The episode of Deconstructing… covering Doctor Sleep was Written, Edited, and Narrated by Kier Gomes, Produced by Tyler Nichols and John Fallon, and Executive Produced by Berge Garabedian.
What does it mean to let go? For some, letting go is something you experience moment-to-moment, constantly looking for distraction from the thing you’re running from. For others, to let go is to forgive and forget and leave your ailment in your rear view. And for the rest, letting go means not only accepting, but embracing the immovable object in your way and learning to use it and make it serve you, and others. And in the case of Danny Torrance, he’ll test each of these methods when the time comes for him to face his past, to save his present and future.
In 1977, our lord and savior, Stephen King, wrote the classic gothic horror novel The Shining – a spooky and nightmarish tale of a typical family and their ultimate unfolding. At the center is Jack Torrance, a husband and father who takes a job working as a groundskeeper in the historic Overlook Hotel in Colorado. Throughout the story, Jack is painted to be a bad husband, a bad father, and a neglectful employee- and by the end of the story, Jack is the homicidal antagonist that haunted King readers for years to come. And since the 70’s, fans had wondered what became of Jack’s family- his wife, Wendy and his son, Danny. I mean surely witnessing someone in your family slowly descend into madness and murderous rage would have some heavy implications attached to it, right? Well, we were left wondering for years until King released the long-anticipated sequel novel in 2013 called Doctor Sleep.
Doctor Sleep was a New York Times Best Seller and of course went on to be adapted by Mike Flanagan in 2019. The film follows the book pretty closely and serves as a sequel to both the novel, and the popular 1980 Stanley Kubrick film, The Shining. The movie takes the creepy happenings of the overlook hotel and places them firmly behind the movie’s more central focus which is Danny’s ability to shine. It doesn’t retread or play up any of The Shining’s original story, but it does find a way to use the pre-established continuity to mold something completely new and equally as horrifying. And in today’s episode, we’re going to look at the sequel to one of horror’s greatest films and determine what makes it so worthy. And what’s more is that we are going to learn once and for all what Doctor Sleep (watch it HERE) can teach us about letting go. I’m Kier with JoBlo Horror, and you’re watching Deconstructing.
Danny Torrance is having some trouble letting go. Now a man in his 40’s, Danny is a struggling alcoholic who is haunted by his gift and his dark past. But when Danny learns from Abra (another gifted Shiner) that a group of demonic travelers led by Rose the Hat are seeking out and feasting on anyone who can shine. This will lead Danny on a hero’s journey to save the next generation of shiners, and finally face the events of the Overlook that shaped him into the broken, hopeless, and dwindling person he’s become. And as we do on this show, we’re going to break down this movie into our four key categories. First, we’ll talk about the movie’s origin, where I get into the behind-the-scenes of this movie and how it got made. Then we’ll get into the legacy where we discuss the lasting impact this movie has had since its release. Next up we’ll cover some Trivia, where I give you some fun facts about the film. And then we’ll close out by discussing the movie’s X-Factor, where I find the small details that take this film from being a notable sequel to being a classic horror movie in its own right.
So, if you’re ready then keep your back to the wall, and don’t forget to like this video. And let’s hit play on Doctor Sleep.
Now, we really owe the existence of this movie to another Stephen King property that remains as one of the highest grossing horror films of all time, 2017’s It: Chapter One. See, in 2013, King wrote the novel based on a twitter poll he posted asking fans if they’d like to read a new Dark Tower or a long awaited sequel to The Shining. Well, we voted, and we got the sequel. And Warner Brothers intended to adapt the book into a film within a year of its release. However, the funding for the film struggled to reach the required budget. Warner Bros had been working on a Shining prequel called Overlook Hotel when this came across their desk and at the time they were having trouble finding the money to get these things made. If you ask me, make it all! The Shining rules.
After the success of It in 2017, Warner Bros fast tracked the production for Doctor Sleep to capitalize on their horror properties. Mike Flanagan, who you know as the incredible director behind Hush, Midnight Mass, and Haunting of Hill House, was hired to rewrite a previous version of the script as well as lead the production as the film’s director. I love Flanagan and I’m so stoked that he got to do this. He was stoked about it too, stating in an interview: “It touches on themes that are the most attractive to me, which are childhood trauma leading into adulthood, addiction, the breakdown of a family, and the effects decades later.”
While the film takes place in New Hampshire, filming took place mostly in Atlanta Georgia and the production lasted about 4 months before Flanagan began editing the movie. Recasting took place for every original character including Ewan McGregor being cast as a grown-up Danny Torrance. Although, at one point it was considered to have some original actors return and be digital de-aged, with Flanagan deciding against it stating that de-age technology was “not advanced enough yet” and using look-alike actors to recreate scenes from The Shining. And I’m so glad he did- in today’s world of digital cameos, I find it refreshing to just see good old fashioned in-camera effects to create these scenes.
And we have some fun facts about some other hidden cameos and casting choices that we’ll get into during our trivia segment so don’t check out just yet.
Doctor Sleep had maybe the biggest shoes to fill of any anticipated sequel in the genre. Being that Kubrick’s adaptation of The Shining is easily one of the most legendary films ever made, this movie had to follow up the novel, AND the film with a fresh new story. And if you ask me, it did just that. This movie takes the trauma that came with the events of the first movie, and carries that same DNA into something much more mystical and otherworldly. The villain of Rose the Hat deserves to be mentioned in the conversation of spookiest horror villains as well- She’s played to perfection by Rebecca Ferguson and the character is equal parts enchanting and terrifying. Of course, we also see some incredible homages and easter eggs from the first film but some of my favorite are the Red Rum scene, the moment Danny shares with his father in the bathroom of the overlook, and definitely the impossibly accurate performance of Carl Lumbly as Dick Hallorann who was made iconic by the late Scatman Crothers. The movie attempts to bring the audience up to speed with the events of The Shining while also working in the lasting effects that those events had. We see Danny becoming more like Jack in certain ways, while also following his gut as far away from his past as possible. And this added something to the film that gives you the satisfaction that any sequel should bring.
The film was released just before Halloween in 2019 and was met with a decent profit right away. The film made roughly $76 million on a budget of just $45 million and was considered a “moderate success”. Likewise, critics loved the movie with Rotten Tomatoes stating: “Doctor Sleep forsakes the elemental terror of its predecessor for a more contemplative sequel that balances poignant themes against spine-tingling thrills.”
The film was nominated for 8 Saturn Awards that year and even won for best performance from a young actor for Kyleigh Curran who was the young lead of the film. Following the release, Warner Bros even approached Flanagan about developing a prequel film that would focus on the character of Dick Hallorann – but with Doctor Sleep being only a moderate success commercially, the project was shelved. However, King and Flanagan have both expressed interest in making a solo film for the character of Abra Stone, which would definitely be in my wheelhouse.
Earlier I mentioned that there were some surprise cameos in the movie- and while Mike Flanagan couldn’t get EVERYONE- he did manage to get Danny Lloyd (who played Danny in the original film) to cameo as a parent watching a little league game in the movie. While Lloyd has been retired from acting for years, he was thrilled to be included in this movie as a nod to his performance as a kid. Of course, it would’ve been awesome to see Nicholson come back for a surprise appearance as well, but when Flanagan reached out he stated that Nicholson “seemed pretty serious about his retirement”. Also, while Shelley Duvall also isn’t in the movie- She has made a slight return to acting and the horror genre so who knows what may come from any future stories in this franchise!
And on the topic of casting, let’s see if you can answer this question:
In an attempt to find an actor that had similar qualities to Jack Nicholson, which actors were considered for the role of Danny Torrance in Doctor Sleep?
- Billy Crudup and Jason Lee
- Leo DiCaprio and Christian Slater
- Rory Cochran and Daniel Radcliffe
Comment your answers in the comments below!
THE X FACTOR
Now, there are so many special things about this movie that make it worthy of the praise it receives. I love the cinematography, the cold and foggy atmosphere, the slow-burn intensity, and the performances of everyone involved. I almost wanted to use this segment just to talk about the concept of the story. I love the idea of King focusing on a character and their own personal journey, rather than making a rehash hotel horror that could never live up to The Shining. There’s a maturity that comes with not reproducing and repackaging a successful work of art and instead daring to explore the dark and tough questions that The Shining left us with. But honestly, we know that can’t be the X-Factor… it’s too easy.
I also considered using this segment to talk about True Knots and how their antagonistic ways are easily one of the most engaging aspects of the film. Rose the Hat is an interesting villain as she’s got this predatory vibe that sends chills down your spine, but she’s also a mainly charming and good-looking person. She’s a contradiction which makes her even more frightening than we see on the surface. She’s like if Peter Pan was an evil soul eater. But Rose and the True Knots aren’t going to make the cut for the X-Factor here.
Then it hit me- This movie would never have happened without the patience, careful attention, and detailed understanding that Mike Flanagan has for the source material. It was rewritten, directed, and even edited by this one guy. He understood the characters outlined by King in the Shining and made bold, creative choices to make a film that properly honors the merits of the original film, while also forcing us to understand them the way he does.
A couple of the previous episodes of Deconstructing… can be seen below,. To see more episodes, and to check out our other shows, head over to the JoBlo Horror Originals YouTube channel – and subscribe while you’re there!