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Doctor Sleep (2019)

Warner Bros. Home Entertainment

4K UHD Released: 2/4/2020

All Ratings out of





Review by Mike Long, Posted on 2/7/2020

I’m not sure what the first novel to be adapted for the big screen was, but I’m sure that it didn’t take long for the “The book was better than the movie” debate to begin, and so it’s been for decades.  I’ve always felt that the book vs. movie question may lie in which one to which you were first exposed.  And then there are those entries which break the rules.  I first saw The Shining in 1980 or 1981 and remember being confused and underwhelmed.  (I also remember Fangoria naming it the worst movie of the year.)  A few years later, I read Stephen King’s novel and was blown away by how deep it is and how much story was left out of the film.  All of these years later, I’m still lukewarm on Kubrick’s film.  There are definitely some great visuals, but the acting is awful and it’s certainly not scary.  Given that, I didn’t know what to expect from the late to the party sequel Doctor Sleep.

Decades after his experiences in The Overlook Hotel, Dan Torrance (Ewan McGregor) is a mess.  He’s an alcoholic, using the drinking to block out the image and voices which come with his psychic gift, known as “shining”.  After a particularly unseemly night of debauchery, Dan moves to a small town in New Hampshire to begin a new life.  He meets a man named Billy (Cliff Curtis) who gives him a job, and he joins AA.  As the years pass, Dan is able to find some solitude.  Unbeknownst to him, a woman named Rose the Hat (Rebecca Ferguson) and her followers, who call themselves “The True Knot”, are roaming the country feeding off of the energy produced by those who “shine”.  This energy enables them to live without aging.  When a particularly strong “shiner” named Abra (Kyliegh Curran) is detected, Rose is determined to have her.  What she doesn’t know is that Abra and Dan have formed a psychic link and Dan is convinced that he must protect the girl, even if it means revisiting his dark past.

Those who have seen The Shining and read the source novel know that the two diverge on many plot points.  When King released the novel Doctor Sleep in 2013, it was based on the events seen in his previous novel, not those which occurred in Kubrick’s film.  Writer/Director Mike Flanagan took up the daunting task of adapting Doctor Sleep into a movie and he’s created an interesting hybrid which is the best of both worlds.  Yes, he could have made a movie which was a direct transfer of King’s novel, but if it were advertised as a sequel to The Shining, those who only know that movie would be expecting things from that movie.  So, Flanagan has made some adjustments to King’s story, bringing in the fate of Dick Hallorann (here played by Carl Lumbly) and The Overlook itself, from the original film.  This obviously changes things which happened in Doctor Sleep, but it makes for a movie which is trying hard to please a variety of audiences.

And, for the most part, it works.  At 2 ½ hours, Flanagan has allowed himself plenty of time to introduce the characters and tell the story.  (A 3-hour Director’s Cut is also included here.)  While a lot has obviously cut from King’s book and the above changes made, this still feels like novel-esque movie.  We watch Dan mature and grow, as he attempts to come to grips with his power and his attempts to lock out his dark memories, while at the same time, we grow to loathe Rose and her band of dark agents due to the awful things they do.  Simultaneously, we are introduced to Abra and her connection to both.  Those familiar with King’s work (more on that in a moment) will appreciate how Flanagan has mimicked the way in which King will unveil seemingly distinct storylines and have them slowly come together.

This approach does require patience from the viewer, but the payoff is worth it, as we are treated to a very well-made and full-developed film.  I hate to put it this way, but this is truly a horror film for grown-ups.  Yes, there is violence and gore, but there is also a very mature approach to the subject matter and we are made to truly feel for these characters.  Again, Flanagan is able to translate King, so when bad things happen to our heroes (and they do), we experience a gut-punch.  Having said that, the film isn’t perfect.  In attempt to digest a 531-page novel, while also bringing in elements from Kubrick’s film, Flanagan has been forced to condense some things and some of the plot points are lacking in detail.  Also, King’s brand is based on taking old ideas and making them seem new, but elements of this reminded me of Scanners and his own Sleepwalkers.

Doctor Sleep is a worth successor to The Shining and a better sequel than The Shining deserves.  Fresh off of his success with The Haunting of Hill House, Flanagan continues to prove that he’s a filmmaker who truly enjoys telling a story.  One of the best parts about this movie is that Flangan truly gets King and the “That’s a Stephen King thing” moments that those who have read his books will recognize.  (What is life like for the people who haven’t read his books?)

Doctor Sleep should have chosen a creepier name than “The Hat” for the villain on 4K UHD courtesy of Warner Bros. Home Entertainment.  The film has been letterboxed at 1.78:1 and the Disc contains an HEVC 2160p transfer which runs at an average of 70 Mbps.  The image is very sharp and clear, showing no overt grain and no defects from the source materials.  This is a dark movie, and there are some moments here which border on being too dark, but the action is always visible.  Despite this darkness, the brighter colors (most notably the reds) look good.  The level of detail is impressive and the depth works well.  The Disc carries a Dolby Atmos audio track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 5.0 Mbps.  The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects.  The action sequences provide a wealth of surround sound effects, many of which are highly detailed – we can easily pick out individual sounds from the rear channels.  The subwoofer also packs a wallop during these sequences.  The stereo effects nicely highlight sounds coming from off-screen.

The Doctor Sleep 4K UHD contains a few extra features.  “From Shining to Sleep” (5 minutes) has Flangan and King discussing the connections between the two books and how Kubrick’s The Shining ties into Doctor Sleep.  It’s very interesting to hear King give his views on the film.  King and Flanagan continue their discussions in “The Making of Doctor Sleep: A New Vision” (14 minutes).  Here McGregor, Ferguson, and the actors who play members of the cult also appear here to discuss their characters and their experiences on the film.  The piece offers a nice amount of on-set footage and we get a look at some of the stunts and the special effects makeup.  The recreation of the haunted hotel set is examined in “Return to the Overlook” (15 minutes).  We hear form the designers and builders and we see spaces being constructed.

Review Copyright 2020 by Mike Long