Hospice with Fresh Air
Danny Torrance was running when The Shining ended. He’s still running forty years later as Doctor Sleep begins.
He’s a drifter now. An alcoholic, a brawler, an isolationist. Confinement is death, so as such, he never stops moving. Where The Shining ferociously depicted domestic abuse, Doctor Sleep then deals with the after effects – emotional and otherwise. In-between decades, Danny (Ewan McGregor) hid himself. With help, he discovers an ability to calm those near death.
Doctor Sleep is a movie of two sides. On one, there’s Danny who doesn’t fear death even after witnessing it in grotesque forms; dying is an inevitability, and as Danny states in Doctor Sleep, Earth is just a “hospice with fresh air.” Then there are those who deny death, fear it. They take life from others so they can continue to live, pushing off finality until it becomes an unavoidable absolute.
If Doctor Sleep’s goal is decisiveness… then it provides
If Doctor Sleep’s goal is decisiveness… then it provides
What that sets up is a disappointingly direct good versus evil stand-off, preying on nostalgic fetishism as this sequel turns toward the Overlook Hotel. The third act is delayed so the camera can pan down the Overlook’s recreated (impressively so) hallways, with Danny taking in these sights as if a child finding a lost toy. It’s bizarre to consider trauma is displayed with such passion.
McGregor plays the drama well. Sitting at the Overlook bar, he’s tempted by Jack Daniels; he sees his father as the bartender. It’s powerful in that moment – that scene does was AA meetings cannot, forcing Danny to face a past, confront it openly, with no option to run. It’s potent thematically, drenching Doctor Sleep in purpose, and bringing truth to this ghost story.
Soon, that’s torn down. Doctor Sleep becomes a flawed, commercial stand-off, overriding the genuine emotive properties. The Shining cautiously turned Jack Torrance evil, slowly, methodically. Doctor Sleep ensures antagonist Rose the Hat (Rebecca Ferguson) has no ambiguity. She’s a selfish child killer, leading a band of other child killers. Her context is all too thin – Rose is nothing other than a cardboard villain, if portrayed with fantastic spite by Ferguson. She’s vicious and fearsome, arguably equal to Jack Nicholson in barbarity, if never less than that. The script allows only one mood.
If Doctor Sleep’s goal is decisiveness – dribbling out a “what if” of domesticity after something like The Shining – then it provides. Key characters return, others die. Then, a possible future franchise sprouts. Newcomers build a wider lore as if the plan is to continue on as a supernatural superhero series. But let’s not.
Blistering clarity never loses its way. A digital sheen gives Doctor Sleep a different aesthetic than its predecessor, even with attempts to bridge the two through hazier cinematography in places. A mild noise (maybe a grain filter; it’s too meager to pick up) brings a tiny layer to an otherwise crystalline image.
That translates to immense definition and detail. Doctor Sleep is 4K splendor in this regard, resolving facial texture en masse while delivering scenery near the Overlook on par with the masterful original. Consistency like this is rare.
Struggles find their way in through black levels. While often a darkly photographed movie, black crush is too pervasive. Imagery looks hardened and thick, losing depth in the deepest shadows. That’s costly. Overall contrast brings highlights up to par. Things like headlights or fire break free at night. Seeing glowing eyes against true black creates the intended unsettling sight. In that, Dolby Vision wins.
A generally ugly color palette leaves no questions as to the digital origins. The sickly yellow/amber tint fits, if never attractive. That’s the style, of which this disc captures. Doctor Sleep’s palette always looks askew in some way, unnatural enough to convey horror, and disallowing comfortable primaries.
Chilling. That’s the best word to convey this Atmos track’s effect. This mix sends sound everywhere, letting the score travel as much as effects. Voices pan overhead. Ghostly touches swirl about, and when the Overlook’s lights come back, listen for the electrical crackles that engulf the soundstage. There’s brilliant ambiance too, whether inside a theater (in-movie sound pushing to the rears), splashing waves on a beach, or voices echoing in empty rooms. Doctor Sleep is ceaseless.
Then comes dynamic range. A heartbeat never dies down, throbbing in the low-end. Shine powers draw out bold, thick bass. When a chalkboard shatters, the impact is felt more than heard. The energy pouring from this Atmos presentation is more than commendable. It’s perfect.
Surprisingly, bonuses show up on both the Blu-ray and 4K discs – except for the extended cut. Stupidly, that’s only on the Blu-ray or digital copy, without any logical reason other than to push consumers toward digital platforms.
Otherwise, a short, generic EPK about approaching the sequel features Stephen King and director Mike Flanagan. Those two also pop up in A New Vision, a general making of. Return to the Overlook is the best feature here, looking into the set construction process. The latter two run almost a half hour total.
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While strong at its core, Doctor Sleep loses its way in a haze of nostalgia and potential franchise building.
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The following six screen shots serve as samples for our Patreon-exclusive set of 60 full resolution uncompressed 4K screen shots grabbed directly from the UHD: