Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining is one of the most iconic and effective horror movies ever to hit the silver screen. It was an artfully crafted adaptation of one of Stephen King’s most iconic novels by one of the greatest directors the world has ever seen. Although considered a classic today, the film was initially greeted with a mixed reaction from critics and an outright rejection from hardcore fans of the novel, including King himself. Nearly forty years later, director Mike Flanagan (The Haunting of Hill House) has taken it upon himself to try to unite the devoted King fans with those who love Kubrick’s take on the tale with this adaptation of the 2013 follow-up to The Shining, Doctor Sleep. While the box office returns would seem to indicate that general audiences did not care to revisit the tale, the resulting movie is creatively daring and very much worth exploring.
Shortly after the traumatic experiences at the Overlook Hotel in The Shining, a young Danny Torrance and his mother, Wendy, are struggling to regain normalcy following the loss of his father, Jack. Danny is not just metaphorically haunted by his experience at The Overlook, he is regularly being tortured by hungry ghosts who have latched on to him. With guidance from the ghost of Dick Hallorann (Carl Lumbly), Danny learns how to lock away the ghosts in his mind. When we fast forward about thirty years later, the now-adult Dan (Ewan McGregor) has taken on some of his father’s demons when it comes to drinking, and he is quickly hurdling towards rock bottom. After a particular low point, Dan makes his way to a small New Hampshire town where he befriends a local named Billy (Cliff Curtis), who helps get him sober and becomes his sponsor. It is eight years later, in the present day, where we catch up with a rehabilitated Dan, who now holds down a job as a hospice orderly and has telepathically befriended a gifted young girl with immense power named Abra (Kyliegh Curran). Dan is finally in a good place, but there is an immense evil right around the corner.
While Danny is dealing with ghosts, there is a sinister group who have deemed themselves the True Knot, led by the malicious Rose The Hat (Rebecca Ferguson, Mission Impossible franchise). The True Knot are a group of psychic vampires who feed on the “steam”, or lifeforce, of those who have special psychic abilities, aka the shining. The shining is more prevalent and pure in young souls, and it can only be harvested by torturing and killing those who have it. In the present day, the group is nearing starvation from the lack of children with abilities until Abra shows up on their radar. As Rose psychically spars with Abra, she becomes transfixed on tracking her down. Abra is extremely powerful, but she needs Danny’s help to survive the True Knot. It may seem like a ton of information was just given away, but this movie is two and a half hours long without even accounting for the longer director’s cut so there are still a lot of twists and turns. The whole concept of the True Knot is classic King; kind of silly but executed in such a way that is truly gets under your skin. It does not hurt that you have the excellent Rebecca Ferguson delivering one of the most chilling performances of the year.
Mike Flanagan is the new master of creating a sinister tone and building upon it in the most delicate of ways. He takes a source material that could read as ridiculous on the page and doubles down on the terror. This is an epic tale of psychic beings striving for immortality, but at its core it is about a man facing down his demons and coming to terms with his past. Ewan McGregor does a great job taking Dan from the gutter to redemption throughout the course of the film. The entire cast does a fantastic job of honoring those characters that existed in the prior movie and creating new iconic characters for this story. Flanagan mostly succeeds in his balancing act of trying to please both fans of the book and the movie. There are a ton of obvious and not-so-obvious nods to The Shining that fans should love, but he rarely steps over the line of over indulgence. The Shining stands alone perfectly as its own landmark piece of cinema in film history, but Doctor Sleep proves to be a worthy continuation of the story.
The Blu-Ray provides the option to watch a Director’s Cut of the film that runs a full 28-minutes longer and clocks in at three hours. I watched the Theatrical Version of the movie when it was in theaters and tackled the Director’s Cut for this review. Specific details of the additions can be found here. Upon first glance, the new cut is not radically different than the Theatrical Version. The additions from Flanagan are implemented very subtly and are mostly comprised on fleshing out the characters even more by extending preexisting scenes. These additions are mostly relegated to the first half of the film, which lead to some nice moments spent with both Hallorann and Wendy. The film is also now split into six chapters, which make this feel more like an unfolding novel. While the Director’s Cut adds a lot to the movie, it also steps on some of the tension by over explaining certain plot points or telegraphing future surprises too blatantly. There is likely an even more satisfying cut somewhere between the Theatrical and Director’s Cut, but Warner Bros. should be praised for including this on the Blu-Ray release, as it’s a great addition for fans of the film.
Doctor Sleep comes to Blu-Ray sourced from a scaled down 4K intermediate to fit the 1080p format. The resulting image is truly spectacular to behold. There is great amount of depth and clarity to the picture with subtle details coming through clearly. There is some really cool production design featured in the film, which you can really appreciate with this transfer. There are a variety of landscapes presented here from beachside chats with Hallorann to the snowy mountains surrounding the Overlook Hotel. Every location is handled with the precision of a finely authored disc. Flanagan uses a muted color palette for large portions of the movie, but there are bursts of color such as the crimson red of the blood rushing off the elevator. Skin tones all look very natural and provide a good amount of facial detail in close ups. Black levels hold up well with very little in the way of black crush or noise. The theatrical and director’s cut are presented on their own discs to allow room for each to thrive.
This Blu-Ray comes with a stellar Dolby Atmos audio mix that is completely enveloping and ready to get your walls shaking. This is an incredibly active track that provides all manner of creepy sound effects and atmospheric score to keep you on edge. There is a ton of activity in the low end that pulses through you in the most sinister of ways. Dialogue is crystal clear and balanced well with the competing sounds. There is nearly always something going on in the surrounds, but there is never any difficulty hearing what everyone is saying. All of the sounds are coming from the appropriate directions, and there are absolutely no technical issues with the track. This one is all encompassing in the best ways.
- From Shining to Sleep: A five-minute conversation with director Mike Flanagan and author Stephen King discussing adapting the story as a continuation of The Shining while honoring the novel. King seems pleased with the Flanagan’s reverence for the material, even when he made changes.
- The Making of Doctor Sleep – A New Vision: A fourteen-minute dive into the making of the film with Mike Flanagan, Stephen King, the actors and more. This gives a cool insight into the characters in the True Knot that are not able to fleshed out as much in the film.
- Return to The Overlook: A fifteen-minute featurette with the same players that talk all things Overlook Hotel from recreating it as a real set to all of its inhabitants. This is quite detailed and provide some really interesting anecdotes.
Doctor Sleep does an admirable job of trying to please fans of the Stephen King book while being a satisfactory sequel to The Shining. King creates scenarios that can inherently be kind of hokey, but Flanagan plays it straight and in the most sinister way possible. This will not be a movie for everyone, but those who are on board are likely to fall in love with it. The Blu-Ray releases extends the joy by providing the option of a substantially longer director’s cut that has the same excellent A/V quality as the theatrical cut. The movie is a pretty lengthy endeavor, but it goes by in a flash and lends itself to subsequent viewings. I would say this is one you should add to your collection. Recommended
Doctor Sleep is currently available to purchase on 4K UHD Blu-Ray, Blu-Ray, DVD and Digital.
Note: Images presented in this review are not reflective of the image quality of the Blu-Ray.
Disclaimer: Warner Bros. Home Entertainment has supplied a copy of this disc free of charge for review purposes. All opinions in this review are the honest reactions of the author.
Dillon is most comfortable sitting around in a theatre all day watching both big budget and independent movies.