For die-hards, no horror movie can be too scary. But for you, a wimp, the wrong one may leave you miserable. Perhaps you’ve even lost whole nights of sleep in a struggle to get certain images or ideas out of your head, leaving you to trudge into work or school the next morning unable to function properly.
Never fear, scaredies, because Slate’s Scaredy Scale is here to help. We’ve put together a highly scientific and mostly spoiler-free system for rating new horror movies, comparing them to classics along a 10-point scale. And because not everyone is scared by the same things—some viewers can’t stand jump scares, while others are haunted by more psychological terrors or simply can’t stomach arterial spurts—it breaks down each movie’s scares across three criteria: suspense, spookiness, and gore. This time: Doctor Sleep, an adaptation of Stephen King’s follow-up to The Shining that also serves as a sequel to Stanley Kubrick’s 1980, King-disowned film. (We’ve included The Shining below for comparison.)
Doctor Sleep is essentially a chase movie in which the grown-up version of The Shining’s Danny Torrance (Ewan McGregor) and a teenage girl named Abra (Kyliegh Curran), who shares his ability to psychically “shine,” are hunted by a group of soul-eating nomads called the True Knot—which means there are a lot of scenes of the menacing Rose the Hat (Rebecca Ferguson) and co. drawing closer as the awful things they intend to do to their prey become clear. If children in peril aren’t your thing, this might be a good one to skip.
The Shining is superlatively great at conjuring the fear of the unknown. Doctor Sleep is largely about the fear of the known. It’s a movie that leaves little, save the quasi-immortal Rose’s attachment to her eponymous cap, unexplained, so it’s less a matter of wondering what hides in the dark than when it’ll jump out. The last sequence, which takes Dan Torrance back to the Overlook Hotel, drafts enough off Kubrick’s original to get good and creepy for a bit, but there’s too little left to the imagination to get under your skin.
The True Knot harvests “steam” from their victims, which looks like breath on a cold winter day, but that steam is intensified by both pain and fear, and the group prefers to harvest it from the young—which leads to a disturbing if not especially graphic sequence in which they torture a young boy (Jacob Tremblay). There’s also a scene in which Rose the Hat gets her hand slammed in a drawer that recalls the stomach-turning degloving in Gerald’s Game (another Stephen King adaptation from director Mike Flanagan), and some creative use of The Shining’s iconic ax.
Doctor Sleep has its creepy moments, but it often feels like the movie isn’t even trying to frighten you. The movie’s characters are too busy doing things to spend much time being scared; even its hunted teenage girl is a budding badass. The only people it should really terrify are die-hard fans of Kubrick’s Shining who think re-creating some of its images (and even recasting its roles) is sacrilege.