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Doctor Sleep: breaking down the spooky new trailer

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Ewan McGregor portrays the older Danny Torrance in the long-awaited sequel to The Shining, Doctor Sleep. And the latest trailer unveils some spooky surprises.

The Haunting of Hill House creator Mike Flanagan launches us back into the nightmarish world of Stephen King, as the dreaded Overlook Hotel is revealed to still be coursing with energy.

Here are the trailer highlights...

1. The Overlook is still haunted

No spine will be left untingled during the the trailer's opening moments, as McGregor's haunted Danny returns to the derelict Overlook Hotel. The last time he saw this was during the closing moments of 1980 masterpiece The Shining, as he fled his psychotic, axe-wielding father and escaped with his mother.

It's a bit too dark to judge how effectively Flanagan has resurrected Stanley Kubrick's cavernous interiors from The Shining (disorientingly shot using Steadicam at Britain's Elstree Studios back in 1979). Nevertheless, it's chilling, not least when Danny approaches that door and finds himself unwittingly framed in the same manner as his late, psychotic father.

This is a classic Stephen King theme, the notion of evil being passed down through generations. New release IT CHAPTER TWO dives headlong into this notion, and it's recurred throughout the author's bestselling work. 

The question is, can the alcoholic Danny escape his demons? Or is he forever destined to be haunted by the Overlook spirits that he claims are still there?

Ewan McGregor in Doctor Sleep trailer


2. Danny is fleeing from his past

If you want to depict your central character as troubled and dishevelled, give him a beard. It works for Ewan McGregor's portrayal here, as Danny is revealed to have fled north to literally and figuratively escape the past that is eroding his psyche.

Also, it's nice to see stalwart Cliff Curtis in the movie (he was last spotted as one of Dwayne Johnson's brothers in summer blockbuster Fast & Furious: Hobbs & Shaw).

Ewan McGregor as Danny Torrance in Doctor Sleep trailer


3. Danny isn't the only one who shines

There's that 'p' word again: past. In The Shining, Danny had a candid chat with Overlook cook Hallorann about those who could 'shine' – in other words, those with extra-sensory perception who can portend both past catastrophes and those coming in future.

This was one of the pivotal moments in The Shining, as Danny came to perceive his own abilities for the first time. It also made him aware that there were others out there afflicted with the same 'curse'. Now, 39 years later, we get the dramatic payoff to that earlier kitchen conversation as Danny feels compelled to protect young girl Abra (Kyliegh Curran) from those who want to exploit her gift.

Infamously, Stephen King hated Stanley Kubrick's interpretation of his novel. Doctor Sleep's interweaving of the earlier movie with a brand new sequel narrative meant Flanagan had to walk a high wire act of approval.

"It is an adaptation of the novel Doctor Sleep, which is Stephen King's sequel to his novel, The Shining," he told Slashfilm. "But this also exists very much in the same cinematic universe that Kubrick established in his adaptation of The Shining. 

"Reconciling those three, at times very different, sources has been kind of the most challenging and thrilling part of this creatively for us."

Fortunately, it didn't take long for the author to come round: earlier this year, Stephen King tweeted his enthusiasm for Doctor Sleep, which is surely all the praise one needs.


4. Key scenes from The Shining are revised

Now here's a clever thing: a reprise of the infamously creepy Room 237 moment from The Shining. We're greeted with the shot of the young Danny on his tricycle, looking at the door of the room as normal.

But then something happens that didn't occur in the original movie: the door slips open of its own accord. (If you remember, originally Danny went to open it, found it locked and returned later when it had already opened, mysteriously.)

In fact, the brevity of the shot means it's hard to tell if it begins with original Shining actor Danny Lloyd on the tricycle, or kid newcomer Roger Dale who's credited as taking over the part in Doctor Sleep. Is this footage from the original movie, or a restaging?

Rather than statically incorporating block sequences from The Shining, Flanagan appears to be using editing and trickery to subtly adjust said moments. We again get the sense that the process of memory (from Danny's point of view at least) is a hazy and unsettling thing, prone to misdirection and reworking classic Shining moments that we've already seen.

Doctor Sleep trailer references room 237 scene from The Shining



5. Mission: Impossible's Rebecca Ferguson is the villain

She's best known as the heroic Ilsa Faust from the two most recent Mission: Impossible movies – but there's nothing noble about Rebecca Ferguson's latest character.

She plays Rose the Hat, the twisted leader of deadly cult True Knot who appear to be intent on devouring people's 'shining' abilities. The group's ultimate intentions are unclear at this stage – judging from Rose's madly glowing eyes after killing her latest prey, she appears intent on becoming even more powerful.

Rebecca Ferguson in Doctor Sleep trailer


6. We see the history of the True Knot cult

In a brief moment, we see hatted True Knot member Crow Daddy (Zahn McClarnon) following a woman out of a cinema. We assume he has horrible intentions and is in pursuit of her 'shining abilities', but what makes the brief shot interesting is its context. The woman comes out of a cinema showing Casablanca, which would date the scene as occurring around 1942/1943.

Given Doctor Sleep occurs in the present day (looking at McGregor's age in relation to 1980, this makes sense), are we to assume that the True Knot members are somehow ageless? Is this what consuming the shining does to them? =


7. The legacy of The Shining echoes through the movie

From the booming tones of Wendy Carlos's 'Dies Israe', the chilling music that opened The Shining, to the presence of the snow-blasted hedge maze, the narrative of Doctor Sleep is intrinsically bound up with its celebrated predecessor.

It reinforces the earlier point that legacy and the spectre of the past are not just themes in the movie – they're living, breathing entities with the capacity for both evil and redemption.


8. It's not clear if Jack Torrance will be appearing

Flanagan has cast new actors to fill the roles of Danny's mother Wendy and Overlook cook Hallorann, previously played by Shelley Duvall and Scatman Crothers. In their place are Alex Essoe and Carl Lumbly (pictured below), and their presence clearly indicates some kind of flashback structure whereby Danny's childhood impacts on the present day.

The big question is this: will Danny's deranged father Jack, unforgettably portrayed by Jack Nicholson in The Shining, make an appearance? No actor has been recast in the role (perish the thought), and Nicholson himself is all-but-retired from films now, so perhaps we'll get a deepfake approach whereby the younger Nicholson's face is pasted onto a body double?

After all, if one is going to depict the evil still lurking within the Overlook, ghostly girl twins and all, one has to feature Jack. The end of The Shining marked a triumphant victory for the film's ghostly forces as he became the latest soul to become entrapped within the walls, so hopefully Doctor Sleep will provide some kind of cathartic payoff between Danny and his father.

Halloran in Doctor Sleep trailer


Doctor Sleep is released on 31st October, so tweet us @Cineworld with your responses to the trailer.