By this point, you might be wondering which Stephen King novel hasn’t been turned into a film or TV series. Since 2013 alone,18 Stephen King or King-inspired movies and TV shows have come out, and there are plenty more in the works (like HBO’s 2020 series The Outsider, and the upcoming Salem’s Lot). We’ve got one more adaptation coming our way: Doctor Sleep, in theaters November 8.
If you saw trailers for Doctor Sleep and thought, “this looks so familiar,” then you were definitely on to something. Here’s what you need to know before seeing it this weekend.
Yep, Doctor Sleep Is Sequel To The Shining
Do You Absolutely Need To See The Shining Before Doctor Sleep?
Well, it'd help. But if you haven’t read or watched The Shining (or it’s just been a minute), here’s a quick plot refresher: The Shining follows Danny Torrance (Danny Lloyd), a child with psychic powers called “the shining” or “the shine.” This means he can read minds and can also see into the future. When his dad, Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson), moves him and his mom Wendy (Shelley Duvall) to The Overlook, a remote hotel in the Colorado Rockies for a job as a caretaker, Danny’s powers are essentially activated, allowing him to see what the hotel really is and what it does to people. Jack is also told that the previous caretaker, Charles Grady, committed suicide before murdering his wife and daughters. Jack takes the job anyway.
Jack, who’s an aspiring writer, uses the solitude as an opportunity to start writing a novel. It’s off-season, so there are no guests to take care of. However, Jack doesn’t get much writing done, and begins to act stranger and stranger to his family.
While Jack “writes,” Danny explores the hotel. He has an imaginary friend named Tony who he talks to using his index finger. Tony (derived from Danny’s middle name, Anthony) who is basically an extension of Danny, helps him navigate the hotel, and teaches him not to be afraid of his powers. Danny also makes a real friend, the hotel’s chef Dick Hallorann (Scatman Crothers), who also happens to have the shining. The two telepathically communicate, and Mr. Hallorann tells Danny to stay away from room 237.
Of course Danny checks out room 237, because this is a scary movie and people in scary movies do dumb things especially when they’re told not to. Danny is playing with his blocks when he sees the door to room 237 open, and he walks toward it. Meanwhile, Jack falls asleep at his typewriter and has a terrible nightmare that he killed his wife and son. He tells Wendy this, and when Danny shows up covered in visible bruises, Wendy thinks Jack did it. But actually, a woman in room 237 attacked Danny, which he explains.
Jack checks room 237 too, after getting a drink from a dead bartender. He sees the woman as well, but says nothing. In fact, we encounter several ghosts wandering throughout the halls of The Overlook.
At one point, Wendy comes across the novel he’d been working on, only to find the sentence “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy” typed over and over. Danny starts chanting the word “redrum,” writing it on the wall. Using a mirror, Wendy sees that it’s “murder” spelled backward. It’s clear to Wendy that The Overlook isn’t having a very positive effect on everyone’s mental health, so she decides the family needs to leave ASAP.
Jack violently refuses, so she knocks him out with a baseball bat and locks him in the kitchen pantry. He, of course, escapes, and chases her and Danny around the hotel. Danny’s able to escape through a bathroom window while Wendy is stuck in the locked room while Jack tries to make his way in with an axe. In the iconic scene, Wendy conveniently has a knife which she uses on Jack to get away.
Mr. Hallorann, who was away in Florida, comes back in a snowcat after having some bad feelings about what was happening at the hotel. Jack runs into him and kills him, then chases after Danny. Danny outsmarts him and he and his mom are able to get away on the snowcat, leaving Jack to freeze to death.
So, What’s Doctor Sleep About?
Doctor Sleep takes place decades after what happened at The Overlook (which has since been abandoned and left to rot). Danny, who now goes by Dan (Ewan McGregor), is still traumatized by what happened, and copes by drinking. Dan, who seems to have inherited his dad’s temperament and alcohol addiction, becomes a nomad for several years, running away from his past and his memories. However, he decides to clean up his act and start over (in the book, at least). Dan moves to New Hampshire, where he gets a job at a hospice. Since he isn’t able to suppress his powers with booze anymore, Dan uses them to provide comfort to dying patients, which is how he gets the nickname “Doctor Sleep.”
The return of the shining also leads Dan to Abra Stone (Kyleigh Curran), a teenage girl with the same powers. Both of them learn that a group of powerful, dark entities with their own version of the shining (called the True Knot), are after Abra. Their leader, Rose the Hat (Rebecca Ferguson), believes kidnapping Abra will make them stronger. Rose the Hat and the True Knot have seemingly been searching for people with the shining and either absorbing their powers, or turning the individuals into one of their kind. They plan to do the same with Abra, whose powers are the most potent Rose the Hat has ever encountered.
Dan and Abra go back to The Overlook, except now it’s the True Knot’s headquarters. It’s there that Dan is confronted by the literal ghosts of his past — except this time it (maybe) seems like they’re here to help him and Abra defeat Rose the Hat and the True Knot. Or they’re there to continue terrorizing Dan.
Either way, expect to be reunited with characters from The Shining like the Grady twins (the creepy girls in blue dresses Danny runs into in the original film) who are played by Kk and Sadie Heim, and Mr. Hallorann (Carly Lumbly). Jack and Wendy Torrance seem to make an appearance, but they’re played by Henry Thomas and Alex Essoe, so it’s unclear whether they return in a flashback or the actors playing ghosts.