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Doctor Sleep Director's Cut | movie review


Movie summary: Years following the events of The Shining (1980), a now-adult Dan Torrance must protect a young girl with similar powers from a cult known as The True Knot, who prey on children with powers to remain immortal. (IMDb)

I really find it a struggle to describe Doctor Sleep Director's Cut because I enjoyed it so much that it almost made me forget about some of the more disturbing and unsettling scenes sprinkled throughout. In fact, a co-worker who describes herself as a 'scaredy cat' when it comes to horror movies asked if I thought she'd like it and gave an enthusiastic yes in response, only to start remembering some of the more intense scenes a few days later. Last I knew, she was halfway through it - no idea if she ever finished it...

But this movie does have that kind of 'comfy' feel to it thanks to the extended running time compared to the version released in cinemas (which I haven't seen, so can't compare the two cuts) making the narrative and characters feel more like they belong in a prestige TV series than a movie. And just to point out: that is absolutely not intended as a criticism in any way.

The reason I think Doctor Sleep Director's Cut has that 'comfy' feeling to me is that the 'horror' aspect of the movie is based more around being unsettling or disturbing rather than being outright scary. There are certainly moments that are difficult to watch, but there are far more moments that are just genuinely enjoyable character moments and this allows the audience to grow more attached to the characters.

I think the movie is somewhat helped by it occasionally feeling like a superhero-horror movie thanks to so many of the characters having powers to some degree, even if their source is supernatural in nature rather than scientific like so many comic book characters. I think it helps to distance the audience somewhat from the in-movie world as not being ours, but not going so far as to push viewers into apathy.

Ewan McGregor is great as a grown-up Danny Torrance (from The Shining - this movie being as much a sequel to the Kubrick movie as it is an adaptation of Stephen King's work) and he has such great chemistry with everyone he interacts with that he's partly responsible for why the movie is so damn fun to watch - if this director's cut had been even longer, I wouldn't have minded in the slightest.

If Doctor Sleep Director's Cut does have a point of real weakness, it's that the villains of the piece - the True Knot, led by Rebecca Ferguson's Rose the Hat - never feel overly threatening to the main characters. We see them engage in horrible behaviour, especially towards children - which will undoubtedly make some people queasy - but I never felt like they were ever going to succeed with their plans.

As a sequel to The Shining, I really enjoy the movie too - especially how it works around the differing events of the book and movie to tell its story in ways that work surprisingly well. I have to admit that I merely 'like' the movie version of The Shining thanks to reading the book first and my imagination making events feel far worse than any adaptation could ever hope to, but even I couldn't help but love the returning sights and sounds of Kubrick's film.

All of the credit in the world has to go to Mike Flanagan, who wrote and directed Doctor Sleep Director's Cut, for just what a fantastic achievement he pulled off here. It's telling that King didn't approve of Kubrick's movie, but was apparently much happier with the end result this time around and I really do think it's easy to see why - this movie is just as much a 'page-turner' as any of King's books: no matter what horrible things are happening, you always remain eager to see where things are going.

If not for the weak antagonists (mirroring many superhero movies again), I would rate this movie even higher, but I would still say that you should watch it anyway. It's divided into chapters with on-screen titles to let you know when each part is about to begin, so it's something you can easily spread out if the running time is off-putting, but my advice would be to just set aside the time and watch it in one go - it'll be worth it.

Doctor Sleep Director's Cut is a really entertaining movie that is told with such a level of assuredness that that makes it a pleasure to watch - although this does make things a little weird considering the nature of the story as it really shouldn't be as enjoyable to see it play out as it is. If you're not into horror movies, then this might be a decent one for you to try out and test the water, but it can still be highly disturbing at times.

[8/10 - Very Good]



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