Connor Bynum // Film Critic
When we reviewed DOCTOR SLEEP in theaters last year, we praised the film for its obsessive loyalty to the universe of THE SHINING. That goes for both the 1980 Stanley Kubrick classic and Stephen King’s 1977 novel. Both are dramatically different from each other, but the marriage of the world provides new ways to frighten viewers.
While DOCTOR SLEEP failed to resonate with mainstream audiences in the box office, those who enjoyed the film will likely be excited to take one last visit to the Overlook Hotel in glorious 4K UHD resolution.
Movie Grade: A
“[Director Mike Flanagan’s] hallucinogenic horror-scape artfully channels King’s waking nightmares and familial trauma. He taps into both books’ terrors spawned by substance abuse, something Kubrick’s film only alluded to in subtleties. He crafts visceral, disquieting dread that’s not too dissimilar to Kubrick’s film with obvious homages and obscure nods. The picture’s austere tone augments the bold, bone-chilling set-pieces that haunt the audience long after the credits roll.
Young Danny Torrance (Roger Dale Floyd) was scarred psychologically by the events at the snow-covered Overlook Hotel in 1980. It robbed him of an angry, abusive father, but at the same time, revealed his psychic ability called “the shining.” Not only was he forced to cope with the trauma of this terrifying experience, but he also had to learn to navigate this latent skillset, literally locking away the ghosts who continue to stalk him. As an adult, however, Dan (Ewan McGregor) begins to view this gift more like a curse, seeing his mom pass away and glimpsing his dad’s demons in himself – particularly his penchant for rage and substance abuse. It serves as a painful reminder of the not-terribly-distant past.
Perhaps the most significant elements fused into the narrative are the subtle lessons about learning to confront and cope with our fears and failings. It’s a theme familiar to Flanagan, threaded throughout his other masterful works. Here, it’s made more fervent when complemented by enlightened, metaphorical sentiments about modern technological distractions that serve to dim our lights and further demonstrated by the damaged souls who exist solely to steal the life-force from others. Horrors are now not only found within ourselves, but they’ve manifested within other forces. And there’s nothing more frightening than that.”
Read Courtney Howard’s full review here.
Video/Audio Grade: A
DOCTOR SLEEP was filmed in 6.5K resolution and mastered in a native 4K digital intermediate. The visual improvements found on the 4K disc are certainly noticeable when compared to the 1080p Blu-ray. However, fans will be disappointed to know that the 4K disc only includes the theatrical version. The three-hour-long director’s cut can only be found on the standard Blu-ray.
That said, the 4K presentation is stellar. Skin tones and environmental textures are fantastic, and the painstakingly faithful recreation of the Overlook Hotel for the film’s third act has never looked better. The numerous dark and moody night-time scenes are improved even further, thanks to HDR10+ and Dolby Vision. Blacks are deep and consistent, while daytime exterior moments never feel overexposed or washed out.
The same Dolby Atmos and Dolby TrueHD7.1 and 5.1 tracks found on the standard Blu-ray make their way onto the 4K disc, and they are brilliant. Moments, when the rear channels are not providing ambient audio such as the gentle hum of cicadas or the ever-present heartbeat in the final act, are a genuine rarity. There is a constant use of the surrounding channels to give a seriously immersive experience.
Extras Grade: C
As stated above, the three-hour director’s cut of the film is included but can only be played physically on the standard 1080p Blu-ray included in the package. However, both the theatrical and director’s cuts of the film can be viewed in 4K through the included digital download code.
When it comes to the included special features themselves, it is important to note that they are included on the 4K disc, which certainly has not been the norm with UHD releases. Yet, in spite of this positive note, the features themselves are severely limited. With only three segments to watch (clocking in at just over half an hour), dedicated fans excited to see behind-the-scenes content on par with the passion and care put into the film itself will be left relatively disappointed.
All special features listed below:
- From Shining to Sleep (4:56)
- The Making of DOCTOR SLEEP: A New Vision (13:57)
- Return to The Overlook (14:59)
Final Grade: B+
DOCTOR SLEEP is a film that genuinely does not care about pleasing viewers unfamiliar with THE SHINING as a film and a book. It doubles down on the trademark weirdness only King can dream up, and it does it with the utmost pride. It is disappointing that the director’s cut can only be viewed digitally and on the Blu-ray, but this is a 4K presentation worthy of any horror fan’s collection.
DOCTOR SLEEP is now available on 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray and Digital HD.