Don’t Overlook DOCTOR SLEEP, the Sequel I Didn’t Know I Needed

Reviewing the 4K UHD Blu-ray Edition of the SHINING Followup

At nearly 40 years old and a bonafide classic from one of cinema’s most venerated masters, Stanley Kubrick’s 1980 film The Shining seemed to be safe beyond the reach of meddling of any would-be sequels. But if anyone could actually make a continuation a reality, it was the novel’s equally celebrated author, Stephen King.

King’s hit sequel novel Doctor Sleep hit in 2013, following up the story of a grown-up Danny Torrance, the paranormally extrasensitive boy who survived the terrifying events of The Shining. The book’s incongruities with the 1980 film, which King openly disparaged, seemed to shield it from big-screen sequel treatment.

But somehow, writer-director Mike Flanagan, with a small string of solid small-scale horror hits including an adaption of King’s Gerald’s Game, did the impossible. Not only did he convince King to let him take the reins, but the film that resulted is amazing — satisfying not only wary audiences and readers, but the author himself.

Doctor Sleep’s Danny is now middle-aged recovering alcoholic, scarred by his childhood trauma but finally settled in life. He is aware and in control of his supernatural ability to “Shine”, able to literally lock away the ghosts of his past by imprisoning them in mental compartments and also having some skills in mental projection and telepathy. These skills were honed under the guidance of Dick Hallorann, whose ghost has periodically visited him, Jedi-style. These days, Danny uses his gift as an orderly working with the terminally ill, helping his patients to transition from life.

Danny’s fragile peace is interrupted when a Shine-sensitive girl named Abra, with whom he maintains some contact, reaches out and he finds himself pulled into her horror story. Abra’s advanced abilities have given her knowledge of a string of murders perpetrated by the evil Rose the Hat (a stove-topped Rebecca Ferguson) and the “True Knot”, her tightly-knit band of ghoulish cohorts, who prolong their lives and youth by feeding on the Shine. That is to say, they murder and consume the essence of people like Abra and Danny, and Abra’s discovery of their existence and crimes has put them both into great danger.

Danny’s involvement in Abra’s struggle is a wonderful parallel that gives the sequel the right sense of weight and validity — in the same way that Dick Hallorann had once helped him, he must now use his powers to fight for this girl. It ticks off all the boxes I want it to — a wonderful story, an effective supernatural horror chiller, and a worthy successor to The Shining that both expands on and improves the overall narrative.

I specifically want to avoid spoilers about the film’s best and concluding segment, so I’ll tread carefully, but the film’s last act involves a huge callback to The Shining and truly makes the picture something very, very special.

The Package

Doctor Sleep arrives on 4K Blu-ray and Blu-ray today, February 4th, from Warner Bros. It’s a very nice looking package — the artwork is nice and my copy included a metallic foil slipcover with an easily removed “Rotten Tomatoes” sticker. The metallic print on the slipcover does seem a bit prone to chipping on the corners and edges so give it a once-over before buying if you care about that sort of thing.

The 4K version’s physical package is a mixed media edition, and a compromise of content versus formats, something that is increasingly becoming a nuisance for physical media collectors. In summation, it includes the Director’s Cut and Theatrical Cut of the film, and bonus features, but these are spread across different formats. The Blu-ray disc is not a typical “Blu-ray copy”, but different material from the UHD disc.

  • 4K UHD Disc: 152 Minute Theatrical Cut in 4K UHD, plus Bonus Features
  • Blu-ray Disc: 180-Minute Director’s Cut in 1080p

Unfortunately it seems Warner Bros is making a practice of this sort of thing (see also: Suicide Squad, Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald), though they’re not the only ones. (This rabbit hole can go even deeper — if only one version is included on UHD, why the theatrical version? Seems most cineastes and enthusiasts who are out here actually buying 4K media would probably be more interested in the Director’s Cuts, no? Or if material costs is the concern, why not jettison the standard Blu-rays altogether and just include the 4K discs instead of pretending to be a combo pack?)

The included digital code does unlock both versions of the film in UHD, and that’s great, but ignore the basic principle that when people specifically go out of their way to purchase physical media, it’s because they…. want the physical media (and benefits thereof).

Special Features and Extras

The features set on the disc is perhaps a bit small, but it’s really great and watchable stuff.

From Shining to Sleep (4:57)
Director Mike Flanagan and author Stephen King (an open critic of Kubrick’s The Shining) discuss the road to making Doctor Sleep in light of its famous prequel, King’s hesitance, and dealing with the incongruities between the novel and film continuities. It’s a lively conversation and just feels great to see how much King is in love with the project, and happy with the result.

The Making of Doctor Sleep: A New Vision (13:58)
Behind-the-scenes overview of the film’s characters, world, and new narrative.

Return to The Overlook (14:59)
I imagine this one is the biggest treat for most viewers who are fans of The Shining. The finale to Doctor Sleep returns to the halls of The Overlook Hotel for a supernatural showdown, and that crowd-pleasing element of the film is the subject of this featurette.

A/V Out.

Further Reading:

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Doctor Sleep — [4K UHD Blu-ray] | [Blu-ray]

All 16:9 screen images in this review are direct captures from the Blu-ray disc (not 4K) with no editing applied, but may have compression or resizing inherent to file formats and Medium’s image system. All package photography was taken by the reviewer.

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