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“Doctor Sleep” Shines in Director’s Cut

Updated: Feb 14, 2021


(1) Rose the Hat (Rebecca Ferguson) the leader of the True Knot, a cult of psychic vampires and the ghost of Lorraine from "The Shining" approach Dan Torrance (Ewan McGregor) at the old abandon Overlook Hotel in the Colorado Rockies. (2) Dan sees "REDRUM" which is "MURDER" spelled backward in his rented room in New Hampshire.

(Click an image to scroll through the larger versions)


4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray, Digital copy; 2019; R for disturbing and violent content, some bloody images, profanity, nudity and drug use; streaming via Amazon Prime Video, Apple (4K), FandangoNOW (4K), Google Play (4K), Vudu (4K), YouTube (4K)

Best extra: “The Making of ‘Doctor Sleep’: A New Vision”

DIRECTOR/WRITER/EDITOR Mike Flanagan (creator “The Haunting of Hill House” Netflix series) has been a Stephen King fan since the fifth grade. “I’m a fanatic, in fact. So when I found out that he was going to be publishing a sequel to “The Shining,” I, like everybody else who’s a King fan, lost my mind,” he says in one of the three bonus features included on the 4K disc and digital platforms.

King says fans always asked about what happened to Danny Torrance after he became an adult. He joked that the boy grew up and married Charlie McGee of "Firestarter." “Doctor Sleep,” published in 2013 and King’s 63rd book, doesn't go there.

Whether you discovered Danny and "The Shining" by King's novel or Stanley Kubrick's 1980 film, the deadly Overlook Hotel in Boulder, Colorado, has become an international horror/ghost story standard. "Doctor Sleep" brings in an adult Danny, now Dan, who still has the ability to "shine" or see ghosts. In his early 40s, he's trying to shake the alcoholism and violence that's plagued him most of his life, a reflection of his father’s own self-destruction. Played by Ewan McGregor, we learn Dan was haunted by the long-dead residents of the Overlook, which has been condemned, boarded up, and abandoned, until old friend Dick Hallorann (Carl Lumbly) gives him a tip.

Dan drifts to a small town in New Hampshire, where he is befriended by Billy Freeman (Cliff Curtis, "Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw"). Curtis helps Dan find a place to stay, a job, and becomes his sponsor at Alcoholics Anonymous, an organization King says helped him overcome his own alcoholism. Dan still has his shine and, when he takes a job as an orderly at a hospice, uses his abilities to help dying patients pass over.

Soon Dan is contacted by another bright youngster gifted with the shine. Abra Stone, played by newcomer Kyliegh Curran chosen from over 1,000 teens, is actually Dan's niece, and has inherited her uncle's gift 10-fold. She telepathically finds him and, together, they learn of the True Knot, a cult of psychic vampires (with ties to Pennywise of "It" according to the extras) led by Rose the Hat, played by British actress Rebecca Ferguson ("The White Queen"). She and her followers have lived for centuries, stealing psychic abilities they call "steam" from children as they are tortured and killed. A scene where Rose, Crow Daddy (Zahn McClarnon, "Westworld," "Longmire") and others of the tribe kill a child midway-through is extremely disturbing. It's all right to fast forward through this.

(1) The True Knot's come out of the woods to feed on the "steam" of another young victim. (2) A flashback moment of young Danny Torrance riding his Big Wheel through the halls of the Overlook Hotel. (3) Dan arrives in a small town in New Hampshire, where he is befriended by Billy Freeman (Cliff Curtis). (4) Dan is now an orderly at a hospice facility, where he uses his abilities to help dying patients pass over. (5) The True Knot's conduct induction ceremony for their newest recruit Snakebite Andi (Emily Alyn Lind).


If "Doctor Sleep" has a fault, it comes from Flanagan, McClarnon and the other actors of the True Knot. The actors say Flanagan encouraged them to develop their own ghoulish personality and lifestyle. It works, allowing these villains to become at times more fascinating than the heroes. Mysterious and chilling, we want to know more about them.


A pivotal scene in "Doctor Sleep" shows the torture-kill of Bradley Trevor, played by Jacob Tremblay of "Room" (2015) and "Wonder" (2017). I repressed it from the book so it was a surprise when I saw it in the theater. Could not go there again on disc or streaming. Apparently, the actors had trouble with this as well. Tremblay gave a great performance surrounded by co-stars, but as Flanagan says, he couldn't use their footage because of their horrified response. The True Knot characters had to be filmed separately.

“[If] these empty devils ever found you when you was a tyke, if they’d even sniffed you, you’d be long dead. They’re on the land like a cancer on the skin. Once, they rode camels in the desert. Once, they drove caravans across Eastern Europe. They eat screams, and drink pain, and they’ve noticed that little girl. They might kill her, might turn her, or might keep her till she’s all used up, and that’d be worst of all. You can’t let them.” — Dick Hallorann


Mike Flanagan’s director’s cut exclusively on 4K (digital) and Blu-ray adds almost 30 minutes to the original 152 minute run time. New scenes and dialogue concentrate more on emotional impact as when Hallorann’s ghost tries to console young Danny (Rogers Dale Floyd) on his father, Jack.

“Daddy tried to kill me.” — Danny Torrance

“It wasn’t all him, you got to know. That place fed his dark, like it fed on your light. And he had some light in him too. Just like you got some dark. We all got both.” — Dick Hallorann

Personalities and action are more fleshed out – no pun intended. A death only mentioned in the theatrical cut is shown in the director’s cut. It makes a stronger impact.


Flanagan and his cinematographer Michael Fimognari continue the same visual style and look of Stanley Kubrick’s “The Shining,” filming in the 1.85:1 aspect ratio, but dropping the 35mm film camera for the 6.5K Arri Alexa 65 digital. It was mastered in 4K, for striking detail and clarity from closes ups to distant objects in wide shots.

Warner Brothers also made sure to use the best HDR toning possible, providing basic HDR10, plus the more controlled metadata HDR10+ and Dolby Vision. The results provide a richer color palette with natural facial toning and deep, dark shadows, with an abundance of detail and controlled highlights.

The 1080p physical disc also provides an excellent, reference-quality picture, but several clicks from the 4K experience. Fans of Kubrick’s “Shining” will recognize – and love – the attention to detail used in recreating the Overlook. The hotel may be rightfully condemned, but it’s all there including the geometric patterned carpets, claustrophobic boiler room, dank, mossy green bathroom in room 237, the bar in the Gold Room, patterned wallpaper home to the ghost twins, and those bloody elevators. The medieval chandeliers hanging in Jack’s writing hall are also picture perfect.

The enclosed digital code unlocks both edits in 4K version with HDR10 and Dolby Vision.

(1) Middle school student Abra Stone (Kyliegh Curran), has a horrific vision of a child's murder by the True Knot. (2) Abra is able to trap Rose at a grocery story by using her exceptional abilities. (3&4) Dan and Billy battle the True Knot.



The 4K disc and digital, plus the Blu-ray include the eight-channel Dolby Atmos soundtrack. It’s extremely active from effects to the electronic and strings music cues from The Newton Brothers, the composing duo of Andy Grush and Taylor Stewart. There’s plenty of strong bass response. Effects move around the room, while the dialogue is never lost.


With all the good on the physical discs and streaming avenues, disappoint hits hard. The theatrical release is not included on the Blu-ray disc; it is only found on the 4K. HD viewers are forced to rent or purchase a digital copy to see what folks show in the multiplex. Meanwhile, the 4K disc does not contain the director's cut.

Also, while bonus features are provided on the 4K disc and digital, they are missing from the Blu-ray. It’s sloppy workmanship or another bid to get fans to purchase a digital copy. Regardless, bad show, Warner.

The three extras range from five to fifteen minutes and should have been an easy addition to the Blu-ray. All feature Flanagan, who’s enthusiasm and love of detail on his films continues to be fun and informative. Stephen King joins him, adding his own experiences to “Doctor Sleep,” the book and film.

“Return to the Overlook” highlights how Kubrick’s vision of the hotel was recreated – and how much fun Flanagan, cast and crew had to work on the sets.

“The Making of ‘Doctor Sleep’: A New Vision” is a roundtable discussion with Flanagan, King, cast and crew about how the story and film were created. The book had a different ending for the hotel than Kubrick’s film. We learn how and why choices were made to blend the cinema universe with King’s vision.

“From ‘Shining’ to ‘Sleep’” with Flanagan and King again highlights differences between the book and Kubrick’s film and how changes and differences were resolved.

— Kay Reynolds and Bill Kelley III, High-def Watch producer

(1) Dan and Abra arrive at the Outlook Hotel during a snowstorm. (2) Dan sits at the bar in the Overlook Gold Room, where the ghost of his father, Jack Torrance (Henry Thomas), tempts him with a drink. (3&4) Dan and Abra get ready for Rose the Hat. (5) The Overlook goes down in flames.





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