Two things need to be said, right at the top, both very positive, that will hopefully entice you to check out “Doctor Sleep” before it gets lost in the rush of new releases over the next few weeks. First, it’s a damn good movie, with a riveting story featuring recognizable human behavior that gets caught up in life-threatening supernatural circumstances. Thank Stephen King for that story. Second - and the thanks for this goes to writer-director Mike Flanagan - it joins the small population of King novels that have been turned into damn good movies, among them “The Shawshank Redemption,” “The Green Mile,” “The Mist,” “Dolores Claiborne,” and “Salem’s Lot” (the 1979 TV version).

I never considered “The Shining” to be a very good or a very scary film. Old interviews show that neither did Stephen King. And, speaking personally again, I think “Doctor Sleep,” King’s sequel to “The Shining,” is the better of the two books. Maybe it just takes time to get these things right. “Doctor Sleep” was published 42 years after “The Shining.” The film “Doctor Sleep” is being released 39 years after the first film.

Only one major character is back. Little Danny Torrance who, though blessed with the powers of telepathy, went through the horrors of evil spirits as well as those of his father’s alcoholism in “The Shining,” has grown up to become Dan Torrance, an alcoholic who is haunted by his past and, at the story’s start, has reached what appears to be rock bottom. He’s a pathetic, miserable wretch who has lost control of his life. So, he’s also, in typical King style, haunted by his present.

But Dan’s sad story is only one of three that are spun here, each of a very different nature. Thirteen-year-old Abra Stone (Kyleigh Curran) is a happy little girl living in small-town New England with her happy mom and dad. Abra, like Dan, is also gifted with telepathy or, in King terminology, also has “the shining,” but whose case of it is far stronger than Danny’s ever was or Dan’s now is. And she’s on the road of learning how to control it, which Dan never properly could.

The third party is a group of people, or at least the remnants of what once were people. They’re the ragtag travelers called The True Knot, a collective of vampire-like folks who look and act completely normal but due to their subsistence on the lifeforce (they call it steam) of humans who have the shining, they can maintain a semblance of immortality. Oh, they can be killed, but they don’t age. The more steam they get, the longer they stay young. The more people with steam (with the shining) they kill, the more steam they can store in cannisters, to be inhaled when needed.

But The True Knot’s leader, the vicious and beautiful Rose the Hat (Rebecca Ferguson), knows that supplies are running low, and that desperation will soon be setting in.

The script manages to take these disparate characters and their separate stories, and weave them into a single connected one, always keeping a clear-cut line between who is good and who is evil. Flanagan, who also wrote and directed the little-seen adaptation of King’s “Gerald’s Game” a couple of years ago, has come up with a terrific streamlining of the book. He sticks to its essence, includes plenty of direct references and even some of the dialogue, but wisely cuts out unnecessary parts and even characters that sometimes clutter King’s lengthy novels.

Flanagan’s one misfire involves the inclusion of a “character” (OK, a building) from the first film that only exists as a passing mention in King’s follow-up book. It’s a weird departure that works for the look and feel of the film, but not for the story.

Yet, it’s not a fatal flaw, as the film is so full of excellent performances - McGregor gives his character a wide but completely believable arc, Curran infuses her Abra with childlike wonder and a mature attitude, Ferguson is absolutely ferocious. And front and center here is an intense, eerie and classic confrontation between good and evil ... a damn good one.

Ed Symkus writes about movies for More Content Now. He can be reached at esymkus@rcn.com.

“Doctor Sleep”

Written and directed by Mike Flanagan

With Ewan McGregor, Rebecca Ferguson, Kyleigh Curran

Rated R