also a 3hr Director's Cut available on disc at least, but I don't imagine it radically changes the tone of the film.