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How Doctor Sleep Is A (Very) Different Movie To The Shining

The Shining and Doctor Sleep Movies

The universe of Stephen King continues to be a good source of inspiration for the film industry, which has been adapting a number of his works in the last years, and the next King adaptation to be released is Doctor Sleep, the sequel to one of his most famous novels: The Shining – but it might not be the type of continuation some are expecting. The Shining, published in 1977, was Stephen King’s third published novel and the one that helped establish his name in the horror genre. The sequel, Doctor Sleep, was published in 2013.

The Shining centers on Jack Torrance, an aspiring writer and recovering alcoholic. Jack accepts a job as off-season caretaker of the Overlook Hotel and takes his family – wife Wendy and son Danny – with him. After a snowstorm leaves them trapped in the hotel, and with Danny’s psychic abilities (“the shining”) at their peak, the supernatural forces inhabiting the hotel are released and start affecting Jack’s sanity. The novel was famously adapted into a film in 1980 thanks to Stanley Kubrick, and while it’s regarded by many as one of the greatest films ever made, Stephen King didn’t like the final product.

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Related: The Shining: The Movie's Biggest Changes From The Book

Doctor Sleep, on the other hand, follows Jack’s son, Danny Torrance, years after the events in The Shining. The now adult Danny uses his “shining” abilities at a hospice, where he provides comfort to dying patients, earning the nickname of “Doctor Sleep”. Danny is contacted by a young girl, Abra, who has the same psychic abilities and who is the new target of a group of quasi-immortals that feed on the “steam” released by people with “shining” abilities when tortured to death. However, as much as the story is a sequel to The Shining and the film takes elements from Kubrick’s version, it’s going to be very different from it, and it might not be the sequel some are expecting.

Doctor Sleep Is A Sequel To Stephen King’s Book

Doctor Sleep young Danny

As previously mentioned, Doctor Sleep is the adaptation of the novel of the same name, which is a sequel to one of King’s most successful novels, The Shining. Although it isn’t King’s favorite, the trailers for Doctor Sleep have confirmed that it acknowledges Kubrick’s adaptation of The Shining, showing some well-known scenarios from the Overlook Hotel, young Danny in his tricycle, the door to the infamous 237 room, the ghost twins, the blood coming out from the elevator, and the bathroom door from the “Here’s Johnny!” scene.

Still, Doctor Sleep is considered more as a direct adaptation of the book and therefore a sequel to the novel The Shining than a sequel to Kubrick’s film - Doctor Sleep brings back Dick Hallorann, who died in The Shining movie but lives in the book, after all - even if they exist in the same cinematic universe and recreated some scenes from it to use in flashbacks. The trailers have made a lot of emphasis on these, selling the idea that the film is a direct continuation to the 1980 film, which is why it might come as a surprise to many viewers that the tone and style of the stories is different, and that Doctor Sleep doesn’t really have much to do with The Shining as they know it.

Doctor Sleep Is About Psychic Vampires

Doctor Sleep Rose the Hat

The group of quasi-immortal beings going after Abra are psychic vampires, and many of them have their own “shining abilities”. Known as “The True Knot”, these “vampires” don’t feed off the energy of others, like traditional psychic vampires are said to but instead haunt other people gifted with the shining and feed on the psychic essence (referred to as “steam”) produced by them when tortured to death. They are a different and actually deadly type of psychic vampire, but one that can be killed in different ways.

The Shining, on the other hand, was about a haunted hotel that had a supernatural influence on Jack’s sanity. The film left aside many elements from the book that proved the hotel was truly haunted and it wasn’t all in Jack’s head. The Overlook Hotel in Kubrick’s version did have ghosts and evil energy living in it, but Jack’s descent into madness came from his own mind, triggered by isolation and writer’s block. Kubrick’s filmmaking style turned The Shining into a haunting style film, which doesn’t match Doctor Sleep’s tone, and could therefore be a big disappointment to those not familiar with the source material, its background, and that only know it through the trailers.

The Overlook Hotel Isn’t Used Too Much

Ewan McGregor in Doctor Sleep 2019

The Overlook Hotel – or more like what was left of it, as it exploded at the end of The Shining – does appear in the Doctor Sleep novel, but not prominently. While the story is a continuation of Danny Torrance’s life post-The Shining, it deals with its own antagonists and supernatural horrors, and doesn’t pay much attention to the events at the Overlook Hotel many winters ago. Because of this, the Overlook Hotel isn’t a “character” as it was in The Shining, and likely won't appear until the third act of the story and only as a location (as it happens in the book).

The Doctor Sleep marketing campaign has relied too much on the Overlook Hotel in trailers and posters, selling the idea that it will (once more) be a central part of the story, when it actually isn’t. The presence of the hotel through flashbacks is a device for viewers to get acquainted with Danny’s past, especially for those who are not familiar with The Shining, and a marketing tool from the studio as well. As the sequel acknowledges Kubrick’s film, it means that the Overlook Hotel didn’t explode, and was just closed after what happened when the Torrances were there – hence why, in the final trailer, Danny is seen arriving to the hotel. Again, showing this part of the story is more a marketing move than anything else, so viewers shouldn’t really expect the hotel to play a big role.

Doctor Sleep is a story of its own, and while it obviously includes some references to The Shining, it has a different vibe than its predecessor. The studios’ decision to show so many scenes and elements from The Shining in the marketing for Doctor Sleep is understandable, but it might backfire as it will most likely make some believe that it has more similarities to the 1980 film than it really does. Unless, of course, the movie once again deviates from the book in significant ways. Doctor Sleep will surely hit some nostalgic points with its flashbacks, but hopefully it will build its own story, just like the book did.

Next: How Doctor Sleep's Recreation Of The Shining Compares To The Original Movie

Key Release Dates
  • Doctor Sleep (2019) release date: Nov 08, 2019
Doctor Who logo Sylvester McCoy as Seventh, Patrick Troughton as Second, Christopher Eccleston as Ninth and Sophie Aldred as Ace
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