Mike Flanagan’s “Doctor Sleep” is rife with visual homages to Stanley Kubrick’s 1980 horror classic “The Shining,” of which the source material’s author, Stephen King, has been notoriously, publicly critical. There’s no need to go down that road anymore, but it’s worth mentioning that Flanagan’s new film seems caught between paying ode to King’s novel and its follow-up novel “Doctor Sleep,” and appeasing and servicing fans of Kubrick’s film ready to go back to the Overlook one more time. The recreation of the Overlook Hotel in “Doctor Sleep” — an ambitious set-piece that dominates the film’s last act — plays out almost like a theme park ride for “Shining” fans. The wall of gushing blood! Delbert Grady! Where’d that bartender come from?
Now, Flanagan will be releasing his unfettered version of the Warner Bros. epic sequel, with a director’s cut coming to digital on January 21 and on Blu-ray February 4. The director, who is currently in production on the Netflix series “The Haunting of Bly Manor,” told Collider what to expect.
“There is new material throughout the whole film. Some of it is brand new stuff that was never included in the theatrical cut, and there’s also a handful of extended (or altered) scenes as well. There was never any intention to release this cut theatrically, we always knew it was too long. But we worked on it alongside the theatrical cut throughout post, and it made it a lot easier to make hard decisions in the edit, knowing that some day this cut might see the light of day,” he said.
“There are some big new scenes, for sure. I don’t want to spoil any of that, but I can say that there is new material throughout (including in the final act at the Overlook). Some of my favorite stuff involved Young Danny and Wendy (there’s some terrific material with Alex Essoe that I’m thrilled is restored here), and will be familiar to fans of the book. There’s also a fair amount of new stuff involving young Abra in the film’s first act, learning about her shine, and how it affects her parents.”
Set in the Overlook as Ewan McGregor’s grown-up Danny faces off against Rose the Hat (Rebecca Ferguson), the final hour of “Doctor Sleep” perhaps too slavishly recreates the 1980 movie’s menacing setting, as obsessively addicted to the details as the many super-fans interviewed in Rodney Ascher’s 2012 documentary “Room 237.” That movie profiled the many ingenious and often crackpot theories viewers have attached to Kubrick’s film, theories that unfold like critical theory term papers written on too much Adderall in the middle of the night. For these devoted viewers, the answers to Kubrick’s riddles are like patterns in the clouds: they’re there if you’re looking. Kubrick’s film offered no easy answers, but instead, a meticulously rendered vision that invites a pathological kind of close reading.
It sounds like this new material should shed light on the movie’s more mysterious elements and take us down the rabbit hole even further, for those who are willing to go there. “Doctor Sleep” bombed at the U.S. box office despite positive reviews, earning just over $31 million, but this visually stunning is worthy of a second look.