Doctor Sleep (4K UHD)
The latest Stephen King adaptation that serves as a sequel to The Shining, arrives on 4K Ultra HD and Blu-Ray, bringing a full director’s cut and plenty of special features. Is Doctor Sleep worth picking up for it’s 4K release or should it stay on the shelf? Check out my full review for my thoughts!
Despite never being a horror fan, I do love some Stephen King stories. The recent slate of big screen (and good) adaptations over the last few years has been pretty great overall for fans. Having recently read both The Shining and Doctor Sleep back-to-back, I was eager to check out the film, to see if the latest adaptation could live up to some of the other recent Stephen King films, or fizzle out.
Doctor Sleep sits at an interesting crossroads in that it has to work as an adaptation for the novel, as well as a sequel to The Shining book AND movie. Stanley Kubrick’s original Shining film was famously different from King’s novel. So different in fact that the author has never been shy in sharing his hatred for the adaptation.
Director Mike Flanagan (The Haunting of Hill House) had an interesting task of bringing all these elements together in a way that would satisfy fans of all versions. It’s no easy task, but in many ways he absolutely succeeded and it’s all the more impressive for it. It has some issues, but I’ll get to those in a bit.
The story follows Danny Torrance, all grown up and on the same path his father was once on. Unable to deal with the events of the past and looking to suppress his powerful “shine” he turns alcohol. As he hits the road to recovery in a new town, another child, Abra, with the Shining even more powerful than his, reaches out to make contact. But the world is hungry, and nothing is hungrier than the True Knot. The group is comprised of ancient powerful beings who feed on the pain, fear, and essence of the Shining (which they call Steam). As they prowl the countryside in search of new prey, they become aware of Abra and have some nefarious plans for her as their food source begins to dwindle. In order to save Abra, Dan must confront his demons (both literal and metaphorical) and take it back to where it all started.
And that’s pretty much the basics of the film’s plot. There’s obviously a lot more that goes into it, along with plenty of great character moments, but that’s the story in a nutshell. While it’s billed as a horror film, and there are plenty of scenes that will stick with me, the film skews more into the fantastical elements. For me, that’s a plus (and one of the reasons I enjoyed the book), but if you were going into it expecting a pure horror film, temper that.
By and large I was really impressed with how close to the source stuck to the book, but this is both good and bad. Much of the changes made for the film have to do with its connection to the Shining MOVIE. In the original novel the hotel was destroyed, but that wasn’t the case in the film. Much of Doctor Sleep’s final act takes place INSIDE the Overlook hotel, so obviously that’s pretty different from the book.
Where the film stumbles, is in how strictly it adheres to the book in its first half. Even while reading the book, those elements were some of the things I liked least, and many things are set up that ultimately go nowhere and could have been left out entirely. The film seems to do the same with many of these (including whole characters that feel largely useless) and makes the first act DRAG.
When things pick, however, it’s a powerful film that’s gripping and rushes to the finish line. Even though some of the endgame changes from the book were a bummer to miss out on, which made the film’s earlier adherence to the source seem odd. Even so, I enjoyed how it worked out, and the performances all around were GREAT. Seriously, they were able to closely connect it to the original film without feeling like it was missing a beat, while offering up new characters that were easy to care about.
The 4K Ultra HD release also brings a Director’s Cut of the film, which adds nearly 30 extra minutes to the movie’s run time. Some of these are completely new scenes, while the bulk of it is comprised of extended sequences of moments already in the film. I watched both versions and my feelings on both are pretty similar. The Director’s Cut adds some solid exposition that makes the character connections and emotional moments a bit more impactful. Though it makes the already slow intro feel even more sluggish. If you’re a long-time Stephen King fan, the Director’s Cut offers up even more treats than the theatrical version and is certainly worth checking out.
Sight And Sound
As expected, the 4K transfer for Doctor Sleep is absolutely gorgeous. Bringing in the latest with HDR10+, every color pops on the screen. The flesh tones are crisp, while the darker sequences still feel crystal clear. It just looks GREAT. The blu-ray transfer is very solid as well, though obviously not as sharp as the 4K disc. Regardless of which disc you pop in, it’s going to look nice on your set.
The sound design is given similar treatment, with a Dolby Atmos surround sound. You can hear the spirits and minor noise filling in the background of specific scenes, immersing you in the heart of both the action and quieter moments. All around, it’s an impressive release from a technical standpoint.
The Bonus Features
The 4K Ultra HD release of Doctor Sleep comes with a blu-ray disc that contains the Director’s Cut, a digital copy insert (that also includes a digital copy of the Director’s Cut), and these bonus features on the 4K disc:
Return to the Overlook
The Making of Doctor Sleep: A New Vision
From Shining to Sleep
By and large, it’s slim pickings in terms of special features to pick through. The big draw for this release is, of course, the Director’s Cut. The featurettes themselves are interesting, though don’t veer from what you’d expect. They all offer a behind the scenes look at how the film came together, and how they recreated elements from The Shining so effectively. They’re fun, though I suspect diehard fans of the original film will get more out of them than others. Still, when you consider the fact this release has an entirely extra (and longer) movie, there’s no denying you’re getting quite a bit of bang for your buck.
While I wish some things had been changed, and there was a bit stronger pacing in the first half, it's definitely a film that will stick with me for a while. I find myself eager to go back to it, looking for things I may have missed. It has a certain draw that I can't deny, which makes it easy for me to say it's worth picking up. The 4K version is the way to go, if only to ensure you get the Director's Cut as well.