Doctor Sleep is recreating a number of iconic sequences from Stanley Kubrick's The Shining, although they're not totally identical to the original. Although the film is based upon Stephen King's book of the same name, which serves as a follow-up to his novel and ignores Kubrick's film (which King famously wasn't happy with), director Mike Flanagan (The Haunting of Hill House) is making this a sequel to both the book and movie versions of The Shining.
In terms of plot, it's going to resemble King's novel, which was published back in 2013. It follows an older Dan Torrance (son of Jack from The Shining), who is still scarred from the events at the Overlook Hotel, but attempting to live his life anyway. That's until he meets Abra, a young girl with whom he shares an ability known as "the shining", and the pair team up to fight an evil group called The True Knot, who feed off the power possessed by people like Dan and Rose. While doing that, Dan is also forced to confront the demons of his past.
However, while it's sticking to the narrative of the book (and The Shining novel too), Flanagan is also keeping this in the same cinematic universe as Kubrick's film. He and his team have taken great care to ensure the film closely resembles the 1980 movie, although some differences can be spotted in Doctor Sleep's teaser trailer. After the trailer's premiere, Flanagan spoke at a Q&A about painstakingly bringing The Shining into Doctor Sleep. The writer/director said:
"There’s only one shot in the trailer you saw that’s actually his footage, and that’s the shot of the bloody elevators. Everything else is us. Everything else is our recreation. So I don’t want to spoil to what extent and what specific, outside of what you already got to see, what we have kind of been able to revisit form Kubrick’s world. But I can say that everything that we decided to use, our intention was always to detail and reverence, and making sure that we were doing it properly, with the hope that even the most rabid cinephiles might not be able to tell the difference with some of our frames and some of his.”
Some of the differences are, as Flanagan hoped, difficult to notice, while others are a little more obvious, and a few scenes have been altered in such a way that the changes themselves likely factor into Doctor Sleep when it releases in November.
The Bloody Elevator
As outlined by Flanagan himself, this is the only shot in the trailer that is directly taken from Kubrick's The Shining, and it's not difficult to see why. Not only is the bloody elevator one of the most recognizable bits of imagery from the original, it's also one that is easier to repurpose and have exactly right than it would be trying to remake. Flanagan said: "The way that it happened when Kubrick made it, the way the blood wraps and coils down at the edge of the elevator frame and bounces back on the walls – we can't recreate that."
Here we have Room 237, the infamous hotel room that Danny Torrance is warned to stay out of. Of course, when he sees the door ajar, his curiosity overcomes him. We later hear that Danny told his mother a woman attempted to strangle him inside the room, and when Jack goes to investigate, he sees a dead woman's ghost.
The two shots (that's The Shining on the left, and Doctor Sleep on the right, as it will be for all images here) aren't massively dissimilar, although there are some obvious differences. The camera angle is different, with The Shining showing it from the perspective of a young Danny and having it more tilted, whereas in Doctor Sleep it's a much straighter shot. The color of the wood is darker in the new film too, which might not be as trivial as it sounds. Flanagan has made a few color changes, either through necessity or, in some cases, with a deeper significance.
Young Danny Torrance
A young Danny Torrance rides his tricycle through the corridors of the Overlook Hotel, and the shot from Doctor Sleep is extremely similar at first glance. The framing is more or less the same, and there is the instantly recognizable pattern on the carpet too.
We can see, though, that the carpet is a different color: Flanagan's is yellow, whereas Kubrick's is orange. The tricycle is new as well, since it's a lighter blue in the original version, the lighting has been changed, and the scene has been reshot with a different actor in the role of Danny, which is most noticeable in the hair.
Here's another scene where Flanagan has decided to alter the framing of The Shining for Doctor Sleep, this time keeping us at a safe difference from the Overlook Hotel's nightmarish bathroom. It's another relatively minor change, but might suggest that the adult Dan (Ewan McGregor) doesn't want to get too close to it.
The color is different here as well. Whereas in The Shining the green looked fresh and vibrant, Doctor Sleep's is dark and dour. It suggests that it's been allowed to fall into disrepair, indicating Dan hasn't visited this bathroom in some time, or that, if it's in flashback, his memory is making it look even worse than it actually was.
Danny Torrance encountering the twins in a corridor of the Overlook Hotel is among the many creepy images that Kubrick so brilliantly conjured up in The Shining, and one where you can instantly see just how different Doctor Sleep's version of this scene is.
It's another that Flanagan decides to shoot from farther away, which like the bathroom suggests Danny not wanting to get too close (in The Shining, some of the angles even allow you to see Danny's head, which doesn't look like it'll be happening in Doctor Sleep). The walls and floor are much darker, and that in turn makes the lighting more ominous. It's grimy, unpleasant, and, worryingly for Danny, the 'EXIT' sign is unlit and less visible. There's no escape when you're trapped in your own nightmarish memories.
"REDRUM" appears a couple of times in Doctor Sleep's trailers: first in the mirror when Danny is washing his face, and then we see him sliding towards a wall with it written on, although this time flipped for its true meaning. But only once, towards the very end, do we see it in The Shining's original fashion, as written on the door in red by Danny himself.
It looks almost exactly right, with only a couple of very subtle changes. The most obvious is the decay of the door, further showing just how far into disrepair the Overlook has fallen, with a chunk of wood missing across the second 'R' and another above the 'U'. The text itself is remarkably similar though. The 'M' looks a little wider, and the second 'R' appears to kick out a little more, but the differences are almost negligible.
The Ax Break
In terms of The Shining, while there are numerous pieces of iconography from the film, this is the big one. The film's - and one of the cinema's - most famous scenes, it finds Jack Nicholson's Jack Torrance smashing down the door with an ax, announcing his arrival with the oft-quoted "Here's Johnny!"
It's one of the most important details Doctor Sleep has to get right, given how key it is to The Shining, and likely this film too as Dan revisits it, but thankfully it looks as though this is another element Flanagan et al have nailed. The way it's shot, with Dan slightly removed from the hole, does allow us to see a bit more of it, and there's a bit more of the door missing to the left, but otherwise, it appears to be more or less right.
- Doctor Sleep (2019) release date: Nov 08, 2019