I finally got around to watching the Directors Cut disc that accompanied my 4K edition. Its something I’ve been trying to get around to ever since I watched that 4K disc of the films theatrical version, back when it came out (early March, I think, which seems a lifetime/Covid-time away now, like it was back in some other world). Its been so long, in fact, that there seems little opportunity to really remark upon any major differences, simply because I’ve only seen that theatrical cut once and all that time rather blurs everything, you know?
On the other hand, the fact that little in this cut really stood out to me, considering its 180 minutes long compared to the theatrical cuts 150 minutes, would suggest to me that the 150-minute cut wasn’t broken, and then therefore there’s nothing the DC really fixes. Indeed, one of the additions I did easily spot, an early sequence with Abra (child incarnation played by Dakota Hickman) was a scene that shouldn’t have been included in any version. Abra is shown playing the piano the night before her birthday party, told to go to bed, and then her parents wakened during the night by the piano playing only to go downstairs and see the piano keys being played with no-one there (Abra obviously playing in her sleep),. Its awkward and sure, typical of the worst excesses of author Stephen King in describing supernatural stuff as commonplace, when in reality it would send people to the nuthouse. Didn’t work for me. Maybe it was too literal in displaying Abra’s supernatural powers, her Shining, like we were in some Marvel origin story. The beauty of Kubrick’s film was the strangeness, the mystery. King has a tendency to display this stuff like a can of Coca Cola on the shelf, so ordinary, so American, and just so easily accepted.
I don’t know much about the making of Doctor Sleep and have never read King’s book, but I would suspect that the DC of the film is the full shooting script, pretty much, that was subsequently shortened as it became clear the film was running long. Most of the additions are scene extensions, added lines of dialogue or shots, rather than revelatory new scenes, and the death of the baseball boy is more graphic and disturbing (but then again, it was harrowing enough on the original version to me). A funny thing that endlessly fascinates me, though, is how scenes can be shorter and longer by such small margins of shots and lines of dialogue, with neither short or long version really feeling broken or disjointed- its so difficult to see the joins/cuts, the scenes feeling fine and organic in either version.
The real test, I am sure, is when I give my 4K disc of the theatrical cut a spin, and if I suddenly realise the shots/lines that are ‘missing.’ It may well be that watching the theatrical, I miss those additions and wind up preferring the DC, but at the moment I really can’t say that I do. To me the theatrical cut tells the story pretty well and actually benefits from the shorter running time. More isn’t always necessarily better.
Still a pretty damn fine film though, and those shots that harken back to the title sequence of The Shining, when Dan and Abra are driving back up the mountain road to the Overlook, and that wonderful chilling music comes up… well, that’s spine-tingling stuff. Maybe its really just fan service but wow, it remains one of the most intensely rewarding cinematic moments of 2020 for me. I still think its quite remarkable how director Mike Flanagan managed to create a sequel that works for both the original King book/s and the Kubrick film.