This Doctor Sleep article contains spoilers.
Doctor Sleep is the continuation of the haunted house nightmare first put on the page by Stephen King and brought to life on the big screen by Stanley Kubrick. As we wrote in our review, director Mike Flanagan has made an adaptation worthy of King’s novel while also paying tribute to the Kubrick movie. From Dan coping with the ghosts of his past to taking us back to the terrifying Overlook Hotel, Doctor Sleep is largely a triumph that celebrates every version of The Shining story.
As you can imagine, an movie this ambitious — a King adaptation told through the visual language set by Kubrick — features quite a few nods and callbacks to both the novels and the beloved movie… plus a few easter eggs and references to the larger Kingverse we didn’t even see coming. Unsurprisingly, Den of Geek has taken up the task of spotting and collecting as many of these easter eggs as possible!
After you’ve watched the movie, check out all of the easter eggs and references we found to the Doctor Sleep novel, as well as both the movie and film versions of The Shining, The Dark Tower, and more! This is still a work in progress, so let us know in the comments if you spotted anything that we missed…
– Flanagan is faithful to the source material for the most part, but he does make a few changes throughout. One of the first alterations is a necessary one. In the books, Dick Hallorann survives the climactic night at the Overlook Hotel and later helps Wendy and Danny move to Florida with him. It’s Dick who consoles Danny and helps him get through some of his trauma as well as teaches him how to lock away the hungry spirits of the Overlook.
But since Dick dies in Kubrick’s movie, the former head chef of the Overlook appears to Danny as a ghost himself, this time played by Carl Lumbly (Supergirl). Watching Dick’s ghost disappear from the bench where he’s talking to Danny is a nice twist.
– Wendy Torrance appears in the early part of the Doctor Sleep novel and she’s brought to life in the movie by Alexandra Essoe (Starry Eyes). You can almost hear Shelley Duvall’s voice when Essoe calls out to Danny when she thinks she’s lost him.
– Danny Torrance is cursed to ride his tricycle through the hallways of the Overlook Hotel one last time in this movie in a haunting flashback scene that recalls the little boy’s encounter with Mrs. Massey, the naked ghost who haunts Room 237. This time, Danny is played by child actor Roger Dale Floyd.
– Bruce Greenwood, who starred in Flanagan’s previous Stephen King movie, Gerald’s Game, appears here briefly as Dr. John Dalton, who plays a larger role in the book.
– Billy, a major supporting character in the novel who survives the final battle with Rose the Hat, is played by Cliff Curtis (Fear the Walking Dead). The movie version unfortunately isn’t so lucky. He dies during a battle with the True Knot when Snakebite Andi manipulates him into committing suicide.
– Speaking of the True Knot, we meet Rose the Hat torturing and killing a little girl in order to consume her “steam” (psychic energy) with her cult of energy vampires. She’s played by the talented Rebecca Ferguson (The Kid Who Would Be King), who asked for alterations to be made to the top hot worn by her character in the book.
She told us in an interview, “The hat was a normal top hat that they found, and I said it was too high and it looked too goofy and silly, but the shape of it was incredible. So they cut off the middle bit and just put the top back on again and made it shorter.”
– It’s explained in the book that Rose the Hat is basically immortal, having been born in Ireland centuries prior to the events of the book. She’s been a member of the True Knot since at least the 19th century.
– Abra calls Dan “Uncle Dan” throughout the movie, but it’s implied this is more out of affection than any real familial tie. As you might know if you read the novel, Dan really is Abra’s relative in the book. You see, Jack wasn’t always a “dull boy,” having once had an affair with his teaching assistant Sandy Reynolds, Abra’s grandmother. It’s a bit of a bonkers twist in the novel, which is probably why Flanagan chose to down play it.
– True to the spirit of the book, members of the True Knot start to die out long before Rose’s final confrontation with Dan and Abra in the movie. That said, they aren’t just killed in a gunfight in the novel. Instead, they begin to die out after contracting measles from their last victim. The remaining members are dispatched by diseased steam released by Dan at the site of the Overlook. Rose’s last follower, Silent Sarey, is actually killed by the ghost of Horace Derwent, the deceased owner of the hotel.
– The final fight in the book is a psychic battle between Rose and Dan and Abra, with a little help from…the ghost of Jack Torrance, turned good after years of haunting the place where the Overlook once stood. Jack gives Dan and Abra the assist, helping push Rose off an observation deck to her death, and then bids his son a farewell, finally having found peace decades after perishing in an explosion at the hotel.
The movie completely changes Jack’s fate, turning him into the new Lloyd, the Overlook’s creepy bartender. In his first scene, played by Henry Thomas (The Haunting of Hill House), Jack/Lloyd offers his son a drink, mirroring Jack’s own temptation in The Shining.
– Dan (Ewan McGregor) also meets a very different fate in the movie than in the book. In the novel, Dan survives his fight against Rose and returns back to the hospice where he helps dying patients pass on to the afterlife. The movie instead adopts the ending of the original Shining novel and kills off Dan in the process. More on The Shining influence below.
– One early reference to The Shining is a very brief cameo by Danny Lloyd, the actor who played Danny Torrance in the Kubrick film. He can be seen in a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it shot early in the movie, as he roots for #19 during the Little League baseball game. Lloyd no longer acts, instead working as a biology professor.
– The biggest reference to Kubrick’s The Shining is undoubtedly the Overlook Hotel itself, which is left standing at the end of the movie but not in King’s original novel. For Doctor Sleep, Flanagan and the rest of the crew painstakingly recreated Kubrick’s Overlook sets, including the Colorado Room, the Gold Room, and the iconic hallways leading to Room 237. The team even obsessed over the color of the books in the Colorado Room’s bookshelves and the exact patterns on the stained glass windows.
– One little detail you might miss in the Colorado Room is on the grand staircase that leads upstairs to Room 237. If you look carefully, you can spot the pool of blood on the staircase carpet where Jack Torrance bled after Wendy hit him in the head with a bat.
– Most of the Overlook’s scariest ghosts are accounted for in the final sequence at the hotel, including Horace Derwent, the twins, Mrs. Massey, and Lloyd.
– Speaking of the Gold Room, you’ll remember this as the room where the hotel truly possessed Jack, offering him his first drink in five months. Lloyd chillingly offers Dan the same drink decades later, but he declines, showing that he’s learned from what happened to his father.
– As Dan walks into the Gold Room, and later in the end credits, you can hear a familiar tune. “Midnight, the Stars and You” by Al Bowlly, the haunting ballad that closes out The Shining, plays in both of these instances.
– The ending of the movie directly mirrors the climax of King’s The Shining novel. In the book, Jack is killed trying to stop the Overlook’s boiler from blowing up. He’s too late and the hotel explodes. Flanagan’s version of that ending sees Dan sacrifice himself, rigging the boiler to blow in order to destroy the hotel once and for all.
The Dark Tower
– The number 19, a significiant number in King’s The Dark Tower, can be found in a few different places in the movie, including on Jacob Tremblay’s baseball jersey as well as on Abra’s house.
– There’s a reference to the Tet Corporation — the organization created to protect the Rose from the forces of evil — in the movie, as well. You’ll notice that the bus that brings Dan to Frazier belongs to Tet Transit.
– Meanwhile, LaMerk Industries, which is affiliated to the evil Crimson King, also makes an appearance as the company that owns the lot where the True Knot kills that poor Little League baseball player.
– The most direct reference to The Dark Tower in the movie is perhaps a line delivered by the ghost of Dick Hallorann at the hospice: “Ka is a wheel.” In the book series, ka is basically the force that binds all things together. It’s sort of like our concept of fate or destiny.
– Flanagan told us that King himself called in a few favors over at Sony, who currently owns the rights to The Dark Tower, in order to put these references in a Warner Bros. movie.
– Stephen King famously hates the Kubrick version of The Shining, but Flanagan told us during a press event a few weeks ago that the writer’s views on the movie have softened somewhat since watching Doctor Sleep.
– Worth noting for the kids sitting in the back that the Overlook Hotel is based on the real-life Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, Colorado. The 142-room hotel was built in the early 1900s and is said to be haunted, too. King and his family spent one spooky night at the hotel, where the writer was finally able to break the novel he was working on at the time, titled “Darkshine.”
– The Stanley Hotel holds a Shining Ball every year as an homage to the ghostly ball in the movie. Fans dress up as Shining characters and take the iconic picture that makes up the final haunting shot of the Kubrick film.