DOCTOR SLEEP (Director's Cut) (2019)

Doctor Sleep - Director's Cut.jpg

Studio:      Warner Bros.
Director:    Mike Flanagan
Writer:      Mike Flanagan
Producer:  Trevor Macy, Jon Berg
Stars:     Ewan McGregor, Rebecca Ferguson, Kyliegh Curran, Carl Lumbly, Zahn McClarnon, Emily Alyn Lind, Bruce Greenwood, Jocelin Donahue, Cliff Curtis

Review Score:



Old ghosts resurface to haunt Dan Torrance when he is called upon to protect a psychically gifted girl from a murderous cult.



In a recent round of ※film critic philosophy§ circulating social media, someone reiterated a popular belief that reviews shouldn*t be consulted before seeing a movie, or used as a means of deciding whether or not to watch something either. Rather, reviews should be read after the film to avoid prejudice, and the writing should focus on critical insight and academic analysis.

Several schools of thought can be at loggerheads with that idea. I understand the sentiment. I even agree with it to a degree. But ※critical insight§ isn*t really applicable to things like a DIY Amityville flick that just dropped on Amazon Prime. Many of my indie horror reviews lean toward being consumer reports simply because when we*re talking about the latest ※found footage§ haunted asylum investigation, what people really want to know is, ※should I bother giving this a chance or just watch &Evil Dead* for the umpteenth time instead?§ Deeper dissections work for ※1917§ and ※The Irishman,§ not ※Trancers 6.§

Keeping with my PSA mentality, I thought I*d supplement the regular review already written for ※Doctor Sleep*s§ Theatrical Cut (found here) with follow-up coverage of the Director*s Cut additions, subtractions, and extensions. Particularly in genre spaces (see the three different cuts of Clive Barker*s ※Night Breed§ for example), many film fans appreciate handy breakdowns of what*s included in one version versus another. This is doubly true in a case like ※Doctor Sleep,§ where someone may not have the time required for a second viewing, yet still wants to satisfy curiosity and continue being involved in the conversation.

※Doctor Sleep*s§ 30 new minutes of Director*s Cut content spreads almost evenly across the movie*s duration, which now runs an even three hours instead of two and a half. By my tally, I only counted four entirely new scenes (defined by me as a completely new sequence that doesn*t slide in between two others), although that doesn*t come close to encompassing all of the new footage. Most of the added minutes are made up of additional dialogue that enriches interactions or additional shots that extend preexisting scenes.

What that unfortunately means is this coverage isn*t as definitive as originally envisioned. I had both cuts of the film open in separate streaming windows to do a side-by-side comparison. I quickly discovered ※Doctor Sleep*s§ two versions aren*t differentiated by large chunks. Twenty new seconds here and thirty more seconds there meant annotating the two versions would require a level of meticulousness I was not prepared for. Realizing someone more obsessively anal retentive than me probably already went through all five and a half hours to asterisk every miniscule difference, I elected to talk about the DC more generally instead.

So if you just want spoilers, the new sequences have been flagged and inserted into the detailed synopsis above. Outside of those scenes and the chapter headings that now break up the movie into six sections, what*s left over to separate the DC from the TC can predominantly be described as ※little things.§

For instance, when Chapter Three starts at the &Eight Years Later* mark, we now see a shot of a whiskey glass sitting in an empty Overlook Hotel bar. When Dan travels from New Jersey to New Hampshire, we see him actually purchase his ticket instead of jumping straight to Dan exiting a bus upon arrival. In a more significant change, a certain someone*s death now includes the confrontation between killer and victim, not just an after-the-fact shot of a knife sticking out of a torso.

I*m speculating regarding who lobbied for changes, but I can imagine why Money Men at Warner Brothers might have requested nips and tucks to trim the extra half hour. Extended family moments, such as those between Danny and Wendy in 1980 or Abra and her parents in 2019, layer relationships by providing a healthy portion of additional context. By virtue of their exclusion the first time around however, such segments nevertheless qualify as excisable. You can see how suits would want to lighten the movie*s load so it could move more spryly through extensive exposition.

These kinds of inclusions don*t slow the movie so much as merely narrow niche appeal further to the Stephen King and Stanley Kubrick diehards aching to dig deeper into these dynamics. ※Doctor Sleep*s§ underwhelming box office receipts offer evidence that mainstream moviegoers aren*t as invested in this particular fiction. Because the Director*s Cut caters specifically to their cravings, King/Kubrick fans will reap the juiciest rewards from the fresh footage. Meanwhile, general audiences only out for Friday night thrills can continue to do just fine with the Theatrical Cut.

As enlightening as the new stuff can be, little of it addresses what didn*t work originally. I don*t think any restored footage features ancillary members of The True Knot, so they remain identifiable only by the names given to them by end credits. A new scene exists of Dan facing his father in the Overlook*s bar bathroom too. I*d bet director Mike Flanagan badly wanted to include this sequence because of how cool the recreated red setting from ※The Shining§ looks. I*d also bet Flanagan removed it because the head-on shots of Henry Thomas reveal him as a poorly miscast Jack Nicholson stand-in even more than the bar scene does.

At the very least, the DC makes for engaging viewing purely from the perspective of gaining insight into Mike Flanagan*s artistic process. Even without the aid of commentary tracks or behind-the-scenes bonuses, you can still concoct great guesses as to why Flanagan deemed it important to film certain pieces in the first place, and why he ultimately agreed to remove them during editing.

It*s reassuring to see his committed craftsmanship come into play with a scene explaining why Ewan McGregor*s blue eyes are different from Danny Lloyd*s brown ones, even though they play the same person. Flanagan remains so fascinated with details, as any passionate filmmaker is, he just couldn*t let that little discrepancy go. Considering the extensive work he did to reconcile the differences between ※The Shining*s§ movie continuity and its book continuity, it should come as no surprise that his commitment extends to those ※little things§ as well.

Broadly speaking, you can expect an altered experience with ※Doctor Sleep*s§ Director*s Cut, though not necessarily a radically different one. A lot of what*s changed is so slight, unless your memory of the Theatrical Cut is extremely fresh, you*ll probably encounter multiple instances where you*ll wonder, ※wait, did s/he say that the first time I saw this?§

Deciding between the two versions isn*t a choice of, ※which one*s better?§ It*s a choice of, ※which one better satisfies what I want out of this movie: literary introspection or leaner entertainment?§ For King/Kubrick/Flanagan fans, the answer is obvious. It should be obvious for casual viewers too. I mean, it*s not like ※not being long enough§ was what turned them away from the theater, so another 30 minutes is the last thing that would draw them back on home video.

Review Score: 75